LUCERNE VALLEY – While the location of where power will flow is yet to be answered, there was no question that electricity was in the air during Tuesday night’s presentation of the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Line Project.
“How much money are you (Southern California Edison) going to make on Coolwater-Lugo?” asked John Zemanek, a property owner and member of Alliance for Desert Preservation.
“There’s an open process to set those (utility) rates,” answered Chuck Adamson, SCE’s acting director of major projects.
Adamson was one of several SCE officials invited to speak about the power line project and field questions – many angry – about corporate profits, project location and alternative routes and initial notification requirements to affected residents and stakeholders.
The SCE managers painstakingly outlined project process, guidelines and procedures at the invitation of the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association, which held its regular monthly meeting Tuesday at the Lucerne Valley Senior Center.
According to Lucerne Valley resident Bill Lembright, who helped get the word out about the meeting, there were 108 in attendance at the standing-room-only event.
The Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Line Project involves transmission line upgrades and new construction and includes a new Desert View Substation site, currently proposed in the Milpas-Highlands area southeast of Apple Valley.
The project was initiated by a request from Abengoa T&I, which is developing a 1,765-acre solar plant west of Barstow. The project and substation will help meet the electrical demands of a growing region, especially in the Apple Valley area, according to Adamson.
“We’re trying to balance the interests of all stakeholders,” Adamson said.
Jorge Chacon, the manager of generation interconnection planning at SCE, said he did not know if the North Peak Wind project, which has withdrawn its application with the California Public Utilities Commission, will get back online. The wind-generation project would include about 70 wind towers from Milpas-Highlands near eastern Apple Valley to western Lucerne Valley.
Despite the numerous project details offered by SCE, the information generally failed to quell the emotions of angry residents worried about the loss of pristine desert views and property values.
“Your maps are very poor,” resident Sue Hammer said. “We want something that shows more, not a map with a bunch of desert. We live here.”
Adamson, who said more detailed maps will be made available, explained that his team was using a large generalized map for presentation purposes.
“There’s no intent to hide that detail,” he said.
Hesperia resident Al Vogler, who said he owns property in Lucerne Valley and Johnson Valley, said SCE needs to change with the times, especially when it comes to dealing with the High Desert, which now has more than 300,000 residents.
“I think Edison needs to completely change how they have done business,” he said.
Adamson said SCE has changed how it initiates projects and wants to be a good partner with affected residents.
Vogler also suggested that “the plan is to flood the (Victor) Valley with housing and preferably high density.”
Milpas-Highlands resident Barbara Harris spoke passionately about the transmission project and accompanying substation, which will start with a 10-acre “switch rack” but eventually build out to more than 100 acres.
“This will destroy everything,” Harris said. “I will have windmills above me and a substation below.”
Hyped-up meeting attendees often interrupted SCE officials and other residents. One woman called another resident a “jerk” as she was attempting to ask a question.
While many were emotional, several attendees calmly suggested more palatable alternatives. Lembright suggested a less impactful transmission line route and local real estate appraiser John Wilson asked about the viability of using existing easements not far from Rabbit Dry Lake.
Lorrie Steely, a founding member of the Mojave Communities Conservation Coalition, also known as MC3, applauded the residents for speaking out.
“We got people here,” she said, “that’s because we care and we’re impacted by the project.”
SCE regional managers Nancy Jackson and Julie Gilbert interjected information in an effort to explain SCE’s position and lessen tension in the room.
Jackson said Coolwater-Lugo will help SCE to create a redundant system to ensure uninterrupted electricity service to the region.
“That’s our responsibility, to keep the lights on,” she said.
And no matter what happens with the Coolwater-Lugo proposal, Gilbert reminded attendees of an unavoidable reality.
“The solar and wind developers can connect to the existing system,” she said.
For more information on the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Line project, visit www.sce.com/coolwaterlugo.
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