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By Miriam Raftery

January 15, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – Three local organizations and an East County land use issues expert have filed a lawsuit against five federal agencies. The suit alleges that the agencies approved SDG&E’s planned Sunrise Powerlink transition line in violation of environmental regulations—in some cases, making decisions based on the original route through the Anza Borrego Desert, instead of the revised southern route through numerous East County communities.


The suit makes other contentions, notably that key decision makers ignored fire danger and failed to consider the collective impact on public lands in East County, where several wind farms are planned as well as Powerlink in some wilderness areas.  In addition, plaintiffs claim that some decisions were made before completion of studies on endangered species and that once completed, those studies found the project could threaten endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and other species.


The Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps, East County Community Action Coalition, and Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Group filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, southern district of California. The suit is filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the directors/leaders and key decision makers within each agency, such as William Metz, director of the Cleveland National Forest , who approved the project through forest lands in East County.

The suit asks for declaratory and injunctive relief to halt construction and require further environmental review in accordance with federal and state requirements that plaintiffs argue were ignored by federal authorities. Plaintiffs also contend that federal authorities authorized damage to scenic and aesthetic resources, increasing risks to wildlife, without taking steps to minimize damage or protect the environment as required by law, also failing to consider less impactful alternatives such as rooftop solar co-location of Sunrise Powerlink within the existing Southwest Powerlink, or requiring that lines be placed underground in scenic areas.

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Sunrise Powerlink

"WILL" YOU --- Please? A plea to my fellows in this fight....

We are all beyond alarmed at the approval of this project. The recent views along I-8 are heartbreaking to see. Yes we are angry when our government claims a new era of green energy, and a new era of responsible management of wild places and yet we live this hypocrisy. I'm right there with you. I've been documenting for a decade, for the proposed California Wild Heritage Act, that seeks to protect many of the same places that the Sunrise Powerlink would destroy. I've done so without a penny of pay or reimbursement though I've lost more than I want to admit, in money , time to cultivate skills at work, and most especially away from friends and family. Many of you have too and we all know to do otherwise would have been unthinkable.

******Nevertheless, it crucial to point out a very, very serious issue. ******

It is the decision, the fine-tooth-ness of the law, the politics of an agency, subordinated by another agency, subordinated by yet another agency.

Not the man.

It is the line, not the actual people putting up the actual line. WE have been through much, Do not criminalize yourself on top of it all. It proves nothing. it accomplishes nothing. It fact it cripples our ability to communicate and to act. If you are angry, by all means say so, say so often, write them, write us, don't isolate. You are in very good company. If you are angry by all means write the Forest Service and tell them so, the more and the more often the better, but do so honestly and forthright.

Passive aggressive threats against individuals just pulls us into the same dirty pool we oppose. “They” would like nothing more than to discredit us. If you threaten you compromise the integrity of all of us and our efforts. Please, please, find other ways. WE need your help.

I believe in my heart of hearts that most of the people in these agencies are far and away more in agreement with us than we know,--right up to the man that had to make the decision. I know him, I've hiked with him, I've talked with him in limited capacity, about this project. He is a professional bound by law, but I still have my girl card and I don't believe for a nano second that this is his decision.

He said it was, he put it out front specifically that it was.

Not a rolling snowball's chance.

Why would he do this? Without question I believe it was to draw the fire from his employees putting himself at risk instead of them. It is a position I have to respect and admire. Please consider that this is the largest energy related project of its kind in California history, and the most controversial, in one of the largest states in the union, and often the most controversial, in one of the richest, most powerful nations on earth, and most controversial.
The Forest Supervisor had never been a supervisor until now.

When the CPUC approved the line in December 18, 2008 just days later, and hours before Obama was sworn in, this project went from a regional insurance policy to a national- prototype- savior –of- the- world- from- global- warming.
Do you really think these people put Will Mets in charge of this decision?
Do you really think they would leave ANYTHING like a rookie forest supervisor to chance?

The money could well have gone from 2 billion dollars to half a trillion over night.

This would be like giving someone their learner's permit on a Ford Escort and forcing them to drive a Harley Davidson a thousand miles with the Hells Angels. My guess is he wishes he had been provided that alternative.

Did his bosses at the top of the food chain weigh in? Not a chance. They stated in front of the senate appropriations committee that they "had a pile of letters on their desk" -FROM US! But could they do anything either? I doubt it.

Finally, after all of this time, 5 years at least, at long last we are in court where we can only hope real decisions are made. This is a NEPA issue among other things. I doubt in every way imaginable it is tied to one person much less one person in this county. The jury is out. Please Please let them stay there. Do not threaten or harass our Forest Service or actual “worker-bees” on this project. It will only hurt the difficult chance that we have.

When I was confronted by this issue with absolute horror, albeit tears, I went to the internet looking for what I knew had to be there. It was not hard to find. What does the real Will do when given a real chance to do his job? Fortunately in the case of Forest Supervisors their lives are public and their decisions are easily found on line. This is mostly speculation, except for one thing. One of the issues I found there was a former district ranger, a veteran of the peace corps, letting a company in Northern California know in no uncertain terms that their proposed “NOI (notice of intent) ” or project would compromise the substrate, inhibiting fish populations in wild streams there from laying viable eggs. Does this sensitive nitty- gritty decision sound like the same guy that just approved a trench through the backcountry?
Night and Day.

In 2009 the state attorney general's office (now our Governor) filed a comment on the SEERS enhancement to some Navy Seals Training facilities saying "don't forget we are considering large scale green energy facilities in the area". --Are you kkkkkiddddding me???? I wonder what the Navy has to say about the state directive over their plans? For what its worth, do you think our forest supervisor is under some really unusual pressure?

There was one moment, however, that I don't speculate, I know, I was there. I was there on the side of Boulder Creek in a small pool with two other friends and Will Metz. All of a sudden there was no Forest Service, no SDG&E, no Sierra Club, no power line. There was “a nine year old” and a trout. Nothing else.
There was a sudden and brief exclamation, “Is that a trout?!!”
I stuttered out of a daze. The forest supervisor is asking me to identify a fish, ..huh?, will you please repea....

The moment was gone, he was a supervisor again, but the child was never forgotten. It was an instant, one I’m very grateful to have shared. I suspect that the real Will would rather be there, he would stand up for the very sensitive standards of trout breeding waters, he would rather be fishing with nine years olds, he would, given a genuinely effective chance, risk his own safety to protect his team. Those are qualities I would ratify in an instant if it were possible. We may never know. I want the chance to find out. Please don’t take it away.

And to address the many musings and explicative’s about greasing the palms of power line proponents. I do not know, but I can say from experience, that all Federal Employees and subcontractors take online training every year on "doing business in the public sector" and "bribery in the Federal Government" , Contracts, etc etc. I can only say that if it goes on and we assume it does, it happens on a short leash. I tried speaking up against an employer once. Amidst all the good ‘ol boys that claim to stand up or die for what they believed in, I'm the only one I know that did. It went badly, it went very badly, suffice to say that the department called ethics and compliance, - isn't. With a half a trillion in the balance, one man doesn't have a chance.
Please help me ensure that better days are ahead. Communicate loud and often, but don't let them make you one of them. The jury is out, right where it needs to be.

Cindy Buxton
CoChair of the Forest Committee of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club
Adoptive Parent of the proposed Eagle Peak Wilderness
Member and big Fan of the Protect Our Communities -as well as the Forest