One Man's Emotional Fight To Save His Land

December 22, 2008 2:08:53 PM PST
The land is in the Watts Valley area, Northeast of Clovis, PG&E may want to make it the center of Clean Energy in the Central Valley.Many residents in the foothills say they like the isolation, but they worry that if they scream, nobody will hear them.

But one man says he's going to scream and he's going to make sure somebody hears.

Chip Ashley has roamed these serene slopes of the Fresno County Foothills for more than 50 years.

His family's roots run even deeper, with pictures dating back to the 19th century and stories dating back even further.

But Ashley says he might leave if PG&E picks his property as the site to change from this?to this.

"They want 40 acres on the other side of that stream over there."

The Ashley family's Watts Valley property is one of two places the power company is considering for the substation to new "clean energy" power lines, dealing with solar and wind energy.

Ashley cringes when he thinks about the changes he might see over the next five years.

Chip Ashley: "They're probably going to have to have a semi-public road across the flat here and then build a bridge across that stream where you see the line of trees."

Jeff Smith, PG&E: "We're very, very, very early on in this process. But what we are doing is conducting some studies, taking soil samples, things of that nature, environmental studies, to look at a couple potential routes that could be taken."

PG&E is also studying another route further west, but no matter where the substation goes, it'll be on someone's property.

If they can't buy it from the owner, they can use eminent domain to take it.

Chip Ashley: "You know, it's basically like having somebody break into your house and steal everything and just there you are. You're stuck."

Jay Hinshaw, Concerned Neighbor: "We'll battle them. We'll take 'em on and all that, but whether we can prevail? That's another story.

For now, Ashley's just started gathering the troops.

Ashley is organizing a meeting of concerned neighbors Thursday night to discuss how to stop the project.

PG&E is still a year away from taking a proposed route to the public utilities commission.

The entire project wouldn't be done for at least five years.


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