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Residents of Rowland Heights are joining others from Duarte, Chino Hills and Chino in asking that new electrical towers be moved or re-routed.
The issue is being championed by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, who also represents 80 percent of Rowland Heights. Hagman updated the Rowland Heights Coordinating Council last week about the problem and the group’s options.
Rowland Heights residents are objecting to a new, 168-foot-high tower built in the summer that will be only about 50 feet from a proposed Rowland Heights Community Center when the building is completed in 2013. A second electrical tower, part of the Southern California Edison Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, is planned for the hillside immediately behind the proposed community center.
The two towers put a crimp in plans for an $18 million community center for Pathfinder Regional County Park in Rowland Heights. The new center has been planned since 2009. However, the community was not aware the electrical towers would be so high and so close to the proposed building, residents said.
“We didn’t know that they were going to put additional ones in,” said Ted Ebenkamp, first vice president of the Rowland Heights Coordinating Council. The RHCC, an unofficial body representing the unincorporated community of Rowland Heights, will decide at its Jan. 9 meeting whether to formerly ask the California Public Utilities Commission for help, he said.
Ebenkamp said he attended public hearings on the new electrical towers being installed throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire. But the new pole just installed is not part of the renewable energy project but is part of regular electrical transmission operations. And many residents didn’t realize how tall and how much of a visual impact the poles make on their bedroom community.
“We would like them to move them (two poles in the park) say, 100 yards east or west,” Ebenkamp said.
“The biggest thing is their height. These towers Edison is putting up are huge. I don’t think anyone could imagine how high these things are,” said Beth Hojnacke, president of the RHCC.
The RHCC wants to see if something can be done about the electrical towers before the county breaks ground on the new center.
“People will have to drive right by them to get to the community center,” Ebenkamp said.
Hagman said their requests are reasonable.
“Those options need to be explored before the building is built,” Hagman said.
Edison is stringing new transmission lines and towers to bring renewable wind power from Kern County into the area. It is part of a mandate from the state of California to generate a greater percentage of green energy. The Tehachapi project is supposed to be completed by 2015, but has run into political troubles.
In October, the CPUC ordered Edison to stop construction of the towers because they didn’t have appropriate warning lights. This was a violation of the Federal Aviation Administration. Edison has also been ordered to propose alternative routes and locations for some lines and towers relating to the Tehachapi project. Edison must present testimony on alternative routes and plans at the CPUC meeting on Jan. 10.
In an interview Monday, Hagman said the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce will hold hearings on the electrical towers issue in January in Sacramento. Also, Reps. Gary Miller, R-Brea, and Ed Royce, R-Orange, have joined the anti-towers bandwagon. They are calling for a congressional hearing on the topic.
Hagman said easements for electrical towers negotiated 100 years ago no longer fit today’s residential patterns. “The process is flawed,” he said.
Aside from residents of Chino Hills, where Hagman served on the City Council before being elected to the Assembly, he’s also heard complaints about the new electrical towers being too close to homes or parks in Duarte, Chino and from hillside residents of Rowland Heights.
Miller and Royce have said the towers can lower property values. Royce said in November “because of the impact on home values, this is equivalent to a government taking of private property.”
Hagman, Royce and Miller are calling for the lines to be undergrounded, or instead of through neighborhoods in Chino Hills, be routed through uninhabited Chino Hills State Park.
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