CHINO HILLS – The sounds of work crews clearing brushes in the nearby easement have confirmed Becky Guiou’s long-standing fears – the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project is becoming a reality.
“We knew they were coming, but when you actually see it it gives you a pit in your stomach,” Guiou said. “We are for green energy, but there is a safe way of doing this.”
When completed by 2015, the $2.1 billion Tehachapi project will bring wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin – part of a state mandate to use more sustainable energy.
For past three years, Chino Hills’ residents like Guiou have complained that the larger, new high-voltage power lines and towers, slated to cut through a five-mile stretch of city’s neighborhoods will impact safety, health, city views and property values.
But with the construction phase of the largest renewable transmission project in the U.S. well under way, their complaints have fallen on deaf ears, some residents say.
“We are up against the wall,” said Joanne Genis, Guiou’s neighbor and a member of the Citizens for Alternate Routing of Electricity group. “It’s hopeless. People are (throwing) in the towel.”
The transmission poles and towers will be erected within Edison’s existing right-of-way corridor from the city’s western border near Tonner Canyon, proceeding northeast to Peyton Drive then continuing east to the 71 Freeway.
Three palm trees in Guiou’s portion of easement were labeled with large “X” across the trunk. They are in the way and will be removed, she said.
Recent winds that swept through the Inland Valley have brought back her concerns about electrical towers structural safety.
“Having that tower right outside my window, makes me worry about not if, but when will it fall on the house,” Guiou said.
The 150-foot existing easement is just not enough buffer space, she said.
“They never built towers this big so close to homes,” Genis said.
“We’re the guinea pigs,” Guiou added.
Genis said residents feel powerless against Edison. She suspects that the reason Edison did not choose an alternate route through Chino Hills State Park is because fighting the state would be a bigger challenge, and could have possibly delayed the project.
“We were easier, faster and cheaper route to take,” she said.
“They are more concerned about the bunnies and coyotes,” added Guiou. “You can’t compare human life with snakes and rabbits.”
Guiou moved from Ontario to Chino Hills eight years ago in hopes of escaping the airport noise. The prospect of larger transmission lines coming through the neighborhood have destroyed her property value.
“No one will want to buy it, and I don’t blame them,” she said.
Guiou’s friend is looking for a house in Chino Hills, and 75 percent of the inventory is along the easement, she said.
“A house down the street was in escrow, but when the found out about the transmission line they backed out,” Genis said.
Edison says Guiou’s and her neighbors’ concerns have been addressed.
“We really appreciate the concerns of residents of Chino Hills,” Edison spokesman Les Starck said. “Public Utility Commission has also heard their comments, including the alternate route proposals.
“After months of analysis by their engineers, PUC decided that the proposed route through Chino Hills is the environmentally superior route, the safest and most cost effective.”
Starck said Edison was concerned with going through the state park, but if PUC chose that route as the most suitable for the project they would have followed their recommendation.
Starck also said that Chino Hills residents will not be the first with the 198-foot towers just outside their backyards and that they have been installed safely in other cities.
“Tubular steel poles are used across the country and have a solid record,” Starck said. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that they are safely built and operated.”
The 150-foot easement will set the towers about 75 feet from the neighboring property lines, Ray Paz, project’s general manager said. But that will not be the only barrier.
“Towers’ 198-foot vertical distance provides the safety factor,” Paz said.
Genis said her only hope now is the newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown. She has been busy writing letters to him.
“Maybe he doesn’t know, how is it affecting us,” Genis said. “I don’t know I will pray about it.”
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