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California ALJ Calls for Approval of SDG&E’s San Marcos to Escondido Project

Aug. 7, 2020
The ALJ said that the project is broken into three segments, with “Segment 2,” for instance, involving the addition of about 2.8 miles of a new single-circuit, 69-kV, overhead power line from the end of Segment 1 to the existing Meadowlark Junction

A California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge (ALJ), in an Aug. 5 proposed decision, granted San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) request for a permit to construct (PTC) the Tie Line (TL) 6975 San Marcos to Escondido project.

The project involves construction and reconductoring/reenergizing of about 12 miles of 69-kV overhead electric power line from the existing San Marcos substation to the existing Escondido substation. The ALJ added that execution of the project would include a combination of construction of new overhead single-circuit electric power line structures, rebuilding of existing structures from single circuit to double circuit, as well as reconductoring and reenergizing of existing conductors.

The ALJ said that the project is broken into three segments:

  • Segment 1 Rebuild — Rebuilding about 1.8 miles of an existing 69-kV circuit power line near the San Marcos substation (TL 680C), adding TL 6975 to create a double 69-kV circuit, replacing wood poles with steel poles, as well as minor work at the San Marcos substation to accommodate that rebuilt circuit
  • Segment 2 New Build — Adding about 2.8 miles of a new single-circuit, 69-kV, overhead power line from the end of Segment 1 to the existing Meadowlark Junction
  • Segment 3 Reconductoring/Reenergizing — Reconductoring about 7.4 miles of a de-energized power line segment to the existing Escondido substation. Segment 3 includes minor work at the existing Escondido substation to accommodate that new circuit

SDG&E is proposing the project to mitigate violations of the NERC Reliability Criteria; eliminate existing congestion in the Escondido/San Marcos area; and improve power service reliability by providing an additional feed to the existing San Marcos substation, the ALJ said.

The project activity is in the cities of Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Vista, as well as unincorporated portions of San Diego County in California.

The ALJ also said that to issue a PTC, the commission must find that the project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In evaluating whether to approve the project, CEQA requires the lead agency — in this case, the commission — to conduct a review to identify environmental impacts of the project and ways to avoid or reduce environmental damage.

The ALJ added that if the initial study (IS) shows that there is no substantial evidence that the proposed project may have a significant effect on the environment, or if the IS identifies potentially significant effects and the project proponent makes or agrees to revisions to the project that will reduce all project-related environmental impacts to less-than-significant levels, then the lead agency is to prepare a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration (MND), subject to public notice and the opportunity for the public review and comment.

The ALJ noted that the draft IS/MND for the project determined that the project would have no significant impacts or less than significant impacts with respect to aesthetics, agriculture and forestry resources, air quality, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and planning, mineral resources, as well as population and housing.

The draft IS/MND identified potentially significant impacts during and after construction of the proposed project to biological resources, cultural resources, tribal cultural resources, geology, soils, seismicity, and paleontological resources, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, noise, public services, recreation, transportation and traffic, utilities and service systems, and wildfires.

The ALJ added that based on the analysis documented in the draft IS/MND, the commission recommended mitigation measures to reduce those impacts to a less-than-significant level, and SDG&E agreed to implement those measures as part of the project.

The Energy Division issued the final IS/MND in January, the ALJ said.

As noted in the filing, the measures include that a biological monitor will be present during all ground-disturbing and vegetation removal activities, and that prior to the start of any project-related ground disturbing activities, a qualified archaeologist is to prepare a cultural resources monitoring plan.

The ALJ said that the record shows that the commission demonstrated thorough independent analysis that no significant environmental impacts from the project remain after incorporation of SDG&E’s proposed measures and the commission’s imposed mitigation measures, the ALJ said.

As noted in the filing, the proposed decision may be heard, at the earliest, at the commission’s Sept. 10 business meeting.

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