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Power lines pose problems

Hydro-electric towers mar views from homes in Valencia

Posted: August 25, 2008 9:00 p.m.
Updated: October 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.

New power lines dot the landscape leading towards Saugus at the entrance of San Francisquito Canyon. Area residents are protesting that the towers diminish their property values and disturb the tranquility of their communities.

 
Some Valencia residents who chose to spend the latter part of their lives in Santa Clarita Valley, enjoying the view from their homes of sunsets setting over low rolling hills, vistas dotted with oaks and sycamores, didn't plan on taking in big black hydro-electric towers.

Now those residents are fighting back, demanding answers from both Southern California Edison who set up a string of giant black towers now zippered across Santa Clarita's northern perimeter, and the California Public Utilities Commission that allowed it to happen.

"Bluntly put, they're just ugly," said Scott Doerr who lives in Northbridge, on a hillside near McBean Parkway and Decoro Drive.

The strip of 150-foot black latticed towers along Copper Hill Road is all he sees when he relaxes in his backyard and looks out across the valley.

"I (would) love to have them take these things and put them underground," he told The Signal Monday.
Residents living in a retirement village closer to the towers and just under Doerr's view, are holding a news conference today to express their displeasure with the towers.

The citizens of Belcaro - a 55 and up community - are staging a rally to expose what they claim is "Southern California Edison's secret deal with the CPUC" and to demand Edison tear down the skyscraper transmission towers constructed in their neighborhood.

Representatives of both Edison and the commission told The Signal Monday that steps leading up to the towers being erected have been public, transparent and ongoing.

"Many of these senior citizens took their life savings out to live here, now this," local lobbyist Scott Wilk told The Signal Sunday night.

Wilk, who said he is helping the residents of Belcaro on a casual pro-bono basis, notified the media about today's rally and press conference on behalf of the residents.

"The Residents of Belcaro (a 55-and-up senior community) in Santa Clarita are the victims of Southern California Edison's refusal to comply with the mitigation requirements established by the California Public Utilities Commission when it approved the new Antelope-Pardee Transmission Line Project in March 2007," according to the written statement drafted by the residents and sent by Wilk.

Residents allege in the news release, that a "key part of the mitigation was to reduce the height and size of transmission towers through the western part of the city of Santa Clarita, including the Belcaro community. As a result, Edison was required to use tubular steel poles instead of the lattice poles, unless it was not feasible."

They claim that instead of following this mitigation requirement, Edison worked "in secret" to convince the utilities commission that steel poles were not feasible. Edison issued a report stating the steel poles were not feasible without any supporting documentation. The CPUC performed no peer review or independent study and did not issue a written analysis of the report. Instead they verbally approved it with no public disclosure."

Belcaro residents are faced with skyscraper transmission lines dwarfing their homes, the notice reads.
According to the rally announcement, residents stand to lose significant property value and the tranquility of their residential community.

A spokesperson for the commission said discussions between it and Edison were public and transparent.
In an e-mail responding to the residents' claims, Terrie D. Prosper said, "CPUC drafted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Southern California Edison on March 1, 2007, to construct the Antelope Pardee 500 kV Transmission Line Project.

"The (environmental impact report) that is incorporated into the CPUC decision contains numerous mitigations designed to reduce the environmental impacts of this project. One of these mitigation measures, Visual Impacts V 1-a, specifies that Edison will construct the transmission line in the city of Santa Clarita using tubular steel poles unless Edison can demonstrate that use of such towers would be infeasible.

"In January 2008, Edison submitted a report to the CPUC demonstrating the infeasibility of using TSPs in the Santa Clarita area and arguing in favor of using lattice steel towers. After review of the information provided by Edison, the CPUC agreed that lattice steel towers should be used for the portion of the project in Santa Clarita."

Similarly, officials with Southern California Edison told The Signal Monday that the residents affected by the towers and the city of Santa Clarita have been included in discussions since March 2004 when city officials were first briefed about the utility's plans.

When Edison submitted its filing to the commission in December that same year, the city was again informed.

Tom Burhenn, the utility's director of regulatory operations, said, "This has been an open process.

"There were several meetings within six months (of the initial filing in 2004) where we explained to the area residents what we were trying to do in replacing the existing lattice towers with newer lattice towers," Burhenn said.

Don Johnson, the project manager, explained that the tall black lattice pole towers were the only feasible option in replacing the existing ones.

The existing hydro towers carry one circuit, he explained, whereas the taller, darker ones are capable of carrying two circuits.

Shorter structures using tubular steel poles, that were considered by the utility, were not feasible because of the thickness of steel required to carry the extra load, Johnson said.

"There's a limit as to how thick steel can be," he said.

Despite, all that, the new tall black towers are still ugly, residents say.

"My wife and I had a great view of the west Santa Clarita valley," Doerr said, reflecting on his life in Valencia and buying the home in 2001. "Perhaps we have not been paying attention, but when we returned from vacation today, we noticed for the first time the newly erected power line support structures that are popping up across and near the newly developed areas to the west of us.

"We count over 10 new structures - somewhere near and along Copper Hill Drive going in the North/South direction for the most part. We are shocked and disappointed."

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