Hearings target power shut-off plan
San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal to shut off power in parts of Ramona and other high-fire-risk areas during high-risk fire conditions will be the subject of California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) public hearings in Alpine and Valley Center next week.
Public participation hearings will be in the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Road in Alpine, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, and in Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort, 777 Rincon Road in Valley Center, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8.
A public workshop for governmental agencies and elected officials will be in Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort in Valley Center from 1 to 4 p.m. on April 8. Ramona water and school district representatives plan to attend be at the afternoon session.
“We know what it’s like to go without power,” Ramona Municipal Water District General Manager Ralph McIntosh said Monday, referring to the Witch Fire in 2007 when downed power lines cut electricity to the district’s pump station in Poway that pipes water into the community.
The district opposes the shut-off plan, McIntosh said. He expects that attorneys representing Ramona and other water districts will do most of the talking at the PUC workshop.
Ed Anderson, maintenance and operations supervisor for the Ramona Unified School District, plans to attend the afternoon workshop, primarily for information.
SDG&E in December filed an application for the PUC to review its Emergency Power Shut-Off Plan that calls for power to be cut to high-fire-risk areas in extreme weather such as high-wind, low-humidity and low-fuel moisture conditions such as a Santa Ana event.
The utility says it would shut off power to limited areas. The program’s intent is “to eliminate a potential ignition source during extreme weather conditions when fire risks are high.”
“If it hasn’t burned in the last five years, it will fall in their plan to shut off power in high wind and … low humidity,” said McIntosh.
That would include areas that burned in the Cedar Fire in 2003, McIntosh said, estimating that the plan conceivably could impact about 28,000 Ramonans, or 67 percent of the district.
The district has asked for a map of affected areas but has not yet received one, McIntosh said on Monday. The district also asked for generators from SDG&E, but the utility said no.
“You may have every water agency in the county competing for generators,” McIntosh said.
The expense of renting or buying generators would be passed on to district customers. This could increase rates as much as 9 to 12 percent, according to the district.
The water district with several other water districts is formally protesting SDG&E’s application.
“As drafted, SDG&E’s application requires the district to obtain generators to cotinue to operate the district’s pump stations and sewer lift stations to provide water and sewer service to the community and for firefighting purposes,” states a news alert from the Ramona district, which includes the Ramona Fire Department. “…If the district, for watever reason such as insufficient notice of a shut-off from SDG&E is unable to obtain backup generators, the community, including the firefighters in portions of its service area could be low on, or run out of, water during and after the power outage.”
In addition to comments that will be accepted during the hearings next week, written comments may be sent to the PUC Public Advisor’s Office at 320 W. Fourth St., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90013 or email@example.com, with a reference to Application 08-12-021.
A copy of SDG&E’s application is at sdge.com/regulatory/cpuc.shtml. Click on A.08-12-021.
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