Chino Hills Undergrounding Project Will Require Extraordinary Cooperation

The undergrounding project will be the first of its kind in the United States.

October 09, 2013 | By Robert Laffoon Villegas

The Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project will be able to deliver up to 4,500 megawatts of largely renewable energy to Southern California, enough electricity to power 3 million homes.  But before power begins to flow, the 179-mile project will have to run through a number of Southern California communities, including the city of Chino Hills where the project’s 500-kilovolt line will run underground for 3.5 miles.

Southern California Edison (SCE) expects to begin activities in preparation for undergrounding the section through Chino Hills in early 2014. The undergrounding — ordered recently by the California Public Utilities Commission — will be a first-of-its-kind project in the United States and will require extraordinary cooperation between SCE, city officials and residents.

Veronica Gutierrez, SCE’s vice president for Local Public Affairs, is overseeing SCE’s work with local governments and residents on the undergrounding and discusses SCE’s efforts below.

How long will it take to complete the undergrounding?

This is a very complex project, the first of its kind in the nation, and as such, the timing of the work is subject to change as the work progresses. SCE is committed to communicating those changes as we become aware of them. SCE originally estimated that the undergrounding would be completed in 2016. This schedule is currently being evaluated in light of continued regulatory proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission.

What kind of outreach is currently taking place around this project?  

SCE is committed to maintaining frequent communication with the city leaders and residents as we move forward with construction, including regular presentations before the city council, meetings with city staff, as well as informational town hall meetings with residents.

With a project as complex as this one, there are many phases involved in undergrounding. SCE representatives have recently presented to the city council and will continue to come before the council to give updates on the other phases of construction, including the demolition of towers that were installed before the undergrounding was ordered. As the project progresses, we will be back to discuss various aspects of the construction, including trenching and underground drilling; installation of underground support equipment, including duct banks, vaults and related equipment and transmission cable; and the installation of two transition stations.

How long will it take for the existing towers to be demolished?

Demolition began in late September and is ongoing. Completion of this phase is expected to take 8-10 weeks. There are 16 structures to demolish, including 11 tubular steel poles (or, TSPs) and five lattice steel towers. This is an anticipated timeline and depending on progress, that estimate may need to be revised.

During demolition and the undergrounding, what will be the hours of work?

Demolition will occur from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday. However, schedules may change to include extended hours, as well as some Sunday work.  The times will be the same for undergrounding work, but may require 24-hour work for underground drilling in some locations. 

Given the scope of the project and the nature of the construction efforts, what do you foresee in the way of traffic impacts for residents?  

We understand the stress that traffic can have on all of our lives and SCE will work very, very closely with the city on public outreach around the traffic impacts so we can make sure folks plan their commute and daily errands around the closures.  The streets that this project will impact — Chino Hills Parkway and Pipeline Avenue — are significant thoroughfares through the city.  We can’t eliminate the impact of lane closures but we can minimize inconveniences by spreading the word.  

Depending on the location, large equipment deliveries and construction activities may require short periods of road and/or traffic lane closures. There will be periods of temporary lane closures and traffic control on Chino Hills Parkway (between Carbon Canyon Road and Eucalyptus Avenue) and Pipeline Avenue (between Chino Hills Parkway and Eucalyptus Avenue).

Will residents have access to the trails and other areas in the utility right-of-way?

Safety is our top priority and given that electricity transmission at this high-voltage level is typically not constructed underground, safety considerations may force us to restrict future access. To enhance the safety of the public and project personnel, a chain-link fence will be installed to restrict access during construction. SCE is analyzing whether it will be possible for residents to have access to the property after construction is completed.

Will SCE need to acquire additional property rights for this construction?

SCE has had easements for its right-of-way through residential areas of Chino Hills and Chino since the 1940s. The city of Chino Hills is the largest property owner in the right-of-way with over 50 percent of the parcels. For the original overhead configuration, the current SCE easements provided all necessary property rights for the project. However, since being ordered by the utilities commission in July to underground this project, SCE has determined that it needs to own all of the property in the right-of-way in order to build the underground system safely and efficiently. In real estate terms, SCE needs to acquire the “fee interest” in the right-of-way. Negotiations are currently underway with local property owners.

How can residents stay up to date as the project progresses?

SCE has several ways for residents to communicate with us and obtain information. These include:

Residents can expect a response within 24 hours from the phone line and email and can also sign up for project update emails. Updates will also be posted to the city of Chino Hills website and we will also hold town hall meetings with residents. 

Topics: Customer Service, Infrastructure