September 15, 2008

SCE Disputes Rerouting Cost

By Neil Nisperos

CHINO HILLS - Southern California Edison has disputed the cost assessment for a city plan to reroute a major electrical transmission project through the state park instead of through the city.

If approved by the state Public Utilities Commission next year, the estimated cost for the city's rerouting proposal would be $50 million, according to a Chino Hills report unveiled Tuesday. The cost would be paid for by SCE under various PUC resolutions that aim to reduce electromagnetic fields from the transmission lines.

When commenting on the city proposal's cost assessment, SCE project manager Charles Adamson said Thursday the city did not take into account additional construction costs for building lines and a switching station.

"There would be increased construction costs between $50 million to $100 million for a total of $100 million to $150 million," Adamson said. "They haven't factored in construction costs and I think (the SCE cost estimate) range voices all of their alternatives."

About $80 million, or 4 percent of the total $2 billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, has been identified for the EMF mitigation. The project - bringing wind-generated electricity from Tehachapi Pass in Kern County - is 270 miles long, though it's Chino Hills' five-mile portion that is at question.

In response to SCE's statement, city manager Doug La Belle said Thursday, "the city will continue to work with Edison and the State Park to resolve issues related to the TRTP project alternatives."

The city unveiled the "21st Century Green Partnership," a major push for public and agency support of its proposal, at the council meeting last week.

La Belle said the proposal was in the best interest of all affected parties, adding the proposal would get energy in the grid sooner, would protect the state park, and would prevent high voltage power lines from running through the community.

Elements of the city proposal include construction of a wildlife crossing under Highway 71 from the park into the Prado Basin, habitat restoration, removal of about 14 miles of active and inactive high voltage power lines from the state park, and moving of lines and towers that remain away from ridgelines and other prominent areas to improve the public's view.

Chino Hills spokeswoman Denise Cattern said the city hopes for support for the proposal from the California State Parks system.

"We are reviewing the document and have not come to any conclusions yet," said Roy Stearns, spokesman for California State Parks.

The city filed a formal protest against SCE's wind energy project last year, opposing the route that would activate and expand power lines near at least 1,500 homes in Chino Hills. The towers would also be increased in size from between 120 to 140 feet to between 150 and 195 feet.

Residents have voiced several concerns about the plan, ranging from aesthetics and noise to the impact it may have on home values and the possible health effects of electromagnetic fields.

"We all have to pay Edison one way or another," said Chino Hills resident Jeanette Short. "Why do I have to pay for it with my health?"

The PUC will consider the city's proposed routes at a hearing in late spring or summer of next year.

Information about the city proposal can be found at this link.

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