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Imperial County construction hiring an issue at Sunrise Powerlink community meeting

March 15, 2010|By ELIZABETH VARIN, Staff Writer
  • ELIZABETH VARIN PHOTO FROM LEFT: Thomas Topuzes, representing Ormat Technologies; Bob Hahn of Community Valley Bank; Andy Horne, from the Imperial County executive officer’s office; and Cheryl Viegas-Walker of Rabobank and mayor of El Centro, discuss the proposed Sunrise Powerlink Project at a community meeting Tuesday.
ELIZABETH VARIN PHOTO
FROM LEFT: Thomas Topuzes, representing Ormat Technologies; Bob Hahn of Community Valley Bank; Andy Horne, from the Imperial County executive officer’s office; and Cheryl Viegas-Walker of Rabobank and mayor of El Centro, discuss the proposed Sunrise Powerlink Project at a community meeting Tuesday.

Things are on track for the Sunrise Powerlink, said San Diego Gas & Electric officials at a community meeting last week.

About a dozen community members from the renewable energy industry, banks, city government and more attended the hour-and-a-half meeting last Tuesday to hear an update on the 120-mile project to transport renewable energy out of Imperial County.

Construction is set to start on the transmission lines this year, but the project is still waiting for a record of decision from the U.S. Forest Service, said Todd Voorhees of SDG&E at the meeting. A record of decision is a concise written record of the responsible official's decision based upon an environmental impact study, according to the Forest Service Web site.

However, a big concern for the group at the meeting was making sure jobs got back to Imperial County once construction begins.

"Granted, you have problems in Alpine and Lakeside because of the path, but if local jobs are not created here, that's when you're going to get us screaming at you," said Cheryl Viegas-Walker of Rabobank, who is also mayor of El Centro.

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The group brought up concerns over how local contractors could get involved and meet the primary contractor for the project.

The company has narrowed down the number of contractors to five, and may make a decision within two months, said Voorhees.

Overall, SDG&E has been working to acquire land on the proposed route, while also keeping the communities informed about what is going on, Voorhees said at the meeting.

The goal of the meetings is to ensure community members and the company have a two-way dialogue on the permitting and construction, according to the Sunrise Powerlink Web site.

Some of the most contentious meetings happen in Alpine and Lakeside, where hundreds of people head in to argue about the meeting, Voorhees said.

"We are making progress in those communities," he said.

The company has gotten a notice of construction to build an office in Alpine, mid-way along the path, he said. A location in Imperial County was not chosen because of the contention in Alpine, and an Imperial County office is already being located in El Centro.

Another of the quarterly meetings with the Imperial County Community Council has not been scheduled yet, he told the group before people left.

>> Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at evarin@ivpressonline.com or 760-337-3441.

ELIZABETH VARIN PHOTO
FROM LEFT: Thomas Topuzes, representing Ormat Technologies; Bob Hahn of Community Valley Bank; Andy Horne, from the Imperial County executive officer’s office; and Cheryl Viegas-Walker of Rabobank and mayor of El Centro, discuss the proposed Sunrise Powerlink Project at a community meeting Tuesday.
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