Time is Ticking for Aptos Residents Opposed to Seven Miles of Giant Towers

Residents say the proposed towers would change the scope of a rural neighborhood.

A PG&E plan to put 7.1 miles of 100-foot metal towers through the pristine hills and valleys of Aptos has residents upset and bewildered.

The electric utility says the poles will help provide power during high-use periods when blackouts may occur, by moving it between the Green Valley and Rob Roy substations.

However, residents say the poles are an environmental menace  and the utility should be subject to an environmental impact report before it can continue.

The period for public comment ends Friday and a local group called Shocked by PGE is asking residents to send complaints to Lisa Orsaba, California PUC, 1 Embarcadero Center #740, San Francisco, 94111. 

You can see more about the project here.

"I don't know how seven miles of giant poles wouldn't have an environmental impact," County Supervisor Zach Friend told a meeting at the Aptos Public Library last week. However, Friend said the supervisors had little power in a controversy overseen by the state's Public Utilities Commission.

His concern was echoed by resident James Kerr, who is organizing a movement against the project: 

"I have yet to speak with anyone along the 8.8-mile project route who initially knew about or understood the scope and magnitude of the project, or anyone who supports the project as proposed," he said. 

"I am amazed that an 8.8-mile project installing 100-foot steel poles through neighborhoods and along rural residential roadways did not require an EIR, and that it was determined 'that the proposed project would not have a significant effect on the environment.'

A PGE spokeswoman told the Aptos Times that the project would be less imposing because it follows the lines already in place.

Nicole Liebelt of PG&E told the Times that the company needs to improve the service locally to prevent large-scale outages in the future. By using the existing utility corridor, the proposed project creates the least impact at the most reasonable cost.

“The existing 115 kV system serving the Santa Cruz area was updated and put into service during the 1970s. Since then, no major upgrades have been undertaken … In the 1970s, the population served by this system totaled about 50,000 people. Today, the service area has a population of about 90,000,” Liebelt said. 

“PG&E did consider alternate routes and gave careful consideration to environmental and customer impacts. The alignment PG&E selected was determined to have the least impacts across a wide spectrum of considerations.”

Kerr disagrees with the portrayals, claiming it will look worse than depicted. He says the scale of the simulations looks smaller than it will look when it is built because the actual poles will be closer than the scale in which they are depicted. His organization has hired someone to produce what they way are more accurate pictures. 

The new poles will be the size of a 10-story building, he says. Current poles out there are 60 feet, or six stories. The current poles won't be replaced, but will have a second layer of 89-100 foot poles above them.


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