Protect Our Community From SDG&E

Wood-to-Steel-2-300x224Once again SDG&E is skirting  the details, worse yet, the laws, rules and regulations put in place to safeguard our environment and our safety.

SDG&E’s Power Line Replacement Project  TieLine 637 Wood-to-Steel Project

Scoping SDG&E’s Master Special Use Permit (Project) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). These comments are provided on behalf of The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC).

I. Project Scoping
POC values cooperative work and coordination with state and federal agencies. Unfortunately, we have to tell you that scoping for this project was fatally flawed, and it is our hope that you will be able to correct this problem quickly. The project’s Notice of Intent published in the Federal Register does not follow Forest Service regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

According to the Forest Service’s FSH 1909.15– National ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY Act Handbook, Forest Service regulations require that Notices of Intent published in the Federal Register include “any permits or licenses required to implement the proposed action and the issuing authority” 36 CFR 220.5(b) (page 6).1

However, the only permit or license identified in the project’s Federal Register Notice is the Forest Service’s Master Special Use Permit 2 Even a single missing permit would establish that the Notice of Intent has violated Forest Service regulations regarding scoping, and SDG&E’s application documents indicate that multiple permits are needed:

Section 4.3 of the revised Plan of Development, 69 kV Undergrounding (related to TL 629E), states, “SDG&E would secure the necessary permits to conduct these specialized construction activities and would implement standard best management practices (BMPs), including silt fencing and straw wattles, in accordance with the Proposed Action’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)” (page 33, emphasis added). SDG&E’s original application makes even clearer that permits are required:
This specialized construction requires 20 to 40 foot wide boring pits, 10 to 20 feet deep which require special permits. Increasing the depth of the conduit for the transmission line would make these pits even deeper which would eliminate the possibility of permitting. (page 91 of 125, emphasis added) 3

CRUXSection 7.2.5 of the revised Plan of Development, Underground Duct Package and Installation, states, “If trench water is encountered, trenches would be dewatered using a portable pump and disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations and permits” (page 68, emphasis added).

Section 9 of the Revised Plan of Development, Required Permits and Authorizations, states, “SDG&E would obtain all required approvals for all construction activities from federal, state, and local agencies, as applicable. Table 16: Anticipated Permits and Approvals lists the potential permits and approvals that may be required for these construction activities” (page 81).

These include Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 Nationwide or Individual Permit, FAA Permission to Fly Helicopters, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)– Construction Storm Water Permit, California Department of Fish and Wildlife–California Fish and Game Code Section 1600 Streambed Alteration Agreement, Regional Water Quality Control Board–Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Encroachment Permit, and San Diego County Encroachment Permit (page 82).

Even to members of the public, it is self-evident that one or more of these permits will be required. For example, Caltrans requires encroachment permits “for all proposed activities related to the placement of encroachments within, under, or over the State highway rights of way.”4 The County of San Diego requires a similar encroachment permit regarding county roads.5

Because some of the construction work necessary for this project will have to be done along state highways where power poles are immediately adjacent to the road and in locations where there will not be a wide shoulder or a good place to park trucks, it seems clear that the project will have encroachments requiring a Caltrans or County permit.

Other serious problems occurred during the scoping process. Some of these issues have already been explained in writing to the Forest Service and CPUC and those communications are incorporated by reference (and attached to this letter). In addition; the Federal Register notice clearly states that the Forest Service, CPUC, BLM, BIA, and CSP will have their own authorizations to make regarding this project. Yet only the Forest Service and CPUC sent staff to the two scoping meetings. 6

This meant no one from the cooperating and responsible agencies was there to explain their Proposed Actions, listen to the public’s scoping comments or to answer any questions from the public.

According to the presentation that was given to the public at the scoping meetings, the purpose of those meetings was to “To inform the public and responsible agencies about the project; To inform the public about the environmental review process; and To solicit input on the scope of issues and alternatives to be addressed in the EIR/EIS.” 7 But the information presented did not adequately inform the public. The slides did not include the Proposed Actions and Project Objective for the cooperating and responsible agencies (BLM, BIA, and CSP), only the Proposed Action for the Forest Service. This compounded the problem of not having any staff from those agencies present at the meeting.

final approval from the California Public Utilities CommissionLikewise, the Notice of Public SCOPING Meeting and Public Notice Meeting used by Dudek to notify the public of scoping described only the Forest Service Proposed Action. The BLM, BIA and CSP Proposed Actions and Project Objective were not included. Instead, the BLM and BIA Proposed Actions were published only in the Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, which very few members of the general public read. The CSP Project Objective was not even published in the Federal Register. Again, this was not adequate to inform the public about what was happening. Excluding information about the cooperating agencies was especially unfortunate since according to the Federal Register notice, SDG&E may be operating some of its existing project facilities on BLM land illegally; the right-of-way permits have expired or were never issued. That is information that the public has a right to know.
In addition, comments for the Tie-Line 637 Wood-to-Steel proceeding were also due, made things difficult for members of the public trying to participate in both proceedings.

