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Locals charged up over power lines

Posted: June 13, 2009 8:48 p.m.
Updated: June 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
A project to upgrade local power lines will have minimal impact on Santa Clarita Valley residents, officials from the Department of Water and Power promise.

But some locals aren't so sure.

"Santa Clarita residents will barely notice the difference when the project's complete," said Allan Macfarlane, electrical engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The proposed project, which could start in 2013, will bring wind power generated in the Tehachapi Mountains through the SCV to Water and Power's Rinaldi Transmission Station, he said. From there, the electricity will help light Los Angeles, he said.

But before the wind-generated power can flow, the lines between Los Angeles and the Tehachapi's must be upgraded, Macfarlane said.

"The current lines aren't equipped to handle the power load," Macfarlane said.

The Tehachapi wind project, called Pine Tree, will send 120 megawatts of electricity down those new lines to help meet state requirements for renewable energy, Macfarlane said. The state of California is requiring utilities to generate 20 percent of their power through renewable energy sources by 2010. By 2020, the percentage of green energy required by the state will climb to 33 percent. These requirements are the result of a state mandate to reduce greenhouse gasses caused by the generation of electricity.

By 2030, those same utilities need to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions to 35 percent below 1990 emissions levels, Macfarlane said.

Water and Power's plans mark the second time Santa Clarita has been targeted as a place to transport electricity to other communities to use.

Some suspicious local residents have their doubts about the project.

"We don't trust them. They (the power utilities) say one thing and do another," said Mike Milligan, of Saugus.

Southern California Edison continues to face the same state renewable-energy mandate. When it looked for renewable-energy transmission routes, it looked to the Santa Clarita Valley for a route to transport power from the Tehachapi Mountains south. The project, started in November 2008, included the construction of towers in Bouquet Canyon and the stringing of new power lines, said Paul Klein, Edison spokesman. The Edison project is expected to be completed by November 2009, he said.

Changes in the Southern California Edison project sparked outrage among locals.

"The problem is whether it's Edison or DWP, they all say the configuration of line won't be obtrusive," said Norman Schweitzer, of Valencia. "But they always renege on their promises."

Schweitzer's concerns stem from changes made to a Southern California Edison power- line project. Following an environmental review, Southern California Edison was forced by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to relocate its lines, according to Edison officials.

Moving the power lines angered many residents of Bouquet Canyon, where the lines eventually were placed.

"Instead of an aesthetically pleasing project, it's an eyesore," said Milligan.

If the same transmission-line route change is done by Water and Power, there will be another surge of angry residents, he said.
Macfarlane said the current route is the preferred route, but, added the decision has not been finalized.

There is a Water and Power alternative route to bring power that would result in the construction of power lines adjacent to the current lines the agency wants to upgrade, Macfarlane said.

Water and Power doesn't want to build parallel power lines, Macfarlane said. But until the environmental reviews on the project happen, Water and Power can't assure the path of the power lines will not change, he said.

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