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Carolyn Morrow, a resident of Grapevine Canyon, near Ranchita, remembers a presentation SDG&E gave on Sunrise during a meeting at the Warner Springs high school. “It was a very complicated project,” she says. “All of us, by now, have had different experiences with it and learned a lot in the process. It’s a David and Goliath story.

“I have 160 acres in Grapevine Canyon, where I raise horses,” Morrow continues. “It’s in an agricultural preserve, which means we can’t develop it or sell pieces of it off. Quite a few landowners out in this area have agricultural preserves. If Sunrise is allowed, they would be commercializing something that is not supposed to be commercialized. A 69-kilovolt line now runs right through our property. It’s the same line that runs through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. And that’s the route they want to take for the Sunrise Powerlink.”

I ask Morrow if her property would be subject to eminent domain.

“They only do eminent domain if you refuse to sell at a negotiated price. A real estate lawyer told me that SDG&E would have to buy our entire ranch, as the line would make it unusable. They want to put one of those awful towers right in the middle of my driveway.”

Morrow is worried about the effects the powerlink would have on towns in east San Diego County. “Julian, Borrego Springs, Warner Springs, Santa Ysabel, and Ramona, all those towns are reliant on tourists. And if Sunrise goes through, with all the construction and disarray, those are going to be ghost towns, because the roads out here are two-lane. And they’re going to construct not just the power line but 130 miles of access roads to support it.

“After the fires in October, when they were trying to remove trees that fell in the road and fix the telephone and electricity wires between Santa Ysabel and Ramona, some days it would take two hours to get to Ramona. Normally it takes 40 minutes. That kind of thing is going to destroy the tourism out here. People aren’t going to want to sit in those traffic jams that the construction is going to cause.”

Morrow gained some notoriety after SDG&E workers started going onto her land. “I held them off,” she says. “I made them take me to court last year. SDG&E’s business and professional code says that if you deny them access, they have to take you to court.

“I don’t want people chasing around my property. What if somebody gets hurt? You know I’d be liable. And I wanted to have it stated in the court papers that I would not be liable. I mean, we have wild animals out here; we have mountain lions and bobcats and deer. And my neighbor has cows. What if one of them got out, which happens all the time? We have dead wells and gullies on our land. People that aren’t hikers could easily get hurt.

“The judge eventually allowed SDG&E workers access, but a very limited one. And they have to call and let me know in advance that they’re going to be on the property. They can only do surveying; they can’t displace any of the land. Before, they weren’t even telling us they were there. We’d just see them, and they’d take off without even telling us who they were. That really upset the judge. So he gave them a bunch of rules they have to abide by — and covered my liability issue.”

Have powerlink proponents accused Morrow of NIMBYism?

“Not anymore,” she says. “Not since they found out how many of us there are.” Morrow is a codirector of the “loosely knit” Community Alliance for Sensible Energy. The group has members from Ranchita, Warner Springs, Santa Ysabel, and Borrego Springs. She also works with Protect Our Communities Fund, which by now has raised $1.2 million to fight Sunrise.

There is a “community” organization that supports Sunrise as well, but it’s funded by SDG&E. The group is called Community Alliance for the Sunrise Powerlink. On its website, the organization lists numerous businesses, public agencies, politicians, and private individuals who back the project. The website offers playful videos portraying misguided alternative-energy solutions. The first shows two high school girls rubbing balloons on their clothing. The resultant static electricity turns on a bulb in one girl’s mouth. The other video features a wild-haired man chasing several weasels around a stage. He wants them, like hamsters in a wheel, to turn a generator belt attached to a juicer full of fruit.

On April 4, SDG&E’s alliance announced it was starting a campaign to educate the public on the benefits of Sunrise. To find out about the education, I called former San Diego councilwoman Barbara Warden of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. The alliance identifies Warden as one of its directors.

Several days later I received a call from Jonathon Heller, who works for SDG&E’s public relations firm Southwest Strategies. Heller asked what kind of information I wanted. He then promised to arrange for me an interview with a representative of the alliance. But he didn’t call back.