One of the most serious problems with the scoping period was that many of the affected communities had inadequate notice that they were going to be affected and therefore should be participating in scoping.

sunrise-powerlinkThis is because the Notice of Public Scoping Meeting and Public Notice/Scoping Meeting did not list all of the affected communities. Even some communities that are going to have helicopter fly yards, such as Alpine and Boulevard, were not listed, despite the problems that occurred with helicopter disturbance during construction of the Sunrise Powerlink. Moreover, it is not enough to send scoping notices to Planning Groups in the affected communities if those notices do not list all the affected communities.

In San Diego County, all Planning Group members are volunteers, not paid staff. They have busy lives, and they receive many notices. If Planning Group members do not see their community listed on a scoping notice, it is not reasonable to expect them to read a 125-page project application just to verify their community is not involved. Instead, that scoping notice will more likely go into the trash can or be deleted without a second thought.

As a result of the problems with scoping, POC repeatedly asked the CPUC and Forest Service to extend the scoping comment period and to list all of the affected communities. The agencies said no. POC does appreciate that the agencies increased the public’s access to hard copy documents about the project in response to POC’s request.
Given the violation of Forest Service regulations regarding scoping and the other serious issues, POC urges the CPUC and Forest Service to reopen the formal scoping comment period with a notice that lists all the affected communities.
II. Purpose and Need/Project Objectives
The Purpose and Need of each of the three federal agencies and the Project Objectives of the two state agencies should be included in the EIR/EIS. (The Project’s Federal Register notice included the federal agency Purpose and Need statements but not the state agency Project Objectives). The narrow description in the Purpose and Need section of SDG&E’s Revised Plan of Development is based on the previous Environmental Assessment, and as a result it focuses only on the Cleveland National Forest and does not acknowledge the other necessary land management agency approval decisions (BLM, BIA, CSP) or the BLM regulation that require future BLM authorizations to conform to current land management plans (43 CFR 1610.5-3 – Conformity and implementation).8

However, this EIR/EIS and the parallel proceeding at the CPUC need to be broader, reflecting the fact that almost half the poles changed from wood to steel would be located outside the Cleveland National Forest.
In addition, the EIR/EIS’s Introduction should include the plans, laws, policies, and Executive Orders the project will comply with, be consistent with, implement or address. At a minimum, this list should include:
*Consistency with the Forest Service’s current Land Management Plan;
*Conformance with the BLM’s current Land Use Plans per 43 CFR 1610.5-3;
*Implementation of Executive Order 13186, “Responsibilities of Federal Agencies to Protect Migratory Birds” 9
*Compliance with federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act; and:

*Consistency with the Community Plans in the San Diego County General Plan.

*Compliance with state law and local ordinances.
In a federal EIS, this list is often placed in the Purpose and Need section.parks or power

III. Alternatives to be Analyzed in the EIR/EIS
POC would like to see a variety of alternatives analyzed in the EIR/EIS.

The EIR/EIS should analyze a new alternative of renewing and issuing permits as needed on federal lands to keep existing facilities working, and increasing vegetation management and equipment inspections. No wooden poles would be changed to steel poles. This is different than the Forest Service’s proposed no action alternative in two respects: issuing the permits, and increased vegetation management and equipment inspections. POC would like to see this new alternative analyzed because of its reduced environmental and community impacts.

Using composite poles instead of steel poles should also be analyzed in this EIR/EIS, either in particularly sensitive locations or along all of the route. Composite poles are safer for humans and birds than steel poles because they are less conductive. Examples of sensitive locations would be near campgrounds and homes or near areas used by birds for breeding, roosting, or feeding.

