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LA scraps controversial Green Path North project after backlash from San Bernardino County residents

Los Angeles is scrapping plans to string an 80 mile transmission line across the peaks and valleys of San Bernardino County. It promised to deliver “clean energy” to thousands of Angelenos. The project faced big opposition from people who worried about its potential impact on the region’s pristine forests and deserts.

Mark Sedlacek from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced the pullout as he stood on the bed of an old fruit truck in an icy apple orchard in Oak Glen.

“Based on re-evaluating our resources and really the input from the community, today we’re formally announcing that we’re withdrawing the right of way grant applications to out two federal agencies,” Sedlacek said.

About 100 people - many of them sipping steaming cups of apple cider – welcomed the news.

Their picturesque town in the snowcapped foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains was the epicenter of opposition to L.A.’s Green Path North project.

April Sall, the conservation director of the Wildlands Conservancy, an open space advocacy group based in Oak Glen, pointed out the snowy peaks that might have been strung with power lines had the LA utility carried out the project.

“And so they would have had to level out pads on each of those peaks and it would have been right through this canyon right behind the community of Oak Glen” said Sall. “And of course not only just a visual blight but also an increased risk of forest fires,” Sall said.

The Department of Water and Power proposed to stretch more than 80 miles of high-voltage lines across the rugged treetops of Oak Glen, the forbidding sands of the Mojave Desert near Yucca Valley and other possible Inland routes.

The power lines were supposed to transmit green energy generated by solar and wind sources in the Imperial Valley. A handful of Inland cities would have gotten some of that juice. People in Oak Glen say they’d have gotten only scarred hilltops.

Opponents from the town flooded the LA mayor’s office with thousand of messages.

San Bernardino County leaders and U.S. representatives, including Congressman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., backed them up. Veteran apple grower Devon Riley told supporters that if LA figured it could divide and conquer in its neighboring county, it was mistaken.

“Los Angeles thought it would pit the opposition of the desert against the opposition of residents in the mountain communities so we would find the path of least resistance for them” said Riley. “These communities united so that no wildlands in San Bernardino County would be destroyed.”

But Green Path North was already on the ropes. In January the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power board voted against funding the 500-million dollar project.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the city would probably back off under so much pubic pressure. Even so, opponents said they really wouldn’t mind if the project unfolds elsewhere in their county. The Wildland Conservancy’s April Sall said they support using an existing power corridor along Interstate 10.

“You know we’re in the 21st century and we need to make better land use decisions” Sall said.

The LA Department of Water and Power is studying alternatives for Green Path North. They include using those existing power lines.