Forest Service approves Sunrise Powerlink project

The U.S. Forest Service has approved construction of a 19-mile segment of the $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink electric transmission line that will cut through the Cleveland National Forest, it was announced Tuesday.

The remaining segments of the 120-mile-long transmission line, which San Diego Gas & Electric says is necessary to bring renewable energy generated in the Imperial Valley to San Diego, were previously approved by the California Public Utilities Commission and Bureau of Land Management.

In a statement, SDG&E said the Forest Service decision clears the way for work to begin on the Sunrise Powerlink this fall.

“This key decision accelerates the momentum for the Sunrise Powerlink, a project that will create much needed jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and bolster reliability for the region’s power grid,” said Jessie Knight, chief executive officer of SDG&E.

“This project will access vast, untapped sources of renewable power for the people of San Diego County and help create a cleaner, more environmentally responsible future for the region.”

Environmentalists have long argued the new transmission line is being built primarily to import “dirty” electricity generated by polluting coal-fired plants in Mexico.

Opponents also argue the Sunrise Powerlink will impact the character of San Diego County’s unincorporated areas.

When completed in 2012, the Sunrise Powerlink will be able to deliver up to 1,000 megawatts of energy to the region, enough to power 650,000 homes, according to SDG&E.