The proposal includes three alternatives routes for the project–all of which would cross through Yolo County. One proposed route (Central 3) would traverse the western portion of the county along the west side of the Capay Valley, before passing west of the City of Winters. A second route (Central 2) would pass near the community of Knights Landing, as well as directly east of the cities of Woodland and Davis. A third route (Central 1) would traverse the eastern portion of Yolo County, through Elkhorn and around the City of West Sacramento.
While on the surface, this sounds like a good and solid project, both environmental groups and residents of East Davis and El Macero are concerned about the location of the lines for this project.
Residents of East Davis and El Macero are concerned that one of the proposed routes takes it right through a swath that overlaps with more than 100 homes including stretches along Cowell Drive, East El Macero Drive and Dresbach Way.
Residents writing to the Vanguard, found Triple X markings on their driveway curb–indicative of the marking for the high-voltage line pathways that will go in some cases right over people’s homes potentially.
Apparently the lines on the map represent roughly 1000 feet paths and the powerlines themselves take up roughly 200-feet swaths.
Needless to say residents in El Macero who are aware of this proposal would prefer it not to run over their back yards–and who can really blame them. They prefer it take the more eastern option through the Yolo Bypass. But others are concerned about the impact on wetlands that would have to be torn up with endangered species impacted.
Environmental groups have expressed support for the general concept, but concern about the planned route of the wires. According to the Tuleyome site, the proposed routes cross through delicate ecological areas.
“Proposed alignments cross protected wetlands through much of this distance, and one alignment is along the base of the Northern Inner Coast Range, including the Blue Ridge, Capay Valley and Cortina Ridge. This proposed transmission corridor will seriously affect the character of our region.”
They point out that existing powerline routes have not been considered.
“Alternative alignments exist parallel to existing powerlines located east of Winters and east of Davis. These alternatives are not proposed and are not even being studied.”
The environmental group identifies four key issues with the current project:
“1. The TANC project is inappropriately not identified as a “Connected Action.” Renewable energy development that is used to justify the powerlines should only be considered for the EIR/EIS analysis as a “connected action” and should not be left out of or isolated from that integrated renewable energy planning process that these and other utilities are engaged in.
2. Alignments parallel to existing powerlines must be considered preferential to new alignments. The general reason for separating the proposed new powerlines from existing powerlines is stated to be increased reliability and decreased likelihood of blackouts from natural causes such as fires under the lines. While wildfires may occur in forests, brush or grasslands, they are fairly rare in tomato fields, and the reason for resistance to these alignments may in reality be more closely related to ownership and bureaucratic processes.
3. Powerlines are needed for renewable energy, yet we have not seen information on the proposed Lassen wind farms, the primary project to be served by the new powerlines. Is this really intended to also extend to Nevada’s geothermal fields? Why isn’t there also an alternative looking at bringing renewable energy from southern California? Plans to tie in resources outside of California must be considered “connected actions” as well.
4. The CEQA/NEPA process requires analysis of an entire project. This fragmented approach is wrong, and all “connected actions” need to be considered in a single assessment of cumulative impacts for all of the interrelated elements.”
The Tuleyome group concludes that we need renewable energy projects including the necessary powerline transmission capacity. However, “let’s put the lines where they make sense.”
As Bob Schneider, President of Tuleyome told the Davis Enterprise last week:
“I support renewable energy, but I think they can accomplish this transmission without destroying the Capay Valley.”
As the Tuleyome group said in an action alert:
“Tuleyome supports renewable energy generation. However, even environmentally positive ideas can have negative consequences, and Tuleyome does not support the proposed transmission line alignments because they clearly have negative environmental consequences and significant effects on places that people value for environmental reasons. A fair and open public process and a coordinated approach that considers other power generation and transmission proposals are needed to both minimize environmental impacts and meet our renewable energy needs.”
There seem to be two primary problems with the project right now. First, it does not seem that much of the community is aware of this issue. Right now, the issue appears to be taking a backseat and perhaps understandably so to the overall budget concerns. The Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday in part to discuss laying over 100 county workers.
Second, many have expressed concern that the planning of this project has taken place from the top down rather than at the community level. There has been little or no consultation with local community groups, the neighborhoods, or local government agencies. While the route takes it outside the city of Davis, it runs pretty close to the city and impacts its sphere of influence, and yet there has been no discussion at the council level.
The Board of Supervisors on the other hand, has at least advisory authority here. They have drafted a letter dated April 14, 2009 expressing concerns about the proposal.
“While the Board of Supervisors support efforts to increase sources of alternative energy, we do have concerns with the particular details of the proposed transmission project.”
First they have concerns about aesthetics.
“The proposed project would have adverse and unavoidable impacts to the aesthetic and visual qualities of Yolo County. The proposed transmission towers are extremely tall, mechanical in appearance, and will significantly alter the nature of any landscape upon which they are placed. Of particular concern is the fact that two of the proposed routes place the transmission lines and towers in clear view of public roads that have been designated Scenic Highways in the Yolo County General Plan.”
Second with regard to agriculture:
“This project poses adverse and unavoidable impacts to agriculture in Yolo County. Each of the proposed transmission line routes crosses farmland that is rated both “Prime Farmland” and “Farmland of Statewide Importance.” The transmission towers can be as large as 2,000 square feet at the base and would be spaced every 500 to 1,000 feet apart. Based on the route selected, the towers could take between five and 20 acres of agricultural land out of permanent agricultural production. Additionally, the transmission corridors could indirectly impact between 600 and 1,100 acres, disrupting farming operations below the power lines and posing a significant hazard to aerial spraying operations.”
Third air quality:
“The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District is non-attainment for state standards for PM10 (particulate matter less than ten microns in diameter). Dust created by the construction of towers and the installation of power lines and equipment could significantly impact standards and violate local air quality plans. Nearby residential areas and other sensitive receptors may be adversely affected by dust and other construction related emissions.”
Of particular concern is the impact to biology including the foraging and nesting grounds of the Swanson hawk, an endangered species.
“Of particular concern is the Central 1 route, which transverses the Yolo Bypass. The Yolo Bypass contains both season and permanent wetlands and includes the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area. The construction of the power lines poses a significant and adverse impact to the variety of wildlife found in this area. The power lines also cross though a numerous conservation easements, both public and private, that have been secured for the purpose of providing permanent habitat and/or agricultural protection. Any proposed alignments should be reviewed to ensure that they do not conflict with the terms of the easements.”
The county also expresses concern about geology, hazards, hydrology, noise, recreation, transportation, among others.
Here is the county’s recommendation:
“We recommend that the above issues be closely examined in the course of the CEQA/NEPA process and that appropriate measures are set forth to fully mitigate all potential impacts. Further, we recommend that measures be found so that residents of Yolo County may share in the benefits of this project, as well as the impacts.
We request an extension to the comment period of at least 90 days, so that affected citizens who have only recently learned of this project and are the most directly impacted by the proposed project have the opportunity to become informed and participate in this process, as well as the scheduling of a public scoping meeting located within Yolo County so as to provide a more convenient forum for residents of Yolo County to learn about this project and offer comments.”
The Tuleyome group has recommendations for the public who wish to comment and also contact information for the project. Please click here for further information.
—David M. Greenwald reporting