Another alternative that should be analyzed in the EIR/EIS is using replacement poles (whether they are steel or composite) that are closely matched in height, and as much as possible, in diameter, to the existing wooden poles they are replacing. This would have much less visual impact on the Cleveland National Forest, BLM lands, tribal lands, and surrounding communities, than the up to 120’ tall and 3’ to 5’ in diameter at their base 69kV steel poles and larger than existing 12 kV steel poles that SDG&E has proposed.10 If this alternative is not feasible due to CPUC or other regulation, the EIR/EIS should explain in detail exactly which regulation(s) prevent it.

Loveland Reservoir Trail in Alpine*The fourth new alternative that should be analyzed is more undergrounding near popular trails and near campgrounds. For example, the Loveland Reservoir Trail in Alpine is heavily used and will likely be seriously visually impacted by the project. (It’s been POC’s experience that simulations provided for projects underestimate visual impacts.) The Reservoir is a favorite place in the community, where families often take their children to fish. The public’s experience there would benefit from undergrounding, and the same is true for other popular trails and the campgrounds the project lines run through or are immediately adjacent to. Undergrounding might also increase public safety in these areas by reducing fire risk and risk of exposure to conductive steel poles.
*The fifth new alternative that should be analyzed concerns the Pine Creek Wilderness and Hauser Creek Wilderness Areas. In this new alternative, the existing wooden poles of line C157 would be left in place where line goes through Pine Creek and Hauser Wilderness Areas, and vegetation management around those poles and equipment inspections would be increased inside the Wilderness Areas. Outside the Wilderness Areas, the rest of C157 would be changed to steel poles of a height similar to the existing wooden poles.

PL-march-LakeJennings-OrtizThe conductor would be changed to a heavier weight that is still compatible with the existing poles in the wilderness or if the existing poles cannot support a heavier weight of conductor, it would remain the same. This would allow the Wilderness Areas to maintain their integrity while still changing most of the line to steel poles.

IV. Impacts
The following impacts on communities and nature should be analyzed:
*Impacts of helicopters on residents, livestock, pets, and wildlife (especially eagles and other raptors), including but not limited to impacts of noise and vibration. (This will vary by model of helicopter, so all should be analyzed.) There were many problems with helicopters disturbing residents and their animals during the construction of the Sunrise Powerlink, as well as the inherent safety issues of construction components having been dropped and helicopter rotors having struck objects. There were also problems with helicopters flying too low over homes, and helicopters flying with suspended loads over homes.11

The lesson learned here from that experience is that there need to be strict conditions set for helicopter use, helicopter use needs to be monitored carefully throughout construction by the CPUC, and SDG&E should not be allowed any waivers for helicopter use outside of normal hours or days because it puts an undue burden on communities.

Powerlink accident

WORKER BREAKS 8 RIBS, INJURES SHOULDER IN FALL FROM POWERLINK TOWER

Furthermore, it would be very helpful if the draft EIR/EIS included maps that showed not only the fly yards, but also the routes the helicopters will be flying. It is difficult for residents to know if they and their animals will be impacted when maps only show the fly yards. It would also be helpful to have all the fly yards marked on an additional single overview map so that people can see at once where the fly yards are located rather than having to page through every single map to find out.
*The impacts on landowners with private easements should be analyzed in the EIR/EIS.

Does SDG&E have all the easements necessary on private land for this project?

Will any private land easements have to be amended to allow for the cross beams on these steel poles, access road improvements, or other issues? If so, are all private landowners willing to allow SDG&E to make these changes?

Pala to Monserate wood-to-steel replacement projectIs there any possibility of eminent domain being needed to obtain additional easement land for this project? We ask because in SDG&E’s Pala to Monserate wood-to-steel replacement project, there was a serious issue of landowner’s rights. The cross beams of the steel power poles installed on one ranch were wider than the easement (as measured by the landowners) and the landowners and SDG&E disputed the easement width at the CPUC.

*Review of the maps indicates that many of the staging areas, stringing sites, and fly yards will be sited in or near agricultural areas/fields. The EIR/EIS should thoroughly analyze the project’s impacts on agriculture, including but not limited to livestock production, dairy and egg production, crop production, horse training and boarding, and beekeeping.

This analysis should not be limited to commercial production facilities, but also to agriculture on a home-use scale since livestock ownership is widespread throughout the backcountry (e.g., horses, goats, chickens and other domestic fowl, cattle). Seemingly minor occurrences such as gates being left open or loud construction noises can have real impacts for people who keep animals.

