By Karen Brainard
Establishment of an emergency evacuation route for Ramona has run into a snag with utility lines.
The county is asking San Diego Gas & Electric to reconsider a request to underground lines along a portion of the proposed evacuation route.
“The county asked SDG&E to underground the lines as part of the effort to create an alternative emergency evacuation route out of Ramona,” stated County Supervisor Dianne Jacob in an email. “SDG&E responded by saying the county should pay for the undergrounding. The county has since asked SDG&E to reconsider.”
Many Ramonans called for an emergency evacuation route after the traffic jams that occurred during the 2007 Witch fire as residents tried to flee town after officials issued a mandatory evacuation order.
The proposed route would cut across land north of Ramona Airport and through part of the county Grassland Preserve, eventually connecting with the Ramona Municipal Water District’s Santa Maria sewer plant property near Rangeland Road to Archie Moore Road and state Route 67. A dirt road exists on county land, but not on the water district property.
Along the targeted area of the RMWD property are SDG&E utility poles and guy wires that stream down from the poles into the ground. In September 2011, the water board expressed concern for drivers traveling on the property at night during an emergency due to the proximity of those utility poles. The water board suggested the county ask SDG&E to underground the wires.
“It’s my hope that the utility will pay for the undergrounding as part of its increased commitment to public safety in the wake of the 2007 wildfires,” said Jacob. “SDG&E has taken affirmative steps to harden their infrastructure and more closely monitor their system. This project would seem to fit in with the utility’s broader public safety efforts.”