News Release


DATE: May 16, 2008

CONTACT: Steve Schmidt, 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108 



BORREGO SPRINGS, Calif. – A controversial proposal to build a 150-mile high voltage transmission line through portions of the region’s fire prone backcountry would put lives and property at increased risk of wildfire, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob told the California Public Utilities Commission this week.

Speaking at a special public hearing in Borrego Springs with four members of the CPUC in attendance, Jacob told an overflow crowd that San Diego Gas and Electric’s Sunrise Powerlink would traverse areas charred by massive firestorms in the fall 2003 and again in October of 2007. Quoting from the from “Fire and Fuels Management” section of the project’s draft environmental report, Jacob warned that the line would significantly increase the probability of wildfire and reduce the effectiveness of firefighting efforts.

“Firefighting aircraft cannot make effective water drops over a 500-kilovolt line in high wind conditions and ground attacks cannot be made within 500 feet of a power line conductor,” Jacob warned.

Highlighting portions of the environmental report that discuss computer modeling designed to simulate Santa Ana wind conditions, Jacob said that for the communities of Ranchita, Santa Ysabel, Ramona and Poway the presence of Sunrise was determined by the report to be a Class I threat, the highest level possible.

“It is my very strong belief that what SDG&E is asking you to approve is the equivalent of walking into our fire prone backcountry during Santa Ana wind conditions, striking a match and throwing it on the ground,” Jacob told commissioners. “SDG&E wants you to gamble with human life. Please don’t.”

Jacob also took issue with the computer modeling described in the report.

“The report’s computer modeling used 50 miles per hour winds to simulate extreme conditions. Santa Anas can be twice that,” she said.

Between 2004 and 2006, transmission lines were to blame for nine fires in San Diego County, according to SDG&E data. Two of the nine fires were caused by heavy winds.

Jacob said the region could meet its future energy needs by retooling existing power plants in the region and by investing in innovative solar projects such as Southern California Edison’s proposal to install solar power arrays on commercial rooftops throughout the utility’s service territory.

“There are cheaper, cleaner and safer alternatives to the Sunrise Powerlink,” Jacob said.