To gain further insight into the problems confronting East County, I sent another set of questions to Supervisor Dianne Jacob. These were her answers:
1. In regard to the Board of Supervisors alleged lack of control over the Wind Turbines going into East County: Does the Board of Supervisors Supervisors have any control over projects that impact public roads and water supplies? What about projects that create a potential fire hazard? What about the Board voicing their concerns to the federal officials?
Dianne – “The Board of Supervisors does have control over projects in the unincorporated area, just not on federal or tribal land. The county considers how a project might affect roads, water supplies, fire protection and other issues. It has raised concerns and provided input on projects proposed for federal and tribal properties.”
2. How great is the potential Fire hazard presented by Sunrise Powerlink? Is it virtually certain that it will be connected to a catastrophic fire someday? Or is this merely a possibility? Have sufficient safeguards been put in place? I understand East County was already a fire-prone area, is the danger great enough to warrant dismantling the Sunrise Powerlink? Or, now that it is built, should it be left in place?
Dianne – “There’s no question that Sunrise Powerlink, with its miles of tall towers and electrical equipment, compromises aerial firefighting. According to Cal Fire, retardant drops are essential to putting out a fire while it’s small and most effective when performed less than 300 feet above the ground. Anything higher than that, the wind affects the trajectory of the drop, making it useless. Giant wind turbines poses the same danger. When it comes to ground support, our backcountry fire agencies are not equipped to handle an electrical fire on a turbine that tall. You need a specialized, highly trained and highly equipped fire crew to address a fire of this kind.
“The environmental impact report for Sunrise Powerlink concluded that not one piece of mitigation can reverse the significant and unavoidable impacts to fire. This remains very concerning.”
3. Does it look like the Sunrise Powerlink is a financial success? How much energy are the Wind projects at Campo and Ocotillo actually producing? Is it enough to justify the apparent upheaval being inflicted on local communities?
Dianne – “If there are any financial benefits to Sunrise Powerlink, consumers have been frozen out of them. In fact, SDG&E was recently given the go-ahead to raise its utility rates 11 percent. This when local households and businesses already pay some of the highest utility rates in the nation!”
4. Should communities that are impacted by the sight, sound, high frequency sound waves, odor or diminishing property values connected to the development of wind projects on Federal or tribal lands have a say on whether these projects go forward? Should the projects be allowed to proceed even if the communities are opposed?
Dianne – “The county obviously doesn’t control the use of federal and tribal lands, but I think it’s important that authorities in those areas weigh the concerns of the wider community because these giant turbines can have a far-reaching impact on natural resources, fire protection and other issues.”
5. Are San Diego’s energy needs more important than the impact these projects have on the communities where they are going in? (I.E. – Do the ends justify the means?)
Dianne – “It’s not an either-or issue. It’s not one at the expense of the other. The technology exists today to generate energy without industrializing our backcountry – through rooftop solar, small-scale turbines and other clean, renewable energy projects in our existing communities. Such an approach would end SDG&E’s monopoly in the region and would allow consumers to declare energy independence.”