Wood to Metal Power Poles through the Cleveland National Forest.
SDG&E Master Special Use Permit and Permit to Construct Power Line
SDG&E’s permits for the 70 power-poles, which weave in and out through the Cleveland National Forest and private lands, have expired. The U.S. Forest Service, has the power to renew the utility’s’ existing permits in order for SDGE to continue to operate its’ power lines through the forest. In return for renewing the permits, San Diego Gas and Electric is offering the U.S. Forest Service a service in suggesting the replacement of wooden poles with “fire-hardened” metal poles. In the mind of the USFS, “fire-hardened” poles should mean fewer fires. However, there are many concerns over what is truly being pushed forward by SDGE in the metal-to wood replacement.
At the Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 public meeting held at the Alpine Community Center, hosted Bob Hopkins, of the US Forest Service, paneled by Lisa Orsaba of the California Public Utilities Commission, John Porteous from Dudek, engineers and a project manager from SDGE, fielded questions from concerned residents and backcountry organizations, about the metal-pole replacement option SDGE is offering the Forest Service. The offer from SDG&E with resident concerns follows:
Water Required for Project =Water Depletion: SDGE plans to use backcountry groundwater to construct and later, maintain, the wood-to-metal pole replacement project. Tim Node of SDGE projects 30 MILLION gallons of water for the construction phase, (a project which could last five years). The CPUC, however, has tripled the estimate project water to use to 100 million gallons. In a time of severe drought and a declared state of emergency by California governor, Jerry Brown, use of backcountry groundwater will equal depletion of groundwater. If there is no water recharge, due to insufficient rains, dropping water tables from the SDGE wood-to-metal pole project, groundwater tables will be severely stressed and resident well waters may dry out, as has just occurred in Deer Valley due to SDGE project use, resulting in little or no water for residents, wildlife, or water for fighting wildfires.
Increased Pole Size, Load-Carrying Capacity and Conductor Size: Diameter of poles will increase to 5 feet at the base, will be 30% taller, and will have the ability to carry FIVE TIMES the electrical load of current wood poles. This increase of girth, height (and offsetting deeper holes to balance the poles) and load capability will definitely expand existing SDGE easements (which means they would take more of privately held land). Lisa Orsuba, of the CPUC, has also asked SDGE to: “Provide the rationale for the proposed conductors on the 69 kV power lines. [And] why the conductor size is increased with implementation of the fire hardening project?”
Backcountry residents did not receive an answer to the question regarding size and capacity increase, but Donna Tisdale, Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, voiced these concerns--“SDG&E’s project is being sold solely as fire-hardening but it appears to be an undisclosed stealth increase in carrying capacity that may directly or indirectly support numerous commercial solar projects that are already proposed along or near the route in Boulevard, Pine Valley, Descanso, Potrero, Julian, Ramona, and perhaps elsewhere that we are not yet aware of. The USFS shared the same concern, as in its December 7, 2012 comments-“The Plan of Development emphasizes that the proposed action would not increase system capacity, yet doubling certain circuits would appear to increase the capacity of the system between selected substations.”
Noise Issues: Helicopters will be allowed to make up to 64 trips per day in order to carry the gigantic metal poles.
Increased EMF’s: As SDGE is setting the metal poles with the potential to carry 5x more power. There will be 5 times more electro-magnetic frequencies surrounding the ground and airspace. Electromagnetic frequencies over 2.5 milligauss have been implicated in causing childhood leukemia.
Lightening Rods and Fire Danger: Residents questioned the sensibility of using metal poles to prevent fires, as downed power-line wires spark fires, power poles do not. Additionally, metal poles are superb conductors of electricity in electrical storms. Again, Donna Tisdale commented, “The new solar generation projects represent potential new fire ignition sources that cannot be de-energized during red flag wind events or other emergencies.”
Misapplied Investment: Jack Shu, of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation asked, “Why not use the monies SDGE wants to waste on metal pole placement and instead offer incentives for homeowners to add rooftop solar?
Other concerns included:
Cameras: What is purpose of infrared cameras on metal poles in backcountry?
Reflective Strips on Metal Poles: Concerns were voiced regarding reflective strips on metal poles which offend the senses, harm those with neurological issues, and impinge on the residents view of the open space.
David Peffer, representing Protect our Communities (POC) Foundation, has concerns, not only of the potential for increased electrical capacity of the metal pole project, but also to the negative impact to the community.--As rate-payers, backcountry residents will not only lose aesthetic scenic vistas because of the higher poles and reflectors, but possibly lose privacy from the pole-mounted infrared cameras, business revenue and/or travel-time due to construction, precious water resources, but will also have to pay for a project that is unnecessary as it currently is being presented.
The USFS is currently accepting written comments, concerns and suggestions for alternatives in this “second scoping session” which extends to March 7th, 2014. Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the March 7th deadline for comments, a Draft “Environmental Impact Report” will be posted and the public will have 45 days to comment. The final EIR is set to be released in December 2014.
Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth emphasizes that public comments are not only welcome, but encouraged. She said it is important for concerned citizens to participate by providing letters and contributing to the environmental scoping process.
Links to further research the SDG&E Master Special Use Permit and Permit to Construct Power Line Replacement Projects EIR/EIS can be found at:
Information on how high electromagnetic frequencies affect health can be found at: