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Tower of power: Hovering helicopters a hassle

Contractors build new power lines; residents impatient with noise

Posted: February 27, 2009 1:11 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A helicopter carries a lineman to the job site at Haskell Canyon Road Thursday. Southern California Edison contractors are using helicopters to erect new power lines over the northeastern edge of the Santa Clarita Valley.

There's something in the air over the northeastern edge of Santa Clarita Valley - helicopters.

Loud helicopters.

Southern California Edison contractors are using the choppers to erect new power lines, and it's the constant chop-chop-chopping of their motors that has some residents wondering how long the noise will last.

It may be at least another month.

"This morning it (sounded) like a war zone," said Noel Borensztegn, who lives in Saugus south of the Bouquet Reservoir.

He said the choppers rattled the walls of his house and added he's grown tired of work continuing seven days a week.

Edison is in the midst of erecting an 82-mile network of power lines between wind farms in Tehachapi and substations in Santa Clarita. The project was approved in early 2007.

"The noise problem is getting ridiculous and the residents in this area are growing impatient," Rhiannon Erickson, of Mayfair Drive in Valencia, wrote in an e-mail to The Signal.

Edison spokeswoman Anna Frutos-Sanchez said she fielded a number of calls from residents frustrated with the noise.

"People are just tired of the noise," she said, "(but) a lot of people have been very understanding."

On Thursday morning, neighborhoods off Seco Canyon Road north of Copper Hill Drive were quiet, save for the chirping of birds.

When complete, the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project is slated to carry wind-generated electricity to the Southland where some 4.8 million customers await.

State law mandates that 20 percent of energy generated must come from renewable energy sources by 2010.

When it comes to work on the giant towers, helicopters are a necessary and useful tool, project manager Don Johnson said.

Because much of the work is being done in national forest land, there are a limited number of access roads, and the utility company is under mandate to use helicopters to pull and raise the cables.

"We don't have a choice," Johnson said Wednesday.

In addition to raising power cables into place, the choppers are used to take workers to the top of the towers, where they step from the aircraft and out onto to metal girders some 200 feet above the earth.

Work will continue in the Santa Clarita area through the end of the year, but Johnson expects the helicopters to be needed only through the end of March. At that point workers will transition to ground operations.

He said helicopters will still be used in the Angeles National Forest north of the valley and added some residents on the northern edge of town might be affected by the noise.

Borensztegn's home is nestled among trees along Bouquet Canyon Road, several miles outside city limits.

On Thursday, he was mentally preparing to live with the rhythmic rumble of helicopters for months to come.


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