FOREST SERVICE DELAYS POWERLINK DECISION; SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT
Opponents call move a “golden opportunity” for public to weigh in and potentially halt project
May 16, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Yesterday, Cleveland National Forest issued a request for public comments on SDG&’E’s proposed Sunrise Powerlink project.
The public has 45 days to submit comments on the planned high-voltage line. As part of a national energy corridor, the line could ultimately a 1,000 foot-wide swatch of clearance through Cleveland National Forest in East County. Forest Services officials are preparing a Supplemental Information Report (SIR) to include new information received. The Union-Tribune reports that the Forest Service said Saturday that the massive power line “threatens views, creeks and roadless areas in the forest.”
SDG&E has pushed back construction to the second half of this year and won’t start work without the Forest Service Permit, though the company has already begun seizing private properties through eminent domain.
“With the information gathered in the Supplemental Information Report and the other documents submitted previously, I believe we will have the information we need to make a prudent decision regarding the Sunrise Powerlink project,” said William Metz, forest supervisor of the Cleveland National Forest. The SIR is expected to be released by the end of June contingent on final information supplied by SDG&E.
Laura Cyphert, cofounder of the East County Community Action Coalition, which represents 79,000 individuals opposed to Sunrise Powerlink, said federal law requires the Forest Service to seek public comments. “ It must also reject the project if it is in conflict with its Forest Service Plan, or amend that Plan,” Cyphert noted, adding that amending a plan would require a lengthy process.
SDG&E wants the USFS to approve a 16-mile long section of Powerlink through Cleveland National Forest based on an existing environmental review that opponents believe omitted vital information, relying upon inaccurate fire charts and other major flaws.
“Since Will Metz is now publicly acknowledging that the project violates the Forest Service plan, I don’t see how SDG&E can expect approval of the project later this year,” she added. “I believe the only way that could happen is if the Forest Service takes short-cuts, just like the Bureau of Land Management did when it approved the project.” If that occurs, Cyphert indicated her organization would pursue legal action, as it has in filing a suit against the BLM.
“On a more positive note,” she added, “We are thrilled that there is finally a public comment period. This is going to give many San Diegans who never had a voice during the CPUC hearings an opportunity to finally have a voice on this project.”
Metz recently met with representatives of groups opposed to Powerlink, including Katheryn Rhodes, who made a video presentation proposing a new option: locating Sunrise Powerlink alongside the existing Southwest Powerlink corridor. For information on the proposal, see http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B_fHftxFXFhyYzFkNjA0NGYtMTBlNC00YTBjLTlhMDItN2RlYTVkNThlNTAy&hl=en.
“The Forest Service decision to collect more public comment before making a decision is a good one,” said Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Group and founder of Backcountry Against Dumps, a community nonprofit group that has also been involved in legal challenges to Powerlink.
“This is a golden opportunity to provide the Forest Service with the critical information, and political cover, they need to just say no to SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink boondoggle. Bottom line: there is no need for the Sunrise Powerlink so there is no need for SDG&E to destroy Forest and BLM lands held in public trust, to take private property through eminent domain—or to introduce more fire ignition threats or interference with firefighting efforts in at-risk wildlands and rural neighborhoods.”
Powerlink poses a severe and unmitigatable fire hazard, according to the state's environmental impact (EIR) report.
Tisdale believes our region could meet its power needs at lower cost in both money and potential environmental damage by producing power locally as Southern California Edison is doing by investing in commercial rooftop solar, an option SDG&E has thus far failed to include in its calculations for determining the “need” for Powerlink. “Anyone writing comments needs to ask for a Supplement Environmental Impact Statement and denial of the project,” Tisdale added.
Public comments may be addressed to William Metz, Cleveland National Forest Supervisor, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200, San Diego CA 92127, Attention: Sunrise Powerlink Comments. Oral comments may be submitted at (858)673-6180 (Voice) TTY 711 (CRS). Comments may also be faed to (858)673-6192 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Sunrise Powerlink comments.” C omments should be confined to issues directly related to the proposed use of the Cleveland National Forest.
The Forest Service is also working with the Bureau of Land Management and California Public Utilities Commission to review changes in the original project design to determine if they are within the scope of existing environmental analysis, a statement issued by Brian Harris, public affairs officer for the Cleveland National Forest, indicated. The review will be finalized once SDG&E submits its Final Project Modification Report.