Tahoe power project under review, Truckee upgrades continue
TRUCKEE, Calif. — A local electric company is replacing a 1.1-mile stretch of power line in Truckee to help meet winter demands.
The new, thicker wire will allow roughly 5 megawatts of additional load to be carried on the 14.4-kilovolt line, Chris Hofmann, business manager for Liberty Utilities’ North Shore operations.
The northern portion of the line runs between NV Energy’s Truckee Substation at the Glenshire Drive/Donner Pass Road intersection, and the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s Martis Substation. The southern portion runs between the Martis Substation and Liberty’s Martis Valley area.
Replacement is occurring outside the Truckee substation along Glenshire Drive, past the Martis substation and stopping at the Cedar lodge on Brockway Road, Hofmann said.
Further, existing wooden poles will be replaced with self-weathering brown steel poles that are able to support the heavier wire and are fire-resistant.
“The … project is designed to help Liberty Utilities improve reliability and is expected to help the utility meet challenging winter peak demands,” Hofmann said.
The $1.2 million maintenance project was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission on Aug. 28, Hofmann said. Completion is expected mid-October.
The Truckee project is separate from Liberty Utilities’ proposal to upgrade two major transmission lines that primarily serve the North Shore.
The lines — one running between Kings Beach and Tahoe City (known as the 625 line), the other from Truckee to Kings Beach (650 line) — are some of the oldest in California, according to Liberty Utilities.
“Right now, if something adverse happens to the lines during winter peak load season — for any number of reasons — the aging power lines are especially vulnerable,” Mike Smart, president of Liberty Utilities, said in a statement. “By upgrading the lines, we significantly increase our ability to improve reliability.”
READ MORE: Liberty Utilities field questions in January about the project’s potential to increase electrical rates for customers.
The $46 million proposal includes removing and replacing the 625 line; rebuilding the existing 650 line with potential segment realignment; and upgrading, modifying or decommissioning six substations and/or switching stations.
The upgrades would allow the entire North Lake Tahoe Transmission System to operate at 120 kilovolts (up from 60 kV). The new system would allow for greater load transfer and switching ability in the event of damage, reducing both the frequency and duration of outages.
Last week, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, U.S. Forest Service and the California Public Utilities Commission released the project’s final environmental document.
Concerns raised include visual impacts from proposed steel poles; recreation impacts; tree removal and treatment of hazard trees; air and water quality; and potential for increases in system capacity to support future development.
READ MORE: Among other options, a relocation of the Tahoe City substation has been raised in Liberty Utilities’ plans.
“… The visual impacts of the new power poles through the Martis Valley and along Highway 267 are considered only from the highway view and not the homes within the Northstar subdivision,” Geoff Sullivan Stephens, general manager of Northstar Property Owners Association, wrote in a letter. “All possible steps to keep the power poles at the same height should be considered.”
Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said impacts to recreation “may be substantial.”
“For example, the recreation area on top of Highway 267 and Mount Watson Road is extensively used for hiking and snowmobiling,” she wrote in a letter. “Implementing bigger and wider poles will degrade existing scenic views from those points of recreation.”
Four action alternatives and one no-action alternative were studied, with Alternative 4 being the environmentally superior option. It proposes that line 625 along the Truckee River in Tahoe City be moved farther away from the river, and line 650 along Highway 267 between Kings Beach and Brockway Summit be moved farther from the road.
The project applicant, California Pacific Electric Company, is seeking agency approval with that project alternative.
The TRPA, USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and CPUC all must lend approval, since project activity falls within their jurisdictions. Each agency will follow through their respective processes for final consideration, according to TRPA.
If approved, the project would be done in three phases over roughly six years. The earliest construction could start is 2015, Hofmann said.
A hard copy of the final environmental document is available at the Tahoe City, Kings Beach and Truckee libraries; USFS offices in South Lake Tahoe and Incline Village; and the TRPA office in Stateline.
California Pacific Electric Company (CalPeco) purchased Liberty Utilities’ service territory and assets from Sierra Pacific/NV Energy in January 2011. It serves roughly 49,000 electric customers on the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe.