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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hitch in Anza-Borrego Power Lines Plan:
SDG&E needs permission to use park easement

By DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A San Diego Gas & Electric Co. official acknowledged Wednesday that the utility does not have permission to build its proposed power line within an existing electric right of way in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Lynn Trexel, a company land adviser, said during a San Francisco hearing on the Sunrise Powerlink project that the company has yet to secure permission from the owners of the right of way, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Imperial Irrigation District.The $1.5 billion, 150-mile high-voltage line has sparked protest from the environmental community and recreation enthusiasts because 22 miles of it would run through the popular state park in eastern San Diego County.

To avoid the need to obtain approval from state park officials to build a new line, the utility is trying to stay within the 100-foot-wide right of way by building taller, narrower towers.Of that 22-mile easement, the federal bureau controls access to 17 miles. Private entities, including the irrigation district, control other sections.

While being questioned Wednesday morning by attorney Carrie Downey of Coronado, Trexel acknowledged that Imperial Irrigation District has a competing proposal to build a line across the easement. Consequently, if the district's proposal and Sunrise Powerlink were approved, it is likely the two sets of wires would have to be hung from the same poles, she said.Trexel also acknowledged that the precise locations of easement boundaries are unclear in some places."There's been a history of land-surveying problems through the park," she said.

Under questioning by Harvey Payne, attorney for the Rancho Penasquitos Concerned Citizens, Trexel said SDG&E is seeking a 1.8-mile-long, 60-foot-wide easement from the city of San Diego to run the last leg of the line across the city-owned Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.Four miles east of there, within the community of Rancho Penasquitos, the wires will be buried in the ground ---- between Rancho Penasquitos Skate Park and the Park Village neighborhood.The hearing is one of many that have been conducted on the power line that was first proposed in December 2005. SDG&E wants to string 500- and 230-kilovolt wires between El Centro and Carmel Valley.

The California Public Utilities Commission is weighing the information being presented in the courtlike proceedings, and is expected to decide by August whether to license the project.Should the commission choose to reject the Sunrise Powerlink, SDG&E would have the option to appeal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as early as October.

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