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PG&E lays underground wire to Rossmoor substation

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


Work is underway to bury PG&E power lines that run west from the utility’s Rossmoor substation, a small part of a much larger PG&E program to bury some 10,000 miles of power lines statewide to reduce the danger of wildfires.

The two circuits being worked on for this project mostly feed Lafayette and a small portion of Moraga and affect electric power to only a small number of Rossmoor residents, PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian said. But this “undergrounding” work figures to benefit Rossmoor primarily by taking away a potential cause of wildfires just outside Rossmoor – above-ground power lines that run through an increasingly drought-browned hillside – and burying them.

The Rossmoor substation is at the upper end of Stanley Dollar Drive on the west edge of Rossmoor.

In total, a little over a mile of power line from Lafayette east to PG&E’s Rossmoor substation are being “undergrounded” as part of this project, according to Sarkissian. This work, taking place along the east end of Rorher Drive in Lafayette and up the hill to the Rossmoor substation, is already underway and expected to be complete by the end of July, weather permitting.

This work also includes the installation of 11 “sectionalizing devices,” Sarkissian said, which help separate the electric grid into smaller parts. That will allow PG&E to turn off power in smaller, more specific areas during a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event, when power lines are deactivated at times and in areas where they are deemed to be a major wildfire risk.

The 11 sectionalizing devices were installed in the Lafayette area and will have the most impact there, Sarkissian said.

PG&E equipment has been blamed for sparking some of the wildfires that have decimated parts of Northern California in the past five years, killing hundreds of people and causing billions of dollars in damages.

Part of the problem has been when drought-weakened, dried-out trees come in contact with PG&E transmission lines or other above-ground facilities. Undergrounding power lines in wildfire-prone areas, PG&E officials say, will reduce that threat by 99 percent.

Forty-three of those 10,000 miles of undergrounding are within Contra Costa County; the largest single project will be along Kirker Pass Road and on Nortonville Road, both outside Pittsburg, to bury nearly 4.5 miles of overhead lines and related equipment. That work, PG&E says, is set to start shortly.

In an unrelated project, PG&E crews were working last week near Rockledge Lane Entry 9 to upgrade power lines that are already underground. Such work there, or in other parts of Rossmoor, is not connected to the statewide undergrounding campaign work, Sarkissian said.