PG&E Reducing Wildfire Risk in Lake County as Part of Undergrounding Program

Pre-Construction Work is Underway in Lake County

With most of the state in a severe or extreme drought, millions of residents are thinking about wildfire season. As part of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) comprehensive strategy to mitigate wildfire risk, several projects are underway in Lake County to harden the electric system and build a safer and more resilient grid for our customers and communities. In Lake County, PG&E plans to underground approximately 15 miles of overhead distribution powerlines and harden 21 miles in high fire-threat areas to reduce wildfire risk in 2022.

“As part of our efforts to evolve with California’s changing weather conditions, we are working year-round to make our system safer, and that includes placing overhead lines underground where we can and installing stronger power poles with covered conductor,” said Ron Richardson, Regional Vice President for PG&E’s North Coast Region. “Not only will undergrounding reduce ignition risk by 99 percent on undergrounded circuits, but it will reduce spending on temporary repairs and recurring costs such as vegetation management and curb the need for wildfire safety-related outages.”

Crews have started preliminary work to underground approximately 9 miles of a distribution line in sections from Clearlake Oaks along parts of Highway 20 and 220 to Spring Valley. PG&E has notified customers of field surveys to be conducted through the second half of June. As part of the surveys, field crews will locate property corners and pick up topographical features. Helicopters may also be used to gather this information.

“We know residents and businesses in these areas have questions about the process,” said Lake County’s District 3 Supervisor, Eddie “EJ” Crandell. “PG&E has been doing outreach to let people know preliminary surveys and markings are taking place.  Please continue engaging with PG&E as this process develops and sharing your questions and concerns. We all want to see this work completed safely, smoothly and efficiently, and undergrounding these distribution lines will reduce wildfire risk.”

Residents in these areas may also see different colors of spray paint on the ground and around PG&E equipment. These are markings so workers know where existing underground utilities are located, such as powerlines, water, sewer, storm drains and communications. PG&E will be marking the ground over the next three weeks with red spray paint where electrical equipment is located. Each commodity has a different color to mark the location of their underground equipment.

Examples of flight panels used for aerial surveying

“Customers in the areas of future undergrounding may also notice markings on the ground that look like “X’s” or a chess board. These are flight panels that help us establish horizontal and vertical control. It’s how everyone working on the project can be on the same Coordinate System,” said Brett Brusatori, Supervisor for PG&E Land Surveying.

Undergrounding is part of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program, which the company launched in 2018 to help keep customers and communities safe in the face of growing wildfire risk across our state. Nearly one-third of the electric powerlines that serve our customers are now in High Fire-Threat Districts designated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Undergrounding is just one of the system-hardening tools PG&E uses to reduce wildfire risks.

Depending on the needs of the community, we review additional risk-reduction efforts including installing stronger poles, covered powerlines and sectionalizing devices; conducting enhanced vegetation management; adjusting powerline safety settings; and implementing Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

Even though PG&E’s powerlines will be moved underground, some of the power poles in these areas could remain in place to carry service lines that feed customer homes and to carry telecommunications equipment for other companies.

On July 21, 2021, PG&E announced a new, multi-year infrastructure safety initiative to underground approximately 10,000 miles of powerlines in and near high fire-threat areas.

Our plans to underground 10,000 miles of distribution powerlines in and near high wildfire risk areas represent the bold, innovative action that is required to meet our state’s climate challenges and is the largest effort in the U.S. to underground powerlines as a wildfire risk reduction measure. Visit www.pge.com/undergrounding for more information.

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