February 22, 2008

Congressman chides LA for power plans

By Jutta Biggerstaff
Hi-Desert Star

YUCCA VALLEY — Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, has added his voice to a burgeoning list of opponents to Green Path North, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plan to build a 118-mile power corridor through the desert to deliver power to LA.

Eighty-five miles of the transmission lines would traverse a path from Desert Hot Springs through environmentally sensitive areas in the Hi-Desert to Hesperia.

“…It is not acceptable to destroy some of the nation’s most sensitive and beautiful desert land to supply power to the city of Los Angeles,” Lewis said. “These transmission lines, and the necessary construction and maintenance associated with them, would have a very real and lasting impact on the desert, its wildlife and its residents.”

Johnson Valley resident Jim Harvey, an opponent to the proposed energy project, said he was pleased by the congressman’s response, but others in the government and private sectors still needed to be convinced.

“We are going to confront every lawmaker and so-called environmental organization that doesn’t oppose Green Path North and the other 120-plus deplorable energy projects slated to permanently devastate hundreds of thousands of public land acres in our Mojave Desert,” he said. “It’s great to know we can take the congressman off our list.”

The congressman’s objections were made to Nick Patsaouras, president of LADWP, in the form of an official letter dated Feb. 6. While lauding the department for its commitment to renewable power, he denounced the planned route of the transmission lines through unspoiled desert when other corridors designated by the Bureau of Land Management are available.

“To disregard these carefully planned routes would be irresponsible of the department and disrespectful to Los Angeles’ neighbors in San Bernardino County,” he wrote.

Lewis’s opposition joins a growing contingent of groups that have gone on record against Green Path North, including the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

In addressing the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors last week, the environmental group called the LADWP project harmful and unnecessary.

“Clean, renewable energy is imperative if we are to stop global warming, but building unnecessary, new energy transmission corridors, especially in pristine natural areas, is unwarranted and unacceptable,” said Sid Silliman, energy chair of the San Gorgonio chapter.

Lewis’ letter further denounced the LADWP’s alleged covert surveillance of private and public property, which has been a sore point among many Green Path North opponents in the surrounding communities.

“It was very disconcerting to hear that LADWP began surveying land without first notifying local officials and property owners of their intentions for the region,” the congressman wrote. “This lack of transparency has created a great deal of ill will among my constituents.”

The congressman was referring to several residents who saw helicopters flying onto their land and others who came upon survey markers clearly marked “City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.”

“Congressman Lewis is to be commended for his strong stance against the underhanded tactics of LADWP’s General Manager David Nahai and his boss, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,” Harvey said. “They are the real enemies of the preservation of our desert.”