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Protests, Cheers At Sunrise Powerlink Groundbreaking

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Aired 12/10/10

Construction of the Sunrise Powerlink Project began in September. Three months since, its groundbreaking attracts protesters and local residents opposing it.

— A large crowd gathered in the desert area where construction for the power-link section will soon begin. With a price tag $1.8 billion, the project -- expected to be complete in 2012 -- is seen as a landmark achievement of Schwarzenegger's term.

David Elliott, a member of the the Manzanita branch of the Kumayaay Tribe in Southeastern California, speaks to the protesters outside the Sunrise Powerlink construction site.
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Above: David Elliott, a member of the the Manzanita branch of the Kumayaay Tribe in Southeastern California, speaks to the protesters outside the Sunrise Powerlink construction site.

"The construction of the Sunrise Powerlink is a huge win for the people of California," said Schwarzenegger at the site. "This transmission line opens the door for additional green investments and job creation in the Imperial Valley, while helping us meet our renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals and improving the reliability of our power grid."

Once it's built, Sunrise Powerlink will be able to carry 1,000 megawatts of clean energy to San Diego, "enough power to power 650,000 homes," Schwarzenegger said.

Though construction for the green-energy trunk-line continues, the project remains controversial.

Outside the ceremony, dozens of environmentalists, tribal members and other residents protested the project. They said the 117-mile transmission line will further damage an already delicate landscape.

They also discussed the need for alternatives to the transmission line, mainly energy conservation and energy efficiency, as well as government incentives supporting roof top solar and local distributed energy generation.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was among those who criticized the groundbreaking.

"Today’s deplorable and premature celebration is an insult to the fire-prone communities that will live in constant fear if this line is built," Jacob said. "This is not a done deal. State and federal lawsuits are alive and well. We will have our day in court and the truth will come out."

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