*Impacts on traffic. Many of the power lines parallel roads that are major through routes for their communities and there are not many or in some cases any alternate routes.

*Impacts on Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, including campgrounds and trails, and all types of recreational users there.

Impact to Cleveland Forest*Impacts on campgrounds and trails outside of Rancho Cuyamaca State Park

*Impacts on raptors, including eagles, and other birds, during construction, operation, and maintenance of the line. Applicable federal laws are the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The EIR/EIS should analyze whether eagle “take” as defined in the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act will occur.

*The EIR/EIS should analyze SDG&E’s designs for power poles to determine how much collision and electrocution risk they pose to birds and then suggest modifications to reduce that risk. Unless carefully designed and installed, steel power poles can present greater risk of electrocution to birds than wooden power poles because of because of steel’s conductivity.12 Although the Revised Plan of Development states, “SDG&E will
design and install all new structures in compliance with the guidelines in the Suggested Practices for Avian Protection on Power Lines Manual developed by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC)” (page 28), APLIC guidelines are just that: general guidelines. To truly protect birds, it is best for an experienced expert with specialized knowledge of the extra risk steel poles pose to birds to review the equipment designs.

POC strongly suggests contacting Rick Harness, Certified Wildlife Biologist, EDM. He is a national expert on this subject and can look at equipment drawings and assess if they are actually going to be safe for birds: (970) 204-4001, rharness@edmlink.com. . In addition, the Forest Service is not a member of APLIC and so does not have a liaison to the committee, but Albert Manville, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s liaison to APLIC, is a national expert in anthropogenic bird mortality, including from transmission lines, and may be helpful to the analysis of this project: Albert_Manville@fws.gov, (703) 358-1963. POC recognizes that SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, is an APLIC member, but it would be good to have multiple people with this specialized experience looking at the proposed designs.
By taking further steps to make its equipment truly as bird safe as possible, SDG&E can lower its risk of federal prosecution for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Endangered Species Act. While there are permits available that allow utilities to kill or harm eagles and birds protected by the Endangered Species Act, there are currently no permits available to utilities for birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
*The EIR/EIS should analyze the impacts of all equipment that SDG&E wishes to install on these lines and the final approval decisions of all the agencies should be only for the equipment analyzed in the EIR/EIS. This may seem self-evident, but the Draft Operating Plan included in SDG&E’s Revised Plan of Development shows that the utility is seeking a blanket approval now for future equipment. It states, “SDG&E may install appurtenant facilities—such as weather stations, fire safety and early fire detection equipment, smart-grid system data collection equipment, or other technologies or facilities—on steel poles within existing ROWs, as needed, to collect additional information to further increase fire safety and service reliability as new technologies become available” (Draft Operating Plan, page 12, emphases added). While fire safety and service reliability are important goals, this additional future equipment might be placed in service around people’s homes, livestock and pets; near campgrounds; near endangered wildlife; and in other sensitive locations. This future equipment must be reviewed for its environmental impacts, not simply approved now. This is especially true of new technologies that have not yet been invented.

nist-smart gridThe mention of Smart Grid data collection equipment in the Draft Operating Plan is particularly relevant here. Smart-grid data collection has been highly controversial in California, and members of the public have fought to smart meters removed from their homes or never installed at all. To give SDG&E approval to install smart-grid data collection equipment in the future on these lines without having conducted full environmental review of that equipment could invite strong public controversy.

*The EIR/EIS should analyze the impact of this project on dark skies. The replacement steel poles SDG&E has been using in some locations inject night lighting into previously dark rural skies. (See, for example, two replacement steel poles on Japatul Lane in Alpine.) – ( Appendix A References – San Diego County Water Authorit)13 On the pole’s cross beam, there are two rectangular areas that reflect light at night. (They appear to be the high voltage stickers.) At the location in Alpine, the existing wooden poles do not have this reflective glow. It is surprisingly bright, is not a natural experience, and detracts from the dark rural sky.

