When planning the Sunrise Powerlink renewable energy transmission line, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) faced a rigorous environmental review and permitting process. The proposed 117- mile-long line would bring up to 1,000 megawatts of clean solar, wind, and geothermal power generated in California’s Imperial Valley to homes and businesses in San Diego. At the same time, the project also had the potential to impact a variety of sensitive habitats along the way. SDG&E assembled a team to implement an innovative and fast permitting strategy which would protect these critically important natural resources, adhere to their accelerated 18-month construction schedule, and energize the line by June 2012, meeting their original timeframe.
Working with Agencies to Care for Sensitive Habitats
The presence of sensitive habitats along the proposed transmission line required SDG&E to work closely with state and federal agencies. Working with multiple agencies meant creating a complex permitting strategy – one which resulted in an unprecedented 135 Nationwide Permit approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). By gaining Corps approval through the Nationwide Permit Program, SDG&E was able to avoid the conventional and time-consuming individual permit process, while still protecting sensitive habitats and complying with federal regulations.
As part of the permitting process, the Sunrise Powerlink team worked with the Corps, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to restore and preserve five mitigation sites, representing the diversity of the habitats impacted as part of the Powerlink’s construction. Additionally, WRA worked with Corps regulatory staff to develop unique California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) protocols for monitoring desert dry wash ecosystems.
Energize the Line
Through this suite of measures, WRA was able to assist SDG&E in seeing the Sunrise Powerlink through to an on-time and successful energization.