Proposed Power Project Draws Concerns for Residents and Environmental Groups

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linesThe Transmission Agency of North California (TANC) is proposing the development of a project that would include new and upgraded transmission lines, substations, and related facilities designed to provide new access to renewable energy resources in the west, including northern California.  The transmission line towers will stand approximately 100 to 150 feet in height and will cover up to 2,000 square feet at the base. Four to ten towers will be built per each linear mile of power line.

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.

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors will hear this project tomorrow during their meeting.

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.

powerline_route

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.

transmission_lines

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.

powerline_route_2

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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 thoughts on “Proposed Power Project Draws Concerns for Residents and Environmental Groups”

  1. Mike Hart

    It is not a matter of choosing a path, it is a matter of saying the whole idea is stupid. Creating power sources close to the point of use saves enormous amounts of lost energy and is far more responsible, it is called “Distributed Generation”. Path-15 has a capacity limitation and that is a good thing. It means that the people in Southern California need to develop local sources of renewable energy and not spread their blight north to reach projects which do little other than provide greenwash for SoCal Edison TV commercials.

    Choosing between the Capay Valley and the Yolo Wetlands for such blight is like being told to choose which of your children get a facial scar so Orange County can add a few thousand more homes…

  2. martin

    All of this planning is being done in a proceeding at the California Public Utilities Commission, Rulemaking 08-02-007. Several environmental groups have been attending workshops and writing reports for over a year now. You can start a new group but you aren’t saying anything new. You should read all the information already developed. If anyone wants to know what is going on, please contact me.

  3. Nancy

    My understanding is that powerlines over long-distance actually “loose” power, that is, power “bleeds” out of the lines (there is probably a technical word for this), but in a way similar to water evaporating from the large canal systems in the state to move water around. So wouldn’t it be more efficient to develop smaller/regional systems based on local energy projects that have a smaller footprint?

    And have we laid to rest the question of impact of power lines on people’s health????

    As for geothermal it is not clean and green. The huge project in Northern California at Medicine Lake (also there has been one prooposed, I believe for Mt. Shasta) has been stalled because of EIR problems, one being that in order to access the thermal source more efficiently hydrochloric acid is used in deep wells to reduce the carbonate deposits on the rock surface so as to widen access to and outflow of the heated water/steam. There is little understanding of the complexity of this aquifer there and how the acid might affect the groundwater system of this type of large and complex fractured-rock aquifer…one of, if not the largest,in California.

  4. martin

    Transmission line loss is caused by resistance of the conductor and impedance caused by the magnetic fields of each wire interacting with each other. The longer the transmission line, the larger the loss. The problem with your suggestion is cost. It costs more for generation distributed among the users. It is cheaper to build a large central station, solar power plant and connect it by transmission line to the end users. Also, the people who use the electricity refuse to allow small power generation in their neighborhoods. They prefer to have it generated at a distance so that they can have their electricity without any environmental impacts. If you think that you can convince them otherwise, PG&E and Southern California Edison Company would love to hear from you.

  5. old e/of tracks

    Would we need these new transmission lines if we didn’t get ourselves into a hole/corner with regards to renewable energy?? I really don’t know so I look to the knowledge of others here to help out-please! Too late to reverse directions on renewable energy but WE need to rethink nuclear power in light of all the other countries that get 50%+ of their energy from that one source.

  6. Coughing on North California

    “The Transmission Agency of [s]North[/s] [b]Northern[/b] California (TANC) is proposing the development of a 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 [s]Drive[/s] [b]Boulevard[/b], [s]East[/s] [b]North[/b] El Macero Drive and Dresbach Way.

    “As Bob Schneider, President of Tuleyome told the Davis Enterprise last week.”

    Isn’t The Tuleyome Group just Bob Schneider, the same way the “We” of The People’s Vanguard is just David Greenwald?

  7. Doesnt seem like it

    “Isn’t The Tuleyome Group just Bob Schneider, the same way the “We” of The People’s Vanguard is just David Greenwald?”

    Board of Directors ([url]http://www.tuleyome.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=61[/url])

  8. Darnell

    Those 3X’s are all over my neighborhood in South Davis. My driveway is marked and my house is at least 1/4 mile from the western edge of the yellow highlighted strip in the article.

  9. Darnell

    Since I posted the above I contacted Public Works and they were aware of the markings but not there purpose. I realize this is not a Pulblic Works project but somebody in the City should know what’s going on. They said they read something about it in a blog called the “Vanguard” or something. Laughable.

  10. Matt Williams

    I attended the TANC meeting a couple weeks ago at the Sacramento Raddison, and based on what I heard and read, I formulated the following thoughts.

    1) The easternmost route through the Blue Ridge and Winters route is absolutely horrible, and clearly the worst of the three choices TANC presented. It has huge environmental impacts on the Blue Ridge, significant impacts on agriculture near Winters, as well as healt effects for all the people who live adjacent to the route.

    The middle route was to my way of thinking, simply stupid. Why TANC charted a direct line to the north side of Davis at the new Junior High School and then cut east and then south over East Davis and El Macero homes is beyond me. It seems like they were trying to maximize the amount of human interaction, and therefore maximize the potential health risks.

    I completely concur with the Yolo County Board of Supervisors’ comments on the easternmost route. However, it does appear that that roude does appear to be near the existing power corridor just to the west of the western leveee of the Bypass. If TANC adjusts the easternmost route so that it doesn’t go through the Bypass but rather goes down the existing corridor next to the Bypass, then to my dangerously under educated and non-scientific eye, the easternmost route would be far and away the most preferable of the three proposed routes. However, IMHO if TANC persists in its belief that the easternmost route needs to go through the Yolo Bypass itself, then all three routes are bad . . . and should be rejected.

  11. Frustrated Resident

    “…..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. “

    Gee, do you think!?! Since when can an unknown entity such as the Transmission Agency of North California (TANC) come in under the radar to dictate the conditions/terms of a pet project to Yolo County and other Central Valley counties! Something is very wrong when residents of Davis, are continuously being put into reactive positions on major environmental/development projects. When the process is flawed, so will the product be!

  12. Anonymous

    “And have we laid to rest the question of impact of power lines on people’s health????”

    Yes, there is no health danger from electric power lines ([url]http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/emf.html[/url]). The cancer risks and other strange charges have been broadly studied and, like so many urban myths, proved false.

    There is a quasi-religious industry in our country selling quack ideas to scientifically uninformed folks who pass on quasi-scientific rumors as if they have a basis in truth. The idea that electric power lines will endanger your health is one of these lies. It’s entirely false. Ironically, the same charlatans who invented the electric power lines cause cancer lie are responsible for the lie that autism does not exist, and counter-intuitively that electric power lines cause autism and lately the mercury in vaccines cause autism. You might notice that a lot of Hollywood actors are involved in propagating these stories. Those actors are involved with Scientology or Scientologists. It’s all quackery.

  13. Matt Williams

    martin said . . .

    All of this planning is being done in a proceeding at the California Public Utilities Commission, Rulemaking 08-02-007. Several environmental groups have been attending workshops and writing reports for over a year now. You can start a new group but you aren’t saying anything new. You should read all the information already developed. If anyone wants to know what is going on, please contact me.

    martin, how do we contact you?

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