October 16, 2007

Green Path has crowd seeing red

By Stacy Moore
Hi-Desert Star

High-voltage power lines like these near Ludlow would trace a path through the Morongo Basin in a plan by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

YUCCA VALLEY — It was clear who was the villain Saturday night in the Yucca Valley Community Center: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. About 250 people filled the center’s largest meeting room to learn and express their ire about the department’s Green Path North project.

Through Green Path North, energy generated near the Salton Sea and other points southeast of the Morongo Basin would travel to a transmission plant in Hesperia via a path of 200-foot towers passing directly through the Morongo Basin.

The people gathered in the community center Saturday night made it clear that, at least to them, the towers aren’t welcome.

“The Green Path will happen; it doesn’t have to happen here,” declared David Miller, a member of the California Desert Coalition, the group that called Saturday’s meeting.

Miller told the audience of how he and other California Desert Coalition members have culled through the DWP’s Web site, tracking down appearing and then disappearing maps, and contacted federal, state and county agents to try to get the facts about the Green Path, so they can mount a defense.

Right now, it isn’t even clear what route the path would take through the Basin. “The word secrecy comes into play,” Miller said.

“Underhanded,” a voice from the audience called out.

The coalition thinks the towers might go from Deavers, which is between Desert Hot Springs and Interstate 10, up Pole Line Road in Little Morongo Canyon, next to Twentynine Palms Highway in Morongo Valley and by the gun range near the top of the Yucca Grade. From there, they may proceed along Water Canyon, across Pioneertown Road and into the flat-topped buttes of the Pioneertown vicinity.

Some information from the DWP suggests the towers might go through Gamma Gulch or into Johnson Valley.

Much of that land belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, which would be asked to lease property to the DWP at its standard rate of about $14 per year.

The uncertainty over the route is one of the reasons Miller accused the DWP of hiding information and presenting misleading and confusing information about the Green Path.

Another big reason is the placement of metal survey markers bearing the Department of Water and Power’s name in spots throughout the Basin, some apparently on private property.

California Desert Coalition Co-Chair Pamela Galvin said members have found seven such markers in the desert so far.

Jerry Gianoutsos, of Morongo Valley, stood up in the audience to say he had found a DWP survey marker on land he owns in Yucca Mesa. “I was going to build on that land, but now what do I do?” he asked.

Coalition member Claudia Sall claimed her group had contacted the Department of Water and Power to ask about the survey markers and were told the DWP wasn’t doing anything in the desert. “So if they don’t exist, I guess you can take them out,” she quipped.

In particular, images Miller presented combining photos of transmission towers superimposed on photos of the local desert to show what the Green Path might look like drew outraged gasps from the audience.

Miller gave a multi-pronged argument against Green Path North. His claims:

  • The DWP could transmit its energy using lines along Interstate 10, leasing power lines owned by Edison. It’s unknown exactly why this route hasn’t been explored by the DWP, but coalition member John Simpson said, “We suspect it’s because (Green Path North) would be a power line wholly owned by the DWP as opposed to a leased one.”
  • “There’s some stuff going on here that we don’t know about, but I suspect it revolves around that,” Miller added.
  • The transmission lines would be accompanied by concrete pads and a network of service roads, in some case crossing protected and environmentally sensitive lands. “Wherever these power corridors go, by law, service roads must go also,” said Miller.
  • He objects to the roads in part because they make accessing remote lands to dump trash and take part in other illegal activities much easier.
  • He also questioned, “When somebody gets hurt out here (on the service roads), who comes to help? It’s not LADWP. It’s not SoCal Edison. It’s the county. It’s us.”
  • Too little information exists on how high-tension power lines affect the health and behavior of animals, including humans.
  • Miller said some studies suggest the lines might contribute to higher risks of miscarriage, brain cancer and childhood leukemia.
  • The presence and noise of the power lines could drag down property values. “I think it’s clear if you have 200-foot power lines buzzing 24 hours a day, your property values are not going to take that favorably,” Miller said.