Valley Voices

New $323.5m energy project promises reliable, affordable electric service to Valley farms

The San Luis Transmission Project is a public-private partnership designed to provide reliable, affordable power to one of California’s most productive farm regions.

The project, 85 miles of modern electrical transmission lines, will improve both the reliability and efficiency of power transmission and upgrades the power infrastructure needed to deliver water to San Benito and Santa Clara counties, as well as to the fertile fields of the Central Valley.

Without it, energy costs tied to old infrastructure are slated to rise, making the water supplies for agricultural, municipal, industrial and wildlife refuges more costly than necessary. That can translate into higher costs for consumers and the possibility of shortages of some California-grown food and fiber products.

America depends on California to fill its refrigerators and pantries and Californians are especially fortunate that this high-quality, food-growing region is practically in their back yard.

To maintain that high level of production, California farmers must stay competitive.

That means using the least amount of water necessary to grow a crop.

It means managing fertilizers and chemicals as safely as possible to protect the environment.

And it means protecting the people who live and work on our farms and in nearby communities.

Many farm management, chemical uses, and labor practices used in other countries are illegal in California. We simply do a better and more sustainable job than our overseas counterparts.

California farms are the envy of the world. More than 400 different crops grow here, thanks to California’s Mediterranean climate and innovative farm practices. Over half of the U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables come from California, and 14 crops grown here are all but exclusive to the Golden State.

Nutritionists say California produces the kinds of healthy foods we should be consuming, and our growing season is often at times of the year when fresh produce isn’t available anywhere else.

The San Luis Transmission Project is the result of partnerships between public agencies and private organizations working to ensure that rural farms and urban businesses in the San Joaquin Valley and southern Bay Area continue to thrive. Together, the Department of Interior, the Western Area Power Administration, the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Duke-American Transmission Company are working together to build this project – and do it cost-effectively.

The project is planned to be built above ground, along an existing transmission corridor through non-irrigated ranch land, and the environmental review requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act have already been met.

Construction on the project, largely designed and permitted, is expected that construction will begin no later than 2021. It is expected to be in-service no later than 2023.

The current project cost estimate is $323.5 million, and that estimate continues to be refined. Costs for the project are being paid for by the farms and businesses that benefit from it.

To stay competitive, like every household and business in America, farmers have to watch their expenses. Energy is one of the most significant costs we face, especially for pumping water, so it’s important to find opportunities like the San Luis Transmission Project to keep those costs as low as possible.

The project will help maintain dependable power supplies and low costs for many years to come. That helps support productive and efficient farming practices in the heart of California, as well as healthy and delicious food products in California’s grocery stores.

Cannon Michael of Los Banos is chairman San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority. Connect with him at cannon@bfarm.com.

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