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TID stops TANC in tracks

Two local utilities pull out of power line project

POSTED July 14, 2009 10:38 p.m.

The Turlock Irrigation District — and the Modesto Irrigation District — announced plans Tuesday to cease their participation in the Transmission Agency of Northern California’s $1.5 billion plan to install 600 miles of high-voltage electricity transmission lines stretching from Lassen County to Turlock.


TID’s withdrawal from the TANC Transmission Project came about as directors considered the financial feasibility of the project and alternatives for transmission following a July 1 Sacramento Municipal Utility District announcement that it would cease support of the TTP. SMUD, the TTP’s largest backer, would have paid 35 percent of the final project cost, an estimated $525 million.


TID only was interested in the short “Alpha” segment of the massive project, which would have added a second link from the TID grid to the statewide grid near Tracy. The move was set to improve reliability and efficiency for TID, at an estimated cost of $200 million.


However, as plans for the TTP developed, the timing, scale, and costs for the project became out of line with TID’s wants and needs, according to TID spokeswoman Michelle Reimers.


TID will now pursue possible participation in the nascent Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, and will also continue to investigate a pump storage project above Don Pedro, where excess water would be pumped into a secondary holding reservoir and then used to generate hydroelectric power when needed.


“That’s a long way out but that’s more of the timing that we want,” Reimers said. “The TANC project seemed to be moving a lot more quickly than we would actually need.”


MID was to be TID’s partner on the segment of power lines running down to Stanislaus County, the costs of which they were to split. However, MID had a slightly different reason to step away from the TTP, according to MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams.


“The MID Board voted unanimously to inform TANC that MID will no longer participate in the TANC Transmission Project,” Williams said. She went on to state that the board decision came as a result of “significant anticipated litigation” should MID proceed with the TTP.


Now just two utilities remain involved with the TTP, the cities of Redding and Santa Clara.


TANC will decide how to move forward following the TID and MID announcements at a special meeting of the Commission, to be held at 8:30 a.m. today. TANC General Manager Jim Beck will report to the Commission on the state of the TANC Transmission Project, and a decision will be made on whether to proceed, suspend, or terminate the TTP.


Regardless of the decision on the TTP, TANC will continue to exist and operate the California Oregon Transmission Project, which it built in 1993. According to TANC spokesman Brendan Wonnacott, TANC will work to pursue its mission statement of assisting its “publicly owned utility members in providing cost-effective energy supplies to their customers, through long term ownership of essential high-voltage transmission lines within California and the western United States.”


“TANC’s got 15 members. The TTP was only five members of those 15. This is just pertaining to the TTP and not the rest of the activities that TANC does,” Wonnacott said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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