Anza Borrego And The Fight for Energy Security

Bighorn Sheep at Anza Borrego

When Former Mayor of Escondido, CA, Ernie Cowan began his career covering the Anza Borrego beat for the San Diego Evening Tribune, he never thought it would someday lead him back to quietly waging war to protect this desolated area.

In Anza Borrego, Cowan chronicles the many rare and wild species that thrive in the area. The photography book is beautifully done and includes a barren, isolated area that many people will never visit. Yet, this seemingly lonely land has a pretty rich history as California's largest state park at 650,000 acres. Juan Bautiza de Anza found the first land route to California while crossing through the park. The park has also been named one of the top ten best parks for stargazing due to its unobstructed skyline.The issue is deeper than just protecting some cactus and tumbleweeds, its about whether centralized or decentralized power is better for the future energy needs of this region and the United States as a whole. Centralized meaning that there is a massive interconnected electricity grid that is highly vulnerable and if any part breaks down it takes down huge areas with it. Decentralized electricity meaning that the energy is more localized, and takes advantage of rooftop solar, energy efficiency and cogeneration, for example. San Diegans fought over similar energy issues in the 1980's with the Southwest Powerlink issue with a centralized system winning out. Many of the expected benefits of this system have not really panned out as planned.

Which leads us to the current state of the park and the not so straightforward fight for public energy versus public space called the Sunrise Powerlink. As more people move to California each day, the strain on the energy grid increases, as everyone feels entitled to their fair share. In 2001 SDG&E; and Sempra Energy proposed construction of a pipeline, which would help bring fossil fuels through the park and up to the Los Angeles area. The California Public Utilities Commission voted this proposal down in 2003. In 2004, a new plan was developed to get the line built and that's when this tangled web really got woven. Currently, one solution that the utility companies propose is to run a power-line system through the state park. Anza-Borrego brings the issue down to a personal level and graphically illustrates all of the fragile flora and fauna that will be directly impacted; Anza Borrego gives a face to all of the victims of the proposed pipeline.

Grassroots opponents to the issue have come out in droves. These include several symbolic runs and walks along the proposed line as well as the organization of a group self-titled the "anti-Powerlink cheerleaders." Unlike the Southwest Powerlink issue, the opponents of the Sunrise Powerlink have quickly mobilized and organized their opposition, stopping Sempra at every pass.

One alternative they suggest is theSan Diego Smart Energy 2020 Plan, which plans for a 50% reduction in San Diego's carbon emissions at a price lower than the Sunrise Powerlink plan. Smart Energy would also protect Anza-Borrego because it is based around providing funding for the installation of renewable energy systems such as solar and wind power throughout southern California by 2010.

Anza Borrego is available now at the ABSPB or online ( a portion of which goes to fund education activities at the park) at SunBelt Books. To find out more about Anza Borrego, check out the latest California State Parks Foundation podcast.

For more information on the Sunrise Powerlink issue, you can find them online The Desert Protective Council is another good resource on the Sunrise Powerlink issues, as well as this energy and nature blog. You can also find plenty of information — pro and con — by doing a simple Google search, keyword: sunrise powerlink. There is plenty of funny information on the issue posted on Youtube — both sides have posted multiple vids on the issue.

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