Sunday, July 26, 2009 | I live in Los Angeles County near Angeles National Forest, but own land adjacent to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the San Diego backcountry. The area around my home was burned in the massive 1993 Altadena fire. Owning property in both Los Angeles and San Diego County fire areas gives me a special perspective on SDG&E’s current shut off plan that is contrary to the naive conclusion that the “SDG&ampE Emergency Power Shut-off Plan Works.”

To those of us who have long fought SDG&E to prevent the boondoggle project known as Sunrise Powerlink from contructing 500 KV power towers down our wild canyon and across Anza-Borrego Desert State Park … a battle that has consumed our financial savings in order to protect our land and the pristine desert … the proposed SDG&E shut-off plan is both outrageous and ironic.

In planning Sunrise Powerlink, SDG&E repeatedly refused CPUC options to underground much of the powerline, as is often done elsewhere, including across Europe. After the devastating San Diego region fires, SDG&E tried to squirm out of responsibility by initially denying that the new towers would present a serious fire hazard (as well as destroy irreplaceable viewsheds) across state parks, national forests, and the beautiful backcountry. Forced by investigation evidence to admit that their transmission lines caused destructive fires, SDG&E swiftly changed tactics. Suddenly, “safety” is their priority and the power company promotes shutting off power to backcountry communities and remote customers during “high fire hazard” conditions.

Meanwhile, San Diego County, unlike Los Angeles County, refuses to establish an effective fire department … instead, the county depends upon overwhelmed volunteer firefighters, the City of San Diego Fire Department, and then State, USFS and military resources, to fight catastrophic fires. Los Angeles County does not allow SCE to shut off power to remote users. Instead, the county has an extremely robust fire department and takes alternative preventative measures.

What is wrong with SDG&E and San Diego County? SDG&E has long manipulated facts, omitted data and used other sleazy tactics in attempting to convince San Diego that it needs Sunrise Powerlink or “the lights will go off.” Wake up everyone. SDG&E is out to benefit SDG&E shareholders, not to provide you with “green power.” Building robust, distributed, in-basin power generation through solar arrays on homes and businesses and through local power plants, along with undergrounding existing unsafe transmission lines, would cut into their profits. SDG&E is not interested.

To make matters worse, your county is out to shift blame for having no county fire department to protect the backcountry chaparral and remote communities that require service. The county is currently incapable of fighting powerline-ignited wildfires before they get out of control. Nor is the county willing to hold SDG&E’s “feet to the fire.”

Enough is enough.

Demand that SDG&E support local, distributed power generation for San Diego. Make SDG&E underground critical segments of existing transmission routes. Stop Sunrise Powerlink so no new, dangerous lines and towers will be built across the wild backcountry. And require that your county prepare for inevitable wildfires the way Los Angeles County has prepared … by establishing a state-of-the-art county fire department that includes fire suppression aircraft, firefighting battalions of professional firefighters and support staff, current equipment, comprehensive mutual aid agreements and realistic emergency plans for your region. Omigosh … that would cost too much money, you say? Not nearly as much money as the next massive wildfires will cost in money, lost lives, burned homes, disrupted schools and businesses, and the loss of natural resources.

Don’t be bamboozled by SDG&E and your Board of Supervisors … again. Don’t sell out the backcountry residents who have been trying to warn you all along about the danger from SDG&E’s powerlines.

May common sense prevail!

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