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Judge to Decide Whether to Have Hearings on Nearly Half Billion Dollar SDG&E Power Line Project That Opponents Say Threatens Back Country Communities

January 31, 2014 (Alpine)--The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a prehearing conference at 1:30 p.m. February 5 in the Oak Room of the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Blvd. in Alpine regarding proposed SDG&E’s Master Special Use Permit project that wouldl impact communities throughout the San Diego backcountry from Pauma Valley to Potrero (north to south) and from Ramona to Boulevard (west to east). The project is so large that SDG&E estimates construction will take about five years. 

Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth will determine if there will be full evidentiary hearings for this project or if this prehearing conference will be the only time the issues are heard. "In its application, SDG&E asked the CPUC for permission to construct this $418.5 million project without any hearings at all—their usual method of operation,"Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit community organization, states in a press release.

Donna Tisdale, President of Backcountry against Dumps and Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, voiced these concerns. “SDG&E’s project is being sold solely as fire-hardening but it appears to be an undisclosed stealth increase in carrying capacity that may directly or indirectly support numerous commercial solar projects that are already proposed along or near the route in Boulevard, Pine Valley, Descanso, Potrero, Julian, Ramona, and perhaps elsewhere that we are not yet aware of. Solar generation projects represent potential new fire ignition sources that cannot be de-energized during red flag wind events or other emergencies.”

During construction of the Sunrise Powerlink, SDG&E was granted numerous waivers to work during certain fire hazard days within the Cleveland National Forest, Tisdale recalled. 

Many of these communities are groundwater dependent, and some of the route passes through the federally designated Campo-Cottonwood Creek sole source aquifer, which raises questions such as how much water will be needed, where will it be sourced, and what impacts that will have to adjacent well owners and rural resources.  Noisy and disruptive helicopter flight paths were not identified, either, said Tisdale.

SDG&E’s 85-acre ECO Substation is currently under construction near Jacumba. The post-EIR Water Wupply Report  estimated 30 million gallons would be needed for construction. The CPUC had to increase that vastly inadequate estimate to up to 100 million gallons once reality set in—triple the amount estimated--all after public comment on the project was closed.

There will also be a supplemental scoping meeting for this project on February 19, 2014 in the same location from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine, CA.  Supplemental scoping comments are due March 7, 2014 at cnfmsup@dudek.com. The project route map is posted here: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/CNF/ProjectLocationMap.pdf.

The MSUP is posted here: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/CNF/CNF.htm , and the County-wide energy project map is attached for comparison of project locations with the MSUP project route.

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