The International Right of Way Association (IRWA) recently held its annual Project of the Year Competition, to shed light on the vital role that right of way professionals play in overseeing the nation’s infrastructure projects.
IRWA’s 2012 Project of the Year was awarded to Sunrise Powerlink, a San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) project that was put into commercial operation in June. The 500,000V transmission line links San Diego to the Imperial Valley, one of the most renewable-rich regions in California.
The nearly $1.9 billion project culminates a five-year environmental review and permitting process, as well as a rigorous 18 month construction schedule that included 117 miles of overhead and underground electric transmission lines. Nearly five million work hours were required to complete the project – the equivalent of 2,260 people working 40 hours per week for a year. Because nearly 75% of the overhead construction required helicopters for environmental reasons, it took 30,000 flight hours to complete the aerial construction on the towers.
“With the energy shortfalls caused by the area’s nuclear facility being offline and the high power demands this summer, the scheduled completion of the Sunrise Powerlink could not have come at a more critical time,” said Michael R. Niggli, SDG&E’s president and chief operating officer. “While there were significant challenges during construction, SDG&E employees stayed focused and kept the project on schedule. In addition to improving reliability in the region, the line now also provides an important pathway for the clean, renewable energy in the desert region to customers in San Diego.”
Construction of the Sunrise Powerlink required of 106 miles of right of way on private and public lands. SDG&E’s team of land agents negotiated with 79 different private property owners and nine agencies, resulting in timely acquisitions. SDG&E crews undertook significant efforts to construct the transmission line while complying with extensive environmental mitigation requirements.
Acknowledging the project winner, IRWA International President Patricia Petitto, SR/WA, R/W-NAC says, “These right-of-way professionals have invaluable skills essential to successful project delivery. From securing environmental clearances to negotiating property rights, their early involvement in these complex infrastructure projects can ensure substantial cost savings while making it possible to achieve an aggressive schedule.”
“For the most part, the right of way profession is almost unknown to the general public,” says IRWA Executive VP Mark Rieck. Yet, the conveniences we all take for granted are made possible by these highly-skilled professionals. The highways we drive on, the utilities in our homes and the cell towers that we rely on to communicate all exist because of the expertise they bring to these quality-of-life projects.”
The industry’s Right of Way magazine will feature the Sunrise Powerlink in its November/December issue, along with the Top 10 Projects of the Year, which include:
- Sunrise Powerlink, San Diego Gas & Electric Company
- CTfastrak, Connecticut Department of Transportation
- Mountain View Corridor, Utah Department of Transportation
- City of Virginia Beach’s BRAC Response Program, City of Virginia Beach, VA
- University Light Link Rail, Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority
- Relocation for South Africa Transmission Line, Eskom Group Capital Land Development
- Honolulu Rail Transit, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc.
- CapX2020 High-Voltage Transmission Project, 11 Upper Midwest Utilities
- Tyrone Land Management Project, Xcel Energy, Wisconsin
10. DFW Connector Project, Texas Department of Transportation and Atkins, Inc.