San Diego County CA— The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently voted unanimously to give San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) the final approval for fire safety enhancement work that has been in the planning stages for a decade. The CPUC issued a “Permit to Construct,” which allows the company to fire-harden electrical facilities in and around Cleveland National Forest (CNF). The work will reduce fire risk and improve system safety and reliability in an approximately 880-square mile area in the forest and rural eastern San Diego County.
“These projects are a cornerstone of SDG&E’s community fire safety efforts to protect the highest fire-risk areas throughout the county,” said David L. Geier, SDG&E’s vice president of electric transmission and engineering planning. “We understand that our customers expect reliable service no matter where they live. By fire-hardening these lines, we not only will mitigate the fire hazard, but also will enhance the reliability of the electrical service in these communities.”
In March, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) issued a Final Record of Decision for SDG&E’s new Master Special Use Permit. SDG&E has been operating and maintaining electrical facilities in the forest since the 1940s.
Over the past decade, SDG&E has been working closely with the USFS on plans to replace or underground several 69 kilovolt (kV) and 12 kV electric lines that now serve customers in and around the forest. The installation of new facilities required new permits, resulting in more than 70 separate special use permits. The USFS has consolidated the utility’s rights-of-way, which will streamline fire-safety improvements and ongoing maintenance.
Construction is scheduled to start this summer and includes rebuilding several existing 69 and 12 kV electric lines. This work is part of the utility’s ongoing wood-to-steel effort, which involves replacing existing wood poles with stronger weatherized steel poles that are more resistant to fire, wind, and snow. Once this work is completed, which is expected to be in 2020, SDG&E will have fire-hardened the majority of the power lines in San Diego County’s fire threat zone.