New power line project to come through Carmel Valley, Torrey Hills

By Karen Billing

SDG&E will construct and operate a new 230 kilovolt (kV) line between the existing Penasquitos substation near the Torrey Hills’ Vons on Carmel Mountain Road and the Sycamore Canyon substation at MCAS Miramar.

The project is an effort to increase the efficiency and supply of renewable generated power to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) grid; to help accomplish that, CAISO has identified a need for a new transmission line to connect the two substations.

SDG&E could not attend the June 17 Torrey Hills Community Planning Board meeting but will present at the July 15 meeting. (SDG&E did inform the board prior to the June 17 meeting that a representative wouldn’t be able to attend and requested to postpone to an upcoming meeting, according to Jennifer Ramp, SDG&E senior communications manager). However, the board’s SDG&E representative, Richard Quasarano, was able to give some of the details about the project for the people who attended the meeting to hear about the line.

Regarding the path the proposed project will take, Ramp issued the following statement in an email:

“The original Sunrise Powerlink proposal included a “Coastal Link,” which ultimately was not approved several years ago as part of the final Sunrise Powerlink project. The proposed project took into consideration many potential alternatives, including the previous Coastal Link route. SDG&E’s proposed project, however, does not utilize the same route as the previous Coastal Link and instead reflects a proposed route that SDG&E believes is currently the best overall alternative. The main difference between the two routes is that the Coastal Link proposed to use SDG&E-owned but unused ROW through the Penasquitos preserve. The current plan proposes to use all existing ROW with existing overhead facilities and the Carmel Mountain Road underground franchise position. We selected the current option to reduce costs, reduce environmental impact, and to maximize the use of existing ROW.”

Quasarano said the need for the project now was prompted by two major decisions in the state — the removal of Carlsbad’s sea-water cooling system at the Encina power station and the shut-down of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Those decisions caused California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to reconfigure the transmission power lines in the area and SDG&E won the bid process for the Sycamore to Penasquitos portion as it owns the right of ways and the structures that can be improved.

The project is within the existing right of way, replacing and relocating existing electric transmission and power line facilities within the utility corridor. It involves the construction of approximately 8.31 miles of new tubular steel poles between the existing Sycamore Canyon substation, running parallel to Carmel Valley Road through Del Mar Mesa Preserve and Carmel Valley’s Neighborhood 10, replacing the wooden poles that are out there currently.

While some parts of the line are being undergrounded between Torrey Hills and Miramar, the lines can’t go underground in the canyons or the preserve.

“Removing the wooden poles and putting in steel poles is good because we live in a heavy fire load area that hasn’t burned since I’ve lived here,” said Laura Copic, Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s Neighborhood 10 representative. “More of a concern to me is how construction is going to be managed, there will possibly be explosions, helicopters…I imagine the construction impact will be significant.”

Copic said she felt like the community notification from SDG&E regarding the project was “disingenuous” and didn’t allow for much public process. The Carmel Valley board was not even noticed, she said.

Torrey Hills Planning Board Chair Kathryn Burton also expressed her dissatisfaction with the lack of public process and her disappointment that SDG&E did not show up for the meeting.

Quasarano apologized that his colleagues were not in attendance and said he hoped they would attend a future board meeting.

“There will be a lot of community involvement as time moves on,” Quasarano said. “We are still really early in the process.”

Quasarano said the plan is for SDG&E to start construction in 2016, with service on the line beginning in 2017.