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Hughson electrical line project tabled after public outcry

POSTED November 17, 2009 11:34 p.m.
The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors put the brakes on a planned $16.7 million, double-circuit 115-kilovolt transmission line from Hughson to southwest Ceres after an outpouring of opposition on Tuesday.
The final environmental impact report for the project, comprised of 10 miles of new transmission line and a new substation on East Grayson Road, had been before the board for approval. Concerns aired by angry farmers and the City of Ceres over the proposed route led the directors to table discussion until an unnamed later date.
TID designed the project to accommodate increasing demand for power distribution, while updating a transmission network in the Ceres region that has gone unaddressed for more than 30 years. TID staff stated the project would increase reliability by reducing strain on the existing transmission system and providing an alternate route for power through an interconnect with existing TID line and the Almond Power Plant. The project also offers another dedicated crossing over State Route 99.
While Ceres representatives, including Vice Mayor Chris Vierra, appreciated the improved electrical network the project would bring, they took issue with the suggested route. The lines would parallel Grayson Road and Faith Home Road in some areas, both of which are scheduled for widening at a future date. That widening would necessitate a costly repositioning of the TID power poles — possibly at Ceres’ expense — under the current plan.
TID staff noted that, while Ceres is collecting fees for the expansion, it might not happen for 50 years. Constructing the poles along an alternate route would both increase the costs and the environmental impacts of the development, based on TID research. Building the poles further away from the road, in place for the planned expansion, would be difficult due to right of way issues and could necessitate the destruction of some homes, which are sited close to roadways.
Ceres residents asked why the route could not take a southerly detour to follow TID Lateral 2 1/2 to minimize these impacts, similar to the route selected east of SR99 which runs adjacent to TID Lateral No. 2. TID staff stated that they were unsure of their land rights on that lateral, that its curvy nature would necessitate numerous expensive power poles and the crossing more parcels, and that finding a route north from lateral 2 1/2 would disturb more residences than the suggested route.
TID Directors Michael Frantz and Randy Fiorini said they believed that due diligence had been done and moved that the board accept the EIR and suggested route. The three other directors, however, asked to delay the decision so as to discuss the issues with concerned parties.
Should the TID Directors opt to research an alternate route, altering the EIR could take as long as six months. Legal challenges to the EIR could take three months to resolve. The line, which was first approved by the TID Board of Directors in December 2008, will not be completed for at least two years in a best-case scenario.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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