These glowing rectangles would also detract from the experience of nature inside the Cleveland Natural Forest, Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, on BLM land, and or other wild places. Their impacts should be fully studied and unless SDG&E doesn’t plan to use them in this project, the public needs to be made aware that they are part of the steel pole “package” so that they can comment on them. San Diego’s rural residents cherish their night skies, where they can still see the Milky Way and constellations. Maintaining dark skies is also included in some of the Community Plans that are part of the San Diego County General Plan.14

* The EIR/EIS should analyze how this project will affect the ability of the communities in the study area to achieve the goals in the Community Plans that are part of the San Diego County General Plan, regardless of whether the planning groups associated with those communities submitted scoping comments or not.15 As stated earlier in this letter, all San Diego County planning group members are volunteers, and they do not always have time to respond to all notices they receive, especially when their community is not listed as an affected community on the notice.
* The project’s visual impacts should be thoroughly analyzed in the EIR/EIS. Many of the visual simulations in the Revised Plan of Development are disturbing. For example, the visual simulation of SR 79 at Viejas Boulevard looking north (KVP 27) suggests that the new steel poles are going to be significantly larger than the current wooden poles. Will the poles be that much larger through Descanso, all along SR 79 and all the way through Rancho Cuyamaca State Park? If so, that will dramatically take away from the experience of wild nature that characterizes the area and that people from outside the area come to see. However, it wouldn’t even be possible to have this concern without the visual simulation. The information provided to the public so far has relied on “typical” power poles and an “average” height of 10’ taller poles. The EIR/EIS will need to provide much more detailed information about many, many locations so that the public can comment in an informed way. But because of the problems described earlier with how scoping was conducted, it is highly unlikely that this comment period is going to identify all of the locations that are important to the public and need to have visual simulations in the EIR/EIS. The most effective course of action would be for the agencies to get this information directly from the public.

Electric Power MarketsOther examples of disturbing changes from the visual simulations included in the Revised Plan of Development include:
* The Visual Simulations  (THIS IS IMPORTANT INFO. Click on highlighted blue Visual Simulations) of TL629 at La Posta Road (KVP 37) shows an H frame being replaced by a much taller pole. The EIR/EIS should analyze why the pole is so much taller. Is this required by regulation or law? It will cause a change in the rural character of the area and therefore the EIR/EIS should also analyze its impacts on the area’s rural character.

* The visual simulation of TL6923 (Hauser Mountain near Pacific Crest Trail, KVP 55) – (CNF Revised POD Attachment I Visual Sims (04-19-13S).pd) shows a significant visual change. The existing poles blend in. the new ones will stick out.

* The visual simulation of the Forest Service Volunteer Activity Center near Sunrise Highway (KVP 69), -(visual resources technical study – California Public Utilities ) line (C440) shows much taller poles than the existing ones. They also are brighter than the existing poles. The EIR/EIS should analyze why the poles are so much taller. Is this required by regulation or law?

*The EIR/EIS should analyze how much water will be required for construction, where that water will come from, and the impacts of sourcing the water. Portions of the study area are a certified sole-source aquifer (i.e. Boulevard). Groundwater is a sensitive resource in all areas of the study region because of potential impacts on residents’ wells, local water districts, agriculture and other business uses, and wildlife.

*The EIR/EIS should analyze the noise impacts of the project on humans and animals (including livestock, pets, and wildlife).

*The EIR/EIS should thoroughly describe how the wooden poles will be disposed of and the environmental impacts of that disposal. (Wooden power poles are treated with chemicals that can make their disposal problematic.)16

*The San Diego backcountry often experiences lightning strikes and occasional fires caused by lightning. The EIR/EIS should analyze what will happen when tall electricity-
conducting steel poles are placed throughout the backcountry.17 Will they attract lightning? What are the safety implications for the public, livestock, and wildlife anywhere near a steel power pole if lightning strikes it?

ChihuahuaFireWhat are the safety implications for campgrounds and homes that have these steel power poles near them, in terms of lightning strikes? Could lightning conducted through these steel power poles start a fire?

*Steel power poles can bend in severe wind storms. The EIR/EIS should analyze the potential impacts of San Diego backcountry winds on these power poles. If the poles do bend, can they be repaired? If they must be replaced, what are the implications in terms of service reliability and impacts to the environment? How much wind does it take to bend the poles SDG&E intends to use?

*The effects of corrosion on steel power poles, both above and below soil level should be analyzed in the EIR/EIS.

*The EIR/EIS should analyze the project’s impacts related to electric and magnetic fields.

