Ramona hearing set for disputed power line plan
By J. Harry Jones
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
January 25, 2006
RAMONA – After pleas from local environmental activists and citizens groups, the California Public Utilities Commission has agreed to hold a hearing next week about a controversial electricity transmission line in Ramona rather than in San Francisco.
San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s proposed and highly debated Sunrise Powerlink is a 120-mile-long, $1.4 billion line that the utility says is needed to ensure an adequate supply of electricity for the region.
Although an exact route has not been designated, it appears the line would start in Imperial County and cross the northern backcountry of San Diego County, affecting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the Cleveland National Forest and possibly the communities of Ranchita and Warner Springs.
The company has said it hopes to have the line, which would have 150-foot-tall towers, built by 2010.
The public is invited to attend the hearing, scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Ramona Community Center, 434 Aqua Lane. A meeting two weeks ago in Warner Springs attracted a large crowd, including many who said they had been left out of the planning process.
SDG&E is asking the commission to make an early decision on its proposal and the need for the line before a thorough environmental review is conducted.
The company wants to separate a decision on that issue from a later one on the line's precise route.
"SDG&E is committed to an open decision-making process that provides ample opportunity for our customers to get involved with the Sunrise Powerlink,"
said David Geier, the company's vice president of electric transmission and distribution, in a news release.
The company praised the commission's decision to host the hearing in Ramona and said it will push for additional hearings and meetings to be held throughout the county.
The proposed line is opposed by several community groups as well as by the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Referring to the name of the proposed project, David Hogan, director of the center's Urban Wildlands Program, said in a statement:
"The pretty name is nothing but window dressing for an extraordinarily ugly project. The new power line will harm wildlife and trash parks and forest with no apparent benefit to energy reliability."
SDG&E has been holding community meetings about the project for months. It says the line is needed to improve energy reliability, provide access to new sources of renewable energy and help reduce overall energy costs.
Detractors question the need for the line.
"The new line is intended primarily to move imported power from Mexico and help Sempra (SDG&E's parent company) increase its market power in Southern California," Hogan and Sierra Club spokeswoman Kelly Fuller said in a joint statement.