$46 million Truckee-Tahoe electric line upgrade gets final OK | SierraSun.com

$46 million Truckee-Tahoe electric line upgrade gets final OK

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com
A rendering of the view off of Highway 267 near the Brockway Summit after the Truckee-to-Kings Beach transmission line upgrade.
Courtesy Liberty Utilities |

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Visit tinyurl.com/kl5osrt to learn more about Liberty Utilities’ 625/650 Line Upgrade project.

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Work is expected to begin this summer on the first phase of a $46 million electrical system upgrade along the North Lake Tahoe.

On Thursday, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board unanimously certified the final environmental impact statement for upgrading the Truckee-to-Kings Beach transmission line and relevant substations, which are part of a larger electrical line project.

The action follows approvals by the California Public Utilities Commission and the U.S. Forest Service.

Truckee to Kings Beach line work (Phase 1) is anticipated to start this July, with construction taking roughly six months, said Rich Salgo, vice president of operations for Liberty Utilities. No impacts to customer service are expected.

This phase is expected to cost $18 million, Salgo said. Any increase to customer rates upon project completion will be determined by the CPUC.

Authorization to proceed with substation work (Phase 2), primarily at Kings Beach Substation, will be issued when Liberty Utilities can confirm system demand to CPUC staff, Salgo said. This phase is likely two to three years out.

Meanwhile, updates to the transmission line that runs from Tahoe City to Kings Beach (Phase 3) aren’t anticipated until 2020 or beyond, he said.

These lines (650 and 625) are some of the oldest electric lines in California, having been built in 1959 and 1971, respectively, and are experiencing capacity issues, according to Liberty Utilities.

“Right now if something adverse happens to the lines during our customers’ winter peak load season — for any number of reasons — the aging power lines are especially vulnerable,” said Mike Smart, president of Liberty Utilities. “By upgrading the lines, we significantly increase our ability to improve reliability.”

The estimated $46 million upgrade would allow the entire North Lake Tahoe Transmission System to operate at 120 kilovolts (up from 60 kV), according to the company, thereby allowing for greater load transfer and switching ability in the event of damage, reducing both the frequency and duration of outages.

Concerns including visual and recreation impacts, tree removal and potential support for future development have been raised by residents and local officials.

Liberty Utilities purchased NV Energy’s California service territory in early 2011, acquiring the aging lines. The company serves roughly 49,000 customers on the California side of Lake Tahoe and parts of Truckee.