V. Fire and Reliability
The EIR/EIS should thoroughly analyze the technical aspects of SDG&E’s proposed project in terms of its fire-safety features, comparing them to the causes of SDG&E’s past power-line caused fires to see if the fire-hardening features of this project would have actually prevented those fires. If there is a fire, will the steel power poles have to be replaced? (How do thin-walled steel power poles respond to the extreme heat of a wildfire?) It is POC’s understanding that the conductors would have to be replaced after a wildfire because soot accumulates on them and is conductive. In addition, the EIR/EIS should analyze the spring 2013 fire that was caused by the Pala to Monserate wood to steel project line after it was converted to steel power poles.18 If steel power poles prevent fires, why did that line cause a fire after it was converted? There were also power reliability problems reported in that area around the same time that appear to have been on the power line. They should be analyzed in the EIR/EIS as well since improving reliability is a goal of this project.

VI. Monitoring, Mitigation Compliance and Reporting
The EIR/EIS should clearly lay out the monitoring that will be performed to ensure that all mitigation commitments are being performed as described in the EIS/EIR and related decision documents), and whether the mitigation effort is producing the expected outcomes and resulting environmental effects. This should include the frequency at which the agencies will review this monitoring and mitigation compliance. The results of this monitoring of the mitigation efforts should be reported on a regular basis, and those reports should be published and made readily available to the public, preferably on a website. Because of the size of this project and the environmental sensitivity of many of the areas involved, this monitoring should be done by an independent third party, paid for by SDG&E but under the direction of the agencies.

Towers Kill Millions of Birds

An estimated 174 million birds are killed annually in the United States.

Power lines are known to be a serious hazard to birds, but very little systematic mortality monitoring of them ever takes place. Because steel poles can be more hazardous than wood for birds and because more than half of these poles will be on Federal property, it would be appropriate to have a mortality monitoring program. Such a program would provide much needed information on avian mortality from steel power poles and would provide an opportunity for the Federal agencies to implement Executive Order 13186. Mortality monitoring protocols could be adapted from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wind Energy Guidelines, in consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff.19
Such monitoring should be conducted by an independent third party under the supervision of the CPUC or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and reports should be published and made available to the public. This would be a ground-breaking study and an opportunity for the project to distinguish itself.

VII. Implications of Heavier Conductors for Thermal Load-Carrying Capability
In its Revised Plan of Development, SDG&E states that no increase in system capacity will occur, but then quickly qualifies that statement:

No changes to the system capacity will result from the additional circuits; rather, the additional circuits will provide increased system reliability. “System capacity,” as used in this context, refers to the nominal operating voltages of the transmission facilities in question. In this case, the nominal operating voltage of the electric transmission facilities affected is 69 kV, and this will not change. What may change is the thermal load-carrying capability of affected transmission lines, as their conductors are replaced and/or reconfigured. (page 32)

The EIR/EIS should analyze the implications of changes in the thermal load-carrying capability of the transmission lines, caused by changing to different or reconfigured conductors. Will this project potentially result in increased system capacity, not measured in voltage, but in another unit of measurement?
Similarly, the San Diego Sierra Club has raised related concerns in its public discussions of increased wattage and amperage related to increasing the thickness of the conductors (e.g., at the recent scoping meetings). The EIR/EIS should fully analyze the wattage and amperage issues raised by the San Diego Sierra Club.

VII. Growth-Inducing Impacts and System Capacity
Sections of two power lines in this sections of this project are proposed to be changed from single circuit to double circuit, reportedly to increase system reliability (TL625B and TL629E). Those changes should be analyzed for their potential growth-inducing impacts in their local areas (roughly Alpine and Boulevard, respectively).
Although the Revised Plan of Development says that no increase in system capacity (as measured in voltage) will occur, POC has a number of questions we would like to see answered in the EIR/EIS:

How much unused transmission capacity will be available on the double circuited lines once the work has been completed? Once the lines have been made double circuit, what is the largest system capacity they can be increased to if SDG&E comes back and reconductors them? What kind of review procedure would that require at the CPUC? What kind of substation and related equipment upgrades would also be required to get to that maximum capacity and what kind of review procedure would that require at the CPUC?

VIII. Connected Actions
There are many centralized renewable energy projects planned throughout the study area and they should be analyzed as potential connected actions. They cannot be built without transmission capacity, and from what has occurred so far in Boulevard, these types of projects appear to generally require changes and upgrades to the grid. POC is continually learning of new proposed projects, so the list of projects to be analyzed will need to be updated throughout the time that the EIR/EIS is written. Current planned projects of which POC is aware include two Ecoplexus solar projects (Pine Valley and Descanso), I-8 and Japatul Valley Road solar project (Alpine), Tule Wind (Boulevard), three Soitec solar projects (Boulevard), Chapman solar project (Boulevard), Fox solar project (Boulevard), and the Campo Reservation solar project (Boulevard).

