CHINO HILLS – The cost to fight the installation of high-voltage power transmission lines in this city has not come cheap.
City Council members late last month made an additional $100,000 available to continue efforts to curtail Southern California Edison’s route in the city for the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.
The battle between the city and the Edison started four years ago.
The city’s bill so far: $2.4 million.
The money has been coming out of the city’s general fund reserves, which totals about $14 million.
But with cities struggling financially during tough economic times, Mayor Ed Graham said he recognizes that some residents may soon begin to fret that the city is spending too much on this fight.
“However, I haven’t heard that yet, but I think with everything else there comes a time to fold your cards, but you fold your cards when you have no possibilities,” Graham said.
“Right now, though, we have a possibility of changing things so it makes dollar sense for us to reactivate the fight.”
The California Public Utilities Commission last month ordered Southern California Edison to temporary stop construction of the towers in the city because they don’t have appropriate lighting – a violation of Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
City spokeswoman Denise Cattern said the $2.4 million has been spent on anything related to the project, such as a variety of consultants, experts and legal costs.
“This also includes our legal fees for our city attorney and the attorney we hired as a consultant for expertise working with CPUC,” Cattern said.
“This does not include environmental studies – that would have been done as part of the CPUC process that SCE went through.”
City Manager Michael Fleager said the $100,000 that the council approved in October is for additional work by the city’s special counsel and consultants.
“Maybe we spend $10,000 or $20,000. There’s not a specific price tag. It’s just making sure we have that much available up to that point,” Fleager said.
“If for some reason the services we need go beyond that, we’ll go back to council for additional appropriations.”
Resident Joanne Genis said she believes, at some point, city officials may have to consider whether they are spending too much money, but they will also have to deal with losing a substantial amount of money in revenue due to property-related losses.
“My home has already took a 17 percent hit and that’s with the towers, and without any of the lines on them,” she said.
“If you drive this route there are a lot of homes with `For Sale’ signs, but they’re not moving.”
A founding member of Hope for the Hills, a grassroots effort by Chino Hills citizens protesting the towers, Genis said there aren’t too many residents who are supportive of the project.
“Before the towers came I believe people were reluctant to have the city spend money but now that they can actually see the towers I think that feeling has changed,” she said.
The transmission poles and towers are being installed within the right-of-way from Chino Hills’ western border near Tonner Canyon, northeast to Peyton Drive and continuing east to the 71 Freeway and eventually going into Riverside County.
Construction of the towers started in October 2010. Fifteen of the larger towers have been installed in Chino Hills, replacing smaller existing structures on the right-of-way.
A lawsuit introduced by the city has argued that Southern California Edison’s easements in the city are too narrow for the power corridor.
In addition, City Attorney Mark Hensley reported the city has filed its formal request for the state Supreme Court to review the determination made by the lower courts that the CPUC had exclusive jurisdiction regarding the overburdening of the easements, based on construction of the towers in those easement areas.
A decision from the Supreme Court about whether to accept the city’s request for review will be rendered by mid-January.
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, the project is slated to be completed in 2015.
Graham said he doesn’t know how much more money the city will spend in its battle against the Tehachapi project.
“But I do know, though, I’ve never been more encouraged than I have recently,” he said.