I Was Mad as Hell

In early 2006, the California Public Utilities Commission sent Sunrise back to the drawing board. In its application to have the project approved, SDG&E had not included a required Proponent’s Environmental Assessment. It wasn’t until August 4, 2006, that SDG&E was able to file its next application. Subsequently, the commission began holding scoping meetings.

Tim Stahl is a San Diego photographer who loves to spend time in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. He used to do contract work for SDG&E. “One time, the company was sending me out to Coronado,” he tells me. “I was supposed to take pictures where they planned to put underground power lines. Of course, the photos showed the overhead power lines still running in front of houses. I used Photoshop to take out the lines and power poles. Then the company could send out the shots and say, ‘See how much better your neighborhood will look without the lines up above.’

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paul May 28, 2008 @ 2:13 p.m.

From http://kdfuller.blogspot.com/2008/04/stirling-energy-systems-and-sunrise.html

consider the testimony of Barry Butler, a PhD expert in Stirling solar technology who concluded:

“Major reliability problems with the SAIC Stirling engine included hydrogen leakage through joints and seals, internal engine seal leakage, swashplate actuator stalls, and heater head braze joint hydrogen leaks. That means that on average once every 40 hours a problem of some type required shut down and maintenance. Nearly continuous maintenance was necessary to keep the system “available” to generate electricity. … The commercial viability of the Stirling system is unproven at this time. …there is no possible way that dish/Stirling solar can move from high cost prototype models with substantive reliability concerns to large-scale production of high reliability low-cost commercial models by 2008 and full operation of a 12,000 dish, 300 MW array by the end of 2010.”


paul May 28, 2008 @ 2:31 p.m.

$1.5 billion in solar panels at $3.5/watt listed by SCE would install 428 megawatts of capacity onto San Diego rooftops. Why in the world are we the worst in the state when it comes to SDG&E encouraging solar panels, when we are in the best geographical position in the state to use them?

Between state and federal incentive programs, long-term leases on panels and the savings in not buying new power plants, another 500 megawatts could easily be installed. That would add close to 1,000 megawatts of power right were it is needed without a single new power plant being built and without using any additional fuel to run them for the next 20-30 years.

Consider also what the existing SDG&E powerlines in the backcountry have cost us by starting huge fires burning thousands of homes. There was a 100+ acre fire in Penasquitos canyon last month that started under power lines very near where the Sunrise Powerlink is proposed to terminate. I never heard a peep on what caused the fire other than "it started under power lines on a hot and windy day". I am guessing that if there was another cause of the fire, SDG&E would have let us know.


mshames May 28, 2008 @ 8:36 p.m.

Here's the latest scoop on SDG&E's profits from this project: if the project is approved by the Public Utilities Commission, SDG&E stands to reap $1.3203 billion. Because of the nature of FERC ratemaking, that $1.32 billion is strongly front-loaded. More than half of the $1.32 billion profit to SDG&E shareholders occurs in the first 8½ years of the project’s 58 year life, from mid-2011 through the end of 2019.

So you do the math.........does SDG&E walk away from the largest, most lucrative project that it is has ever built? Not a chance.

Check out the UCAN web page (www.ucan.org) on May 30th and you'll see how this project is a huge money-loser, isn't needed to keep the lights on and only about 25% of the line's capacity will be used to bring renewable power into San Diego.....all based upon SDG&E's own numbers!)


Geoffrey May 28, 2008 @ 11:06 p.m.