IX. Cumulative Impacts
The EIR/EIS should analyze the cumulative impacts of the energy building boom that has been taking place and is planned to take place in the San Diego back country. These include the proposed renewable energy projects described above, the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, other proposed wood to steel power line projects in the study area such as TL 6931 (A.12-12-007), and other completed wood to steel power line projects in the vicinity of the study area such as Warner Springs to Santa Ysabel (approved in Advice Letter 2191-E).
X. TL 637 Should Be Analyzed as Part of the Master Special Use Permit Project
TL 637 has been separated into a separate CPUC proceeding from the Master Special Use Project even though it shares 12 poles with a power line in SDG&E’s Master Special Use Project, TL 626. It was going to be included in the Master Special Use Project, by order of the CPUC, but it was separated after SDG&E objected.
Analyzing the two projects separately is clearly incorrect under both NEPA and CEQA. The two lines share 12 poles, therefore they are a Connected Action under NEPA. Both projects involve removing wooden poles and replacing them with steel poles and reconductoring with heavier conductor, all described as fire hardening, both projects involving the same 12 poles. It would be piecemealing under CEQA to analyze them separately. This may be obscured by the current emphasis in the Master Special Use Project on the Forest Service permits, but that project involves decisions by four other agencies besides the Forest Service, and nearly half the poles are outside the Cleveland National Forest, so it is hardly just a Forest Service project. The current description of the Master Special Use Permit project SDG&E is using is too narrow.

XI. Additional Public Engagement
So that San Diego County group members and the the public can attend and hear and weigh in on the scoping issues.

 

References:

1 Forest Service (2011). FSH 1909.15 – National Environmental Policy Act Handbook. Available at http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nepa/nepa_procedures/. The Proposed Actions listed in the Federal Register notice include authorization of work both inside and outside the Cleveland National Forest.

2 Authorization actions by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are mentioned in the Federal Register Notice of Intent, but the required permits for those actions are not named explicitly. There are also references to an approval decision by California State Parks, but the required permit or license is not named. Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 184, 9/23/13, page 58271. Available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-09-23/pdf/2013-22904.pdf.

3 SDG&E (2012). Application of San Diego Gas & Electric Company (U 902 E) for a Permit to Construct the Cleveland National Forest Power Line Replacement Projects, vol. 1. Available at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/CNF/Main/SDGE%20CNF%20PTC%20Application%2010-17-12.pdf. SDG&E’s amended application filed in 2013 incorporates by reference this original application. See page 1. Available at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/CNF/CNF_Amended%20Application.pdf.

4 See http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/developserv/permits/.

5 See http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dpw/docs/EncroachmentPermit.pdf.

6 The absence of cooperating and responsible agency staff at the scoping meetings was verified in an email from Rica Nitka (Dudek Environmental) to Kelly Fuller (POC), 11/4/13.

7 CPUC and Forest Service (2013). San Diego Gas & Electric Company Master Special Use Permit and Permit to Construct Power Line Replacement Projects. Slide 2. Available at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/CNF/msup_ptc_scoping_meeting.pdf.

8 See BLM (2008). BLM National Environmental Policy Handbook H-1790-1, page 6. Available at http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wo/Information_Resources_Management/policy/blm_handbook.Par.84688.File.dat/h1790-1-2008.pdf. See Revised Plan of Development, page

9 Both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have signed Memorandums of Understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the implementation of Executive Order 13186.

10 See the Revised Plan of Development, page 28.
11 See, for instance http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/aspen/sunrise/stop_work_order_092711.pdf, http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/7651, and http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/7651

12 See Harness, Rick (2000). Raptor Electrocutions and Distribution Pole Types. Available at http://www.woodpoles.org/PDFDocuments/TechBulletin_0ct_00.pdf. The Avian Power Line Interaction

Committee added a new section on steel and concrete power poles to its 2006 guidance because of the hazard the poles can create. (Harness is credited in the introduction.) See Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (2006). Suggested Practices for Avian Protection on Power Lines: The State of the Art in 2006. Available at http://www.dodpif.org/downloads/APLIC_2006_SuggestedPractices.pdf. APLIC’s manual was updated in 2012 and is available at http://www.aplic.org/. It’s POC’s understanding that the 2012 update was related to collision issues rather than electrocution. Al Manville or Rick Harness will be able to explain the differences between the two versions.

