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September 12, 2007

Green Path Through Big Morongo ACEC

The most recent issue of the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve Newsletter included an article about the proposed Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Green Path construction of power lines to carry "green" energy (geothermal, solar and nuclear) to Los Angeles. It includes more detail than I had seen before. If the selected route from the Devers substation to Los Angeles goes through the high desert, the lines would go across the site of the proposed Palmwood project (oh, irony of ironies!) to Little Morongo Canyon, and up that to Yucca Valley, where it would then bend in order to strike across Pioneertown and Pipes Canyon.

I scanned this from the newsletter:
Green Path through Big Morongo
I added the light blue area to indicate the approximate location of the proposed Palmwood project (click for larger sizes).

The plans for the Palmwood project already allow for the Colorado River Aqueduct (another LADWP property). I don't know where they'd stick these power lines. I don't think the LADWP would put power lines directly on top of the aqueduct. I doubt that it was designed for a load like that.

Here's the article from the BMCP Newsletter:

Power Lines Threaten ACEC

We all need electrical energy, right? And green energy is a good thing; its use is a key strategy in the fight against global warming, right? So what could be wrong with a plan by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power to bring geothermal-generated electricity from the Imperial Valley to Los Angeles? A whole lot could be and is wrong with LADWP's inaptly named Green Path North Project, including the environmental damage it would do to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern).

The project, touted by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as a plan to make Los Angeles "the greenest and cleanest city in America," purports to be green because it will transmit renewable energy. However, the planned implementation of the project, including its unnecessary and destructive route across the nonrenewable California desert environment, makes this project not so green after all.

In the application submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), LADWP requests a 330-foot-wide easement to erect 500-kV high-transmission power lines for miles through the interior of the ACEC. It would bisect existing wildlife corridors, including those of bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and mule deer, as well as impact many endangered, threatened and sensitive species, including the desert tortoise, all before even leaving the ACEC.

And that's only the beginning. The power lines would continue on across Morongo Valley and other communities in the high desert, then travel for miles across public lands of California's fragile desert to reach Hesperia before being directed to Los Angeles, making a greater than 85-mile diversion to reach their destination.

Back to the ACEC, let's look at one species that would be impacted by the power lines. These are the magnificent bighorn sheep that we have been enjoying in increasing numbers in Big Morongo Canyon this year. These animals constitute a group of about 100 sheep whose territory has traditionally encompassed the western portion of Joshua Tree National Park and the Little and Big Morongo Canyons of the ACEC. There is a reason we are seeing more of these animals at the Preserve recently. With many historical sources of water in JTNP having dried up and with lack of rain stressing the plant life that sustains the sheep, the sheep are having to travel more frequently to the lush areas in the Preserve. And, the only way to get from JTNP to these vital resources is to cross the proposed power line path.

The construction period alone would be a nightmare for the bighorn. To install the massive (to 220 feet in height) power poles and string the lines in the rough terrain of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, the LADWP will be using bulldozers, truck cranes, forklifts, rock-hauling equipment, and many other construction vehicles, as well as helicopters, and blasting equipment. Construction will go on for over a year, so the bighorn lambing season (January to June) will not be avoided. The LADWP admits that "revegetation would be difficult. . . where precipitation is minimal," so once the land is cleared for the construction process, it's gone as a resource for the sheep and other wildlife.

Opposition to the plan is already strong and growing. Concerned citizens have organized to form the California Desert Coalition (CDC), whose goal is to stop the power line route, as currently formulated, from becoming a reality. Although in its formative stage, the CDC website cadesertco.flashbyte.us already has some information on the Green Path Project, and you can contact the CDC by email at info@cadesertco.flashbyte.us for further information. CDC board member Ruth Rieman reflects the organization's positive attitude in her statement, "It's always easier and certainly more rewarding to work toward a "win, win" outcome. There does appear to be just such an opportunity for LADWP, the City of Los Angeles, and the State of California as they solve LA's and the state's need for increased amounts of power. They can set an example for the nation by going truly green with tested, on-the-shelf, clean technology and transport the power via currently used corridors."

However counter-intuitive it may seem, the fact that BMCP has been designated an "area of critical environmental concern" will not be enough to stop these environmentally destructive power lines. It will take actions by Friends and other concerned citizens. You can help by writing to the BLM and to elected officials and by staying informed of the progress and of future actions in which you can be involved.


WHAT YOU CAN DO...
Let your voice be heard. Tell the BLM your concerns for the Big Moronogo Canyon Preserve ACEC.

John Kalish, Field Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Palm Springs Office
PO Box 581260
North Palm Springs CA 92258

Here's a Hi-Desert Star article on the subject.

Here's the official LADWP web page on the "Green Path North Transmission Project." That page includes a link to this PDF which maps out (roughly) all the routes under consideration.

The California Desert Coalition mentioned above has selected a name for itself that was used in the past by a large coalition of land users (miners, ranchers, off-road vehicle enthusiasts, the NRA, etc.) who opposed the California Desert Protection Act which created the Mojave National Preserve and changed Death Valley and Joshua Tree Monuments to National Parks.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Green Path North | permalink | September 12, 2007 at 11:16 AM

Comments

Dear Ron, Thanks for this very informative site. I've been looking for an appropriate address for the BLM, and you have supplied it to me. Please continue to update this information, and I will encourage others to visit. One recent bit of information I have come across is that The Center for Biological Diversity may get involved in fighting the project. Best, RF

Posted by: Ron Fein at Sep 24, 2007 10:47:25 AM

Thank you for the information Ron. I will definitely be voicing my concerns.

Posted by: Randy Heinitz at Sep 12, 2007 8:34:34 PM

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