PG&E considers options for new high-voltage power lines in Fresno County

The Fresno BeeJuly 17, 2014 

File photo of power lines in California.


Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is asking the public to weigh in on a proposal to build a new high-voltage transmission line across western Fresno County.

PG&E this month unveiled five broad corridors where the 230-kilovolt power line could be built to connect its Gates Substation, on Jayne Avenue near Interstate 5 east of Coalinga, and the Gregg Substation on Avenue 7 near Highway 99 in southern Madera County. The utility will hold workshops next week in Fresno, Huron and Mendota to let property owners and residents see where the corridors are, and to field questions and concerns about how the different routes might affect their homes, businesses or farms.

The Central Valley Power Connect project -- anticipated to be built in 2018 and 2019 -- is needed to provide enough transmission capacity to meet the region's growing demand for electricity, said Lynsey Paulo, a PG&E spokeswoman.

"We've got transmission constraints right now," she said, noting a surge in demand from agriculture as farmers increase their reliance on pumps to draw irrigation water from the ground.

It's been years since PG&E built transmission lines in a new route, added Bob Masuoka, an environmental permitting specialist for the utility. No new high-voltage transmission lines have been built in the Central Valley since the 1980s, and the existing poles cannot accommodate more lines to provide the needed capacity.

"We have not built new lines in a real long time," Masuoka said. "We're doing a lot of outreach because we want people to be engaged. ... The public does not want to be surprised." PG&E also has created an interactive map online, at, where people can type in their address and see their property in relation to the corridors.

Each of the broad corridors -- determined through evaluating factors like avoiding facilities such as Lemoore Naval Air Station and environmental or wildlife preserves and skewing toward farmland that has been fallowed -- is intended to give PG&E engineers some flexibility to plan a power-line route that is the least disruptive to farms, cities, school districts or other property owners.

Two of the corridors represent a relatively straight shot between the two substations. Three are more circuitous. One skirts the communities of Caruthers and Riverdale in southern Fresno County and runs into Kings County, passing east of the Lemoore military base before turning west toward the Gates substation. Two others range westward across southern Madera County before diving south toward I-5 and then southeast into the Gates station.

The lines would be built on high poles or lattice towers to provide enough clearance over roadways, orchards and other obstacles in the easement that is ultimately selected.

By the end of this year, based on input received from the public and affected property owners, PG&E anticipates narrowing those corridors to at least three more specific routes between the substations, each about 300 feet wide -- enough space, Masuoka said, to still provide engineers with wiggle room to avoid or minimize harm to property owners under and along the routes.

PG&E hopes to file a project application with the California Public Utilities Commission in early 2016. The state regulatory agency is ultimately responsible for selecting and approving a specific route for the power line.

Paulo said the CPUC's approval process is expected to take about 18 months. It will include a full environmental analysis as well as public hearings before a final decision, probably sometime in mid- to late 2017.

It would take about two years for engineers and contractors to design and build the transmission line, which PG&E hopes would go online in early 2020. The cost is estimated at $115 million to $145 million. "The impact on overall electric rates to California customers is less than 5 cents per month on the average residential bill, 40 cents per month for the average commercial customer," Paulo said.

Because the project is being built for the California Independent System Operator as part of the statewide electrical grid, she added, the cost would be spread among electric utility customers across the entire state, not just by PG&E's ratepayers.

If you go

What: Open house sessions on Central Valley Power Connect transmission line project

In Fresno: 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Central High School East cafeteria, 3535 N. Cornelia Ave.

In Huron: 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Huron Middle School cafeteria, 16875 4th St.

In Mendota: 4 to 7 p.m. July 24, Mendota High School cafeteria, 1282 Belmont Ave.

Why: Each session will have representatives from PG&E and its partners showing maps of broad corridors being studied and answering questions from property owners and the public about the power-line project.

Details: or (866) 888-5690.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, or @TimSheehanNews on Twitter.

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