14 January 2013

Towers of Terror: No Hope for the [Chino] Hills?

In Saturday's edition of the Champion, the controversial TRTP renewable energy project with its nearly 200-foot tall towers has made headlines with the route through Carbon Canyon, rather than the more infamous portion that passes through houses along a corridor near Eucalyptus Avenue.

That is, there are five miles of the route through the City of Chino Hills, but the lion's share of the attention has come with the 3 1/2 miles that is through the most heavily populated portion at the eastern end.  The western 1 1/2 miles, which is through the Chino Hills to the north of Carbon Canyon, does not pass through as developed an area, except, notably, the gated community of large and expensive custom houses in Oak Tree Downs, the north end of which comes quite near to the route of the TRTP project.

As reported by Marianne Napoles, however, Edison, while presenting, on order of the California Public Utilities Commission, alternatives for placing the towers, some of which are already installed, underground in that eastern section, has not shown any plans to do so for three towers that are to be placed next to the high-end subdivision in the hillier, western portions.  The reason for this, not surprisingly, is all about the terrain and topography of the Chino Hills.

A week ago, however, an administrative judge for the CPUC, Jean Vieth, turned down SCE's request to resume work near Oak Tree Downs until it came back to her with a plan, in concert with the City of Chino Hills, to mitigate effects of the work on the residents there.  Then, Edison would need to file a motion for a project modification and receive approval on that before restarting efforts.

The utility, in mid-December petitioned to be allowed to go back to work in the hills, but the City of Chino Hills protested in light of the fact that a final determination for the remaining 3 1/2 miles is to come by July anyway.  Council member Ed Graham commented that the City was not aware until January 2012 that Edison was going to install above-ground towers in the hills, though one would think that ths would be obvious given the terrain.  In any case, Graham was quoted in the Napoles article as stating that any attempt to provide estimates for placing the lines underground in the hills would have driven the project cost to such an astronomical level as to lead to an easy CPUC rejection.

Not surprisingly, residents of Oak Tree Downs were quoted in the piece as being dismayed by the prospect of having above-ground towers and this would certainly be exacerbated if the CPUC were to force SCE to place lines underground at that eastern 3 1/2 mile section, despite the obvious conclusion that the project has no practical alternatives for the three towers aside from towering at 200 feet over that north end of the development.

One homeowner, in particular, made a point of referring to himself and neighbors as "guinea pigs" and "expendable" because of the oft-alleged link between electrical lines and cases of leukemia and cancer.  As mentioned recently in this blog, there has been no official correlation made, though there are plenty of groups out there who feel otherwise.  This same person also offered that the project could only alienate "the entire Chino Hills community," though, in truth, the folks in Butterfield Ranch or Los Serranos probably have nowhere near the anger, angst and anxiety as those closest to the project.

It does make sense for nothing further to continue with the work until the decision is made by the CPUC in July about the underground alternatives proposed, at very high cost, by SCE recently.  So, it stands to reason that Judge Vieth might reject Edison's attempts to resume work in the western 1 1/2 mile section in the hills until that time.  This, however, remains to be seen.

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