Community input sought on SDG&E’s proposed Sycamore-Penasquitos transmission project


By Karen Billing

SDG&E’s proposed Sycamore-Penasquitos transmission project is moving forward in its environmental impact report process, collecting comments recently for the new line that will cross two Carmel Valley and Del Mar Mesa canyons.

The proposed project will add a 230-kV line to the existing transmission corridor, linking the Sycamore Canyon substation at MCAS Miramar to the Penasquitos substation in Torrey Hills.

The project is made up of four segments, including a 2.19-mile line from Carmel Valley Road through the Del Mar Mesa Preserve, and another 3.34-mile line along the border of the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve to the substation near the Torrey Hills Center on Carmel Mountain Road.

The 2.9-mile segment from Carmel Valley Road proposes to add a 230-kV line on existing steel lattice structures and one new tubular steel pole.

Along the 3.34-mile segment, SDG&E proposes to remove 16 wood H-frames and five wood monopoles and replace them with 17 tubular steel poles.

Scoping or preliminary meetings were held on Aug. 25 and 26 in Rancho Penasquitos not only to inform the public about the environmental impact report process, but also solicit input regarding areas of concern and potential alternatives.

People can submit comments through Sept. 16. The draft report will then be prepared by early 2015, followed by a 45-day public review process. The final EIR would be released in mid-2015 and the California Public Utilities Commission will vote to approve the project as proposed, approve an alternative or deny it.

If approved, construction will take about 12 months from start to finish. It’s anticipated to start in June 2016 and be complete in May 2017. All segments will be built concurrently, and up to 90 workers will be on site daily with a variety of construction vehicles and helicopters used to string power lines.

Laura Copic, from the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, was at the Aug. 26 evening session, which she said was sparsely attended. She gave public comment about the construction process, which she believes will have a significant impact on the neighborhood, since it involves several helicopters and explosions in a high fire-risk area. She said residents of the neighborhood she represents on the planning board also have concerns about the project’s necessity, its effects on the view corridor, and electromagnetic field exposure.

Powerline 1According to Jeff Thomas, project manager from Panorama Environmental Consulting, SDG&E has stated that the project’s purpose is to meet the California Independent System Operator’s transmission plan’s specifications in the area, promote compliance with the state’s policy goals related to renewable integration, meet the city’s projected load growth and deliver energy more efficiently.

SDG&E originally filed an application with the CPUC to construct the coastal link of the Sunrise Powerlink project, which would have included new towers between Sycamore and Penasquitos. When the Powerlink was approved in 2008, the CPUC did not approve the coastal link and instead approved an upgrade alternative that made the transmission line segment unnecessary.

SDG&E has indicated that the Sycamore-Penasquitos line is now necessary, prompted by two major state decisions — the removal of Carlsbad’s sea-water cooling system at the Encina power station, and the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The CPUC will define a reasonable range of alternatives to the transmission line that will be analyzed in the environmental impact report.

“The purpose is to provide technically sound information for decision makers to consider when evaluating the proposed project,” Thomas said. “The CPUC will look at a full range of alternatives, including system-wide or alternative alignments that may reduce potential impacts.”

At the also sparsely attended Aug. 26 afternoon session, no one filled out a speaker slip to submit a comment. One Torrey Highlands resident did express some safety concerns about the proposed staging area on Torrey Santa Fe Road off Camino Del Sur.

Torrey Hills resident Grayzna Krajewska was one of the few people who spoke at the Aug. 25 evening session.

“With so little opposition, SDG&E will get to build their one more unnecessary power line, rather than accept the fact that local rooftop solar is here to stay and is already providing energy during the day, and might do it at night as well, when energy storage becomes more affordable,” she said.

Krajewska also expressed concerns about some new homes that have been built close to the SDG&E right of way, on Laurelcrest Drive. She said with the added 230kV line, the residents’ exposure to the electromagnetic field would double.

As the EIR process continues, there will be more opportunity for public input; but to provide comments, email Billie Blanchard at or send via mail to Billie Blanchard, CPUC c/o Panorama Environmental, One Embarcadero Center, Suite 740, San Francisco, CA 94111. Comments are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 16.