13 Kelly Fuller of POC can provide precise location for the Alpine poles if desired.

14 For example, see Goal LU 1.1 of the Boulevard Planning Area Section of the Mountain Empire Subregional Plan (page 20). Available at http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/pds/gpupdate/docs/bos_oct2010/B2.10a_boulevard.cp_102010.pdf.

15 Community plans are available at http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/pds/generalplan.html.

16 See, for example, Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. Fact Sheet on Chemically Treated Wood Utility Poles. Available at http://www.beyondpesticides.org/wood/resources/Fact%20Sheet%20Revised%20Treated%20Wood%202-21-03.pdf. See also Environmental Literacy Council (2008). Wood Utility Pole Life Cycle. Available at http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/1311.html

17 The capacity of steel power poles to conduct lightning is acknowledged on page 11 of American Iron and Steel Institute’s Steel Distribution Poles: What Every Lineman Should Know. Available at http://www.smdisteel.org/~/media/Files/SMDI/Construction/UPoles%20-%20Training%20-%20Marketing%20-%20Student%20Manual.pdf.
18 See Ramsey, Debbie (5/2/13). “Fallbrook Plagued with Power Outages in April.” Village News. Available at http://www.thevillagenews.com/story/70797/

19 There is also a helpful discussion of transmission line mortality monitoring in Convention on Migratory Species (2011), Guidelines For Mitigating Conflict Between Migratory Birds And Electricity Power Grids. Available at http://www.cms.int/bodies/COP/cop10/docs_and_inf_docs/doc_30_electrocution_guidlines_e.pdf. Kelly Fuller, http://www.kellyfuller.net Consultant to The Protect Our Communities Foundation, http://protectourcommunities.org/

 

 

Resources:

The Protect Our Communities Foundation

submitted scoping comments – The Protect Our

November 7, 2013 Lisa Orsaba, California Public Utilitie

https://backcountryvoices.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/powerlink-high-voltage-power-lines-in-san-diegos-back-country/

Attachment F: Visual Simulations (This is important!)

http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/…/28.FINAL%2…

 

Clandestine Expansion of the Sunrise Powerlink: Backcountry Power Pole Conversion Project

Powerlink: HighVoltage Power Lines in San Diego’s Back

Clean Water Act Definition of “Waters of the US”

Forest Conservation Initiative Lands (FCI)

State Water Resources Control Board

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink Project: Final EIR/EIS

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration

Cleveland National Forest, California, SDG&E Master

Cleveland National Forest Power Line Replacement Projects

Notice of Availability of Draft SEIR and GPA – County of San

Powerlink: HighVoltage Power Lines in San Diego’s Back

The Protect Our Communities Foundation

UCANUtility Consumers’ Action Network | San Diego – H

roadmapping the california smart grid through risk retireme

San Diego Gas & Electric: – Vermont Law School

submitted scoping comments

California Public Utilities Commission

CPUC Tie-Line 637 Wood-to-Steel Project

Forest Service, CPUC Hold Public Meeting

Final IS/MND – California Public Utilities Commission

Transmission Planning Standards Draft Straw Proposal

Alpine Community Planning Group – County of San Diego

Revised Draft 2013-2014 Transmission Plan – California IS

EAST COUNTY SUBSTATION PROJECT

Draft Responses to Comment Letter JJ – County of San Dieg

CHAPTER 3 Land Use Element – County of San Diego

Land Use Maps Appendix – County of San Diego

Calendar of Events Page – Southern California Gas Company

Southern California Gas Co. Declares Preferred Dividends

Helicopter causes more problems for SDG&E’s Sunrise

Powerlink accident | East County Magazine

grounded! cpuc orders shut down of helicopter activities on

Home to People’s Powerlink

Sunrise Powerlink – Information Center for the Environment

SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink Project: Final EIR/EIS – Californi

ENERGY: WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2014 – Worldnews.com

Family says SDG&E has ‘misrepresented’ pole project

Download as a PDF – CiteSeer

County says Rainbow Water damaging roadway

Cleveland National Forest, California, SDG&E Master

National Smart Grid Starts at State Level | Political Eye Candy

California Governor Signs Controversial Solar Bill, Among

Regulating and Encouraging Smart Grid Technologies

forest service southern: Topics by WorldWideScience.org

 

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