The key word Monday night was trust, and many Davis citizens were still apprehensive, including El Macero Homeowners Association President Stephen Cole.
“You’ve asked me to go out on a date,” Cole told Transmission Agency of Northern California, or TANC, officials at the Davis Veterans Memorial Center. “You haven’t treated me very well, you didn’t call me back and now you want to go on another date. I don’t trust you.“
The TANC Transmission Project, or TTP, would build about 600 new miles of 500-kV and 230-kV lines and power stations, including three possible routes through Yolo County. The lines would carry about 1600 megawatts of power from renewable energy sources in Lassen County to the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area regions.
What’s concerning Davis citizens is that the proposed lines would run right through Davis homes and businesses. Maps of the proposed routes can be found online at tanc.us.
The TTP is being proposed in an attempt to meet state regulations for renewable energy rates. Currently, the state must generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2010. Governor Schwarzenegger is encouraging legislation in Sacramento to raise this figure to 33 percent by 2020.
The TTP would also help stabilize transmission of power in Northern California, according to Patrick Mealoy, a TANC operations manager.
“There has not been any significant new transmission developments in Northern California in the past 16 years,” he said. “This project would increase the reliability of the Northern California electrical system.“
TANC is a California Joint Powers Agency, a collection of 15 regional municipal utilities that is governed by a board of representatives from the member utilities. TANC is also working closely with the Western Area Power Administration, or WAPA, a federal agency with the U.S. Department of Energy that markets hydroelectric power to 15 states west of the Mississippi. Should the TTP be put into action, funding for the construction would come from ratepayers of the member utilities within TANC, which includes the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD.
All proposed lines are preliminary, and the TTP is still in its infancy. The scoping period, during which comments may be submitted via written cards to WAPA for review, will end July 30, and will be followed by a review and release of a public scoping report. TANC will then oversee an environmental survey before compiling a draft Environmental Impact Report and Statement, or EIR/EIS, sometime next year. There will then be another public comment period before compiling a final EIR/EIS.
Despite the need for renewable energy in Northern California, the TTP has been plagued with criticism since the beginning.
“We looked at the proposal and realized that there were a lot of information gaps,” said Davis Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor, who led the questioning of TANC members on Monday night.
When the TTP was first announced, many citizens in Yolo County whose properties were affected by the proposed construction were not officially notified. Also, the proposed lines, which necessitate 1,000-foot study areas and then 200-foot easements to build the new lines, run through many pre-existing structures, through farm and open lands, over fault lines, through housing developments, and even through a school and the nationally esteemed Vic Fazio Wildlife Refuge.
“Yolo County has a lot of open land,” Saylor said. “We’re not empty.“
Davis citizens also cited health concerns, decreasing property values, a lack of public input on alternatives, a lack of consideration for underground high voltage lines, and environmental and aesthetic degradation as reasons for holding off the project.
TANC officials said they are taking all of these into account, although some, such as health concerns, will not be incorporated into new routes until after the draft environmental impact report is released.
The public scoping period was originally slated to end Mar. 31, but after heated concerns and at the request of such lawmakers as state Representative Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), the scoping period was extended until July 30. The proposed routes cannot be reviewed and changed until after the public scoping period ends.
A major concern has also been the environmental degradation that will occur in Lassen County. According to figures shown by Saylor at the conclusion of the TANC presentation, there is potentially a great amount of environmental damage that would occur in Lassen County were it to be used for generation of renewable sources. TANC is only responsible for the transmission of these sources, not for its generation.
Saylor, Davis Mayor Ruth Asmundson, and other citizens expressed gratitude to TANC and consultants for coming to Davis to discuss the proposal, noting a seeming change in attitude with TANC. TANC officials tried to emphasize this attitude change.
“We’re trying to regain your trust,” said TANC General Manager Jim Beck. “The greatest challenge is finding a route that has the least environmental and human impact.“
Other citizens are still vying for alternatives.
“We want to work with you,” Cole told TANC officials. “We’re Davis. We’re forward thinking.“
RONNY SMITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.