More residents flex their power in tower tussle

By Mo Moore

Over 210 local residents attended a meeting Feb. 22 at Elderwood's Foothill Bible Church in opposition to Alternative Route #2 of the San Joaquin Cross Valley Loop Transmission Project.

Bill DeLain, Regional Manager of Southern California Edison (SCE) was in attendance to answer any questions or concerns and to take back a consensus of local feedback. The Project would consist of the construction of a new, double-circuit 220-kV transmission line that would connect an existing 220-kV transmission line, located between SCE's hydro-electric facilities in the Sierras and SCE's Springville Substation east of Strathmore, into the Rector Substation, located southeast of Visalia.

During the meeting a slide show was shown of rolling hills and green fields as far as the eye could see. &#8220Route Two encompasses the last of the truly beautiful natural land,” said Randy Redfield, the spokesman at the meeting who also owns property in Elderwood close to where Alternative Route #2 lines would go. The slide show also included pictures of sites once inhabited by Native Americans and early pioneers. Another slide show poked fun at what Route #2 residents call &#8220198's scenic corridor” including Visalia businesses along the highway, the Starbucks and McDonald's off the Farmersville Exit and a close up of the Edison's Venida Power station located on the corner of Highway 65 and 198. No pictures of local agriculture, the Kaweah Oaks Preserve or mountain views on the way to Lemon Cove were shown.

The meeting included a short film that dated back to 1926 and showed Woodlake's Valley of the Sun Pageant which attracted an estimated 10,000 people to what is currently West Antelope Valley. Redfield showed a Power Point presentation with the noted focus points that the group wanted to illustrate to DeLain.

Redfield argued that the project, if moved to Alternative Route #2 through Elderwood, would cost an estimated 16 million dollars more than the Proposed Route and would decrease the property values for hundreds of families who's land is adjacent to or near Alternative Route #2. Redfield went on to say that the lines would destroy some of the last remaining pristine acreage located on the valley floor, would negatively impact wildlife and natural habitats and violate both Native American and early pioneer historical sites.

Those in attendance were allowed to make their personal comments known. &#8220You don't move to Elderwood to look at power poles,” said one resident. A petition with over 400 signatures was mailed to Edison this past week from Elderwood and Woodlake residents, many of who signed the petition at the meeting. The group also put together a website to reiterate points made at the meeting and show pictures of the site where the lines would go. See for more information.

The City of Woodlake sent a letter to Edison last week opposing the route through Elderwood. Since the issue at hand is not a city one, feedback from residents to the City has been minimal. &#8220We haven't been getting any comments from residents,” says City Administrator, Bill Lewis.

On the other side of the lines, the cities of Farmersville, Exeter and Visalia have already written letters to Edison opposing the Proposed Route that would run from Visalia passed Exeter, up to Lemon Cove.

Proposed Route residents will meet again at 7 p.m. Mar. 8 at the Quaker Meeting House. The group submitted a petition with over 730 signatures from local residents on Jan 11 and has also circulated flyers door-to door, ran ads in local newspapers and posted information inside local businesses. And while the campaign energy had cooled, recent activity by Route #2 residents has brought the issue back to proposed Route residents' attention.

After an article was published in the Valley Voice illustrating Route #2 resident's protests, many Proposed Route residents said their eyes became opened to what had been incurring. &#8220It was a little mean, but we all had to ask ourselves, had we been that mean? And we had, by saying for Edison to just move it to Route #2,” said Bill Pensar of Lemon Cove's Sanitary District. &#8220So now, rather than fight against each other, we're trying to look at a third route. Fighting doesn't get anyone anywhere.”

The comment in the article made by Woodlake resident Ray Loyd concerning &#8220wealthy” Exeter residents having a &#8220healthy war chest” struck a nerve with many readers, but according to fellow resident Randy Redfield, the comment was in direct response to comments made by those who live on the Proposed Route.

&#8220We definitely did want to go that route though. We tried to not make this personal with the 198 group,” said Redfield. &#8220I had said some things during the meeting, but I felt like I needed to. But it's never been our position to advocate one route over another.”

Lemon Cove's Sanitary District Board of Directors wrote a letter to southern California Edison this week as well in opposition of the Proposed Route which included the following, &#8220your proposed line would cross several hundred feet south of our District boundary, cutting squarely through the District's Sphere of Influence and Urban Area Boundary. &#8220 The letter went on to say that the board learned from a third party about the project and that they were disappointed that they were not consulted earlier in the planning phase.

Exeter Public Schools wrote a letter to Edison as well voicing their concerns. Kaweah High School located on Ave. 300 close to where the lines would be located. If the school district ever decided to expand the school at that location other measures would have to be made. Due to health and safety concerns school districts are prevented by a code to build within 300 feet of electrical facilities.

The big question now is where the towers will go. Edison is still in the process of weighing all input and considerations while letters, emails and petitions from residents keep pouring in.

&#8220We're at the mid-point. We've looked at engineering and we know what would work. We're looking at all the input from all communities,” said DeLain. &#8220No conclusion is near. No decision has been made. In terms of time, we hope by sometime in April to be able to come back to the community. There's a lot ahead for this project.”

If you have any questions or would like to comments about the project you may contact SCE Regional Manager Bill DeLain at 635-3213 or by email at [email protected].

Letters should be sent to DeLain at SCE San Joaquin Valley Service Center, 2425 S. Blackstone St., Tulare, CA 93274. For more information or to be put on the mailing list for updates on the project you may also see

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