A project that proposes miles of high-power transmission lines strewn above Southwest Riverside County is in front of residents again.
Nevada Hydro Company held a public workshop Thursday at the Murrieta Community Center. It was billed as an informational session about Nevada Hydro's proposed Talega-Escondido/Valley Serrano 500 kV Interconnect project.
If constructed, the project would see 30 miles of overhead transmission lines stretching from Lake Elsinore, through the Cleveland National Forest, southward. The lines would carry a 1,500 megawatt power load from Riverside to San Diego counties.
The California Public Utilities Commission requires a public workshop before Nevada Hydro can file an application with the state to build the project. If it moves forward, it will mark to build the project.
Residents and environmental groups have opposed the project, but Nevada Hydro’s David Kates contends the transmission lines would strengthen the region’s power grid and be of particular benefit to San Diego County.
“It’s an island,” he said of San Diego’s “lack of connection” to the nation’s power grid. Kates said he believes San Diego Gas & Electric – the county’s primary utility – doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to ensure a consistent power supply to customers during peak periods or during emergencies.
The argument is something many Southwest Riverside County residents have long complained about: San Diego would gain from the project, but local benefit would be nearly nonexistent, they say.
Thursday’s four-hour workshop often turned raucous as residents from Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Murrieta, Temecula, and surrounding unincorporated areas sometimes blasted Nevada Hydro executives who were on hand.
Many residents made it clear they don’t want the project in their backyard. Concerns raised included worries about environmental issues to fears that private property could be taken by eminent domain to make way for the massive $650 million project.
Kates said land will not be taken and environmental worries are overshadowed by the benefits.
“The transmission lines are ugly and they go through the forest. I get that,” he said, arguing that the project would save Southern California ratepayers about $100 million annually by strengthening the grid and connecting San Diego Gas & Electric with Southern California Edison.
He contends the project would also bring jobs to the area.
In addressing fire concerns about the project, Kates said transmission lines like the one proposed incorporate safety features that automatically cut power when a line is severed.
Kates said the company will file an application with the CPUC as soon as possible, after it holds a more in-depth workshop in coming weeks to discuss the technical details of the proposed project. Kates did not have a timeline or a venue for the upcoming workshop but said the public will be notified and invited to attend.
Paulette Brown-Hinds was on hand Thursday working as a communications consultant for Nevada Hydro. She said notice of Thursday’s workshop was published in three area newspapers and approximately 5,000 mailers were sent to residents affected by the proposed project.
Kates said he knows local residents generally don’t favor the project, but cperhaps easier than the challenge ahead: As part of the CPUC application process, Nevada Hydro must demonstrate to the state that the project will provide economic benefit to the area -- and that’s proved elusive.
Editor's Note: to read more about Nevada Hydro’s proposal to build the separate LEAPS project that would see water pumped out of Lake Elsinore to generate power.