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Power’s path contested; Agency says corridor not yet chosen

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says it has yet to pick a preferred route for Green Path North, a proposed electrical corridor running from Desert Hot Springs to Hesperia.

“The fact of the matter is we haven’t even commenced the environmental process,” said general manager David Nahai about selecting a route.

But folks from the California Desert Coalition and a local chapter of the Sierra Club say a route has been chosen, and they intend to show people where the agency intends to install the high-tension corridor.

“I think it’s important to educate people about what the landscape looks like and how pristine the conservation lands are,” said April Sall, one of the organizers. “It’s extremely sensitive habitat.”

The LADWP, the largest city-owned utility in the nation, has proposed building Green Path North to bring power from the Imperial Valley to Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California.

The department said the proposed corridor is a “green” project because it will tap into renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, wind and solar.

“Green Path North, which will be our transmission corridor serving Los Angeles will transfer renewable energy from the Salton Sea,” Nahai said.

But environmental groups say the corridor will run through pristine stretches of desert and will use power sources that burn fossil fuels.

The California Desert Coalition and a local chapter of the Sierra Club known as the Tahquitz Group organized a tour by foot and car, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Pipes Canyon Road and Old Woman Springs Road in Yucca Valley.

The tour started just north of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and ended near Lucerne Valley, Sall said.

Twenty-seven people went on the tour, said Al Murdy, a member of the Tahquitz Group, on Sunday.

Members of the coalition said they have pieced together the route by examining documents submitted by the LADWP to the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy.

Asked whether there is consensus within the LADWP as to a preferred route, Nahai said, “I wouldn’t say so. We want to go to the community with a very open mind about the best thing to do.”

He added that a route was submitted to the BLM and the Department of Energy, but that the LADWP only did so to meet a requirement to start the process.

Part of the tour on Saturday included a hike along the tops of mesas as well as a drive to show where transmission towers will be if the project goes forward, Sall said.

Hikers also visited two archaeological sites on the proposed route, Murdy said.

“I think it’s important to show people what the effects would be like on the ground and what would be spoiled,” Sall said.

Lauren McSherry, Staff Writer

San Bernardino County Sun

4 May 2008