Dave Hogan clearly points out the very significant consequences of running utility infrastructure through our public lands. Kudos to him for those observations. Add to the plant, animal, and human costs of such abuse of these lands that the proposed power line would cause: Thousands of acres of existing and proposed federal wilderness lands, currently pending in the US Congress as S.493 (Boxer) and H.R.860 (Solis), 'The California Wild Heritage Act'. Some of the wild and remote places in the San Diego back country included in this bill are:

Eagle Peak Complex Wilderness proposal – 24,488 acres Hauser Wilderness Additions proposal – 7,604 acres Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Additions proposal – 6,518 acres Carrizo Gorge Wilderness Addition proposal – 6,508 acres Pine Creek Wilderness Addition Adjustment proposal – 214 acres San Diego Wild and Scenic River proposal – 9 miles long Cedar Creek Wild and Scenic River proposal – 6 miles long Pine Valley Creek Wild and Scenic River proposal – 7.5 miles long

Each of the proposed wire allignments would directly or indirectly impact one or many of these special places. Do we want to leave a legacy of designated federal wilderness lands for future generations -- with our apologies? "We are sorry, children, that the solitude and pristine wilderness qualities of these national heritage lands are now compromised because the greed of a few overpowered the sanctity of our national wilderness heritage."

I don't believe we should have to make those apologies. Keep the wilderness wild. Let's generate our power in-basin, and let's talk about conservation. For the sake of wilderness.

More: http://www.wilderness4all.org


Fred Williams May 29, 2008 @ 6:25 a.m.

How many former Enron employees are now at Sempra?

How much money has Sempra given to politicians, local, state, national?

If I recall correctly, Sempra is one of the biggest backers of Prop. C. That's the proposition on next week's ballot that would take away any chance of having an independent auditor in San Diego...the fox guarding the henhouse. Didn't they also give a lot of money to the Mayor's campaign slush fund?

Now, why would an honest, upright, public-spirited bunch of people like Enr...oops...Sempra give so much campaign money? Could it be so they can get people like Jim Madaffer to do their dirty work for them, as shown in this article? Could it be so that our Mayor for Sale Sanders would look the other way while San Diego looses it's chance for real energy security?

Sorry, Sempra. Your KPBS commercials of little girls talking about renewable energy doesn't fool us a bit. You're a greedy manipulative trading house that will take money even at the cost of destroying the future prospects of this region.

Time for some pickets and rotten eggs at your downtown office tower.


dgarmon May 30, 2008 @ 12:32 a.m.

As someone who has been deeply involved with this issue since going to court in 2007 to oppose SDG&E's "pre-condemnation surveys" on my property in Borrego Springs, I am grateful for the clear, concise, and comprehensive reporting done in this article. The issue is really a simple one: Sempra has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as possible. No matter how hard Sempra tries to deny it, "greenwash" it, dress it up, and claim it isn't so, the simple fact is Sempra's fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders is in conflict with the greater good of our community. The greater good is served by in-basin, distributed generation that will be cheaper, more reliable, greener, will not cause wildfires, and will leave the treasures of our backcountry intact for future generations. It is time for the Governor's office to be inundated with calls, letters, and e-mail from citizens who would like to see San Diego make the right decision on this critically important issue.


surfponto May 29, 2008 @ 8:26 p.m.

One of the better articles I have read on all the shortcomings of SDG&E's Sunrise PowerLink.

I think we have to ask ourselves do we want to line SDG&E's pockets with profits from an archaic technology or do we truly want a smarter energy solution ?

Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the San Diego back country are precious resources that are unlike any in the world. We need to defeat this proposal and protect these areas. Bob



seahorse May 31, 2008 @ 7:29 p.m.

Wow. This article really opened my eyes.

The opposition has done such a poor job of bringing this to light. They have bumper stickers that say save Anza Borego. That doesn't really help people know how much of a scam this. A lot of people simply don't care or think it is a necessary loss and do think the opposition is just about enviro nuts.

How about sending the message that this is the next Enron scam. A lot of politicians have supported this, maybe it is time to start knocking on their doors and getting them to change their position. Don't start with the Governor, start with the locals and work up.


MURPHYJUNK June 14, 2008 @ 10:02 a.m.

“Will These Keep the Lights On?”

Seems to me, they could use all the towers they already have, just use thicker wire, or add more wires?

maybe too simple an solution ( or maybe "someone" will not profit from it.

I live in lakeside, and see towers side by side going over the hills in both directions, does not make sense to me.



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