A plan to route a new set of power lines through Yolo County has sparked anger among a number of farmers and residents.
The Transmission Agency of Northern California, or TANC, has proposed the construction of 600 miles of new power lines in Northern California. The TANC Transmission Project (TTP) would transmit energy from renewable sources in Lassen County throughout Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.
“The proposed project would strengthen the entire Northern California electric grid, providing improved reliability to all electric customers regardless of their power provider,” said TANC consultant Janet Thomson in an e-mail interview.
TANC, a collection of fifteen publicly owned nonprofit utilities in Northern California, is working with the Western Area Power Administration, an administration within the U.S. Department of Energy, to make the plans a reality. The TTP would use 230-kV and 500-kV lines to transmit energy from wind, solar, and geothermal sources along five different segments. The segments extend from Lassen County to the South Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Foothills.
Parts of the TTP lines have been drawn through farms and residential areas in Yolo and Solano Counties, including Davis. The properties would be bisected by 200-foot easements, and heated concerns have been voiced from affected citizens.
Winters resident Stan Lester was especially outraged at the method of notification TANC used.
“They’ve done a very poor job of making people aware of this,” Lester said. “I tend to think they were trying to stay under the radar.“
Many affected citizens said they were not even officially notified. Lester owns about 300 acres of tree crops in Yolo County, which are bisected by the proposed power lines. The current line proposals, though subject to change, appear to run over houses, near schools and even directly through Lake Solano.
Each proposed segment also includes alternatives, and TANC assistant general manager Bryan Griess guaranteed that no lines would run through current structures.
Tuleyome, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the welfare of the Putah-Cache bioregion, has also denounced the proposal.
“We support a more inclusive, stakeholder process to develop alternate alignments,” said Tuleyome President Bob Schneider in an e-mail interview, “and we strongly support the co-location along existing power line routes. Running new power line alignments through wetlands, next to homes and along the Blue Ridge and through the Capay Valley is unnecessary and destructive.“
An informational period and environmental review of the proposal, also known as the scoping period, was extended by 30 days until May 31, though many citizens believe that period is still not enough time. The scoping period began in late February and allows citizens the opportunity to offer feedback about the proposed project. State Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis has asked for a 90-day extension on the scoping period.
A lively informational meeting in Winters last Thursday allowed concerned citizens to listen to a presentation on the TTP and directly question project officials. TANC general manager Jim Beck, who attended the Winters meeting, defended both the proposal and the length of the scoping period.
“The sooner that we can close the scoping period, the sooner we can start the analyses,” Beck said.
Though the project and proposed map is still in its infancy, the current estimated cost would be $1.5 billion, to be paid for by TANC ratepayers. According to the project plan, after the scoping period closes an Environmental Impact Report will be issued sometime next year. Construction could begin as early as 2014.
TANC representatives have maintained that the TTP would help California meet the 20 percent renewable energy rate that the state has mandated for 2012. Backers say the project would also aid in reducing Northern California energy congestion.
The concerns raised at the Winters meeting were both numerous and diverse. Among them were the outdated aerial photography used to survey the land, TANC’s refusal to use already existing power line corridors, compensation for farmers, the TTP’s effect on property value rates and the physical locations of the lines.
Many of those who attended the Winters meeting remained in strong opposition to the project, including Joe Martinez, President of the Solano County Farm Bureau.
“It will be my recommendation to my members that they go on record as opposing this project,” Martinez said on Thursday. “Power lines are outdated technology left over from the 1930s. Why put in power lines that will rape our countryside with technology that will be outdated before one single electron goes through those power lines?”
All citizen concerns have to be written on comment cards and submitted to TANC by May 31.
The Winters meeting was one of several scoping meetings planned for the TTP, although a meeting is currently not scheduled for Davis.
“What we are going to be doing from now on is meeting with people where there are concerns around the linings that we are proposing,” Beck said.
Some have already made up their minds.
“My final comment,” Martinez said, “with all due respect to these power lines: Hell no.“
More information on the project is available online at tanc.us.
RONNY SMITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.