State

MID, TID quit power project

Officials in Modesto and Turlock on Tuesday said they will pull out of a power project that would put renewable energy from northeastern California into the electrical grid, but also cost $1.5 billion and place 150-foot-tall towers in back yards from Escalon to Del Rio to Riverbank to Oakdale.

During separate meetings, the boards of directors at the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts voted unanimously to opt out of a plan to build a 600-mile high-voltage power line from Lassen County to Stanislaus County and into the Bay Area.

The action comes on the heels of a similar vote at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which dropped out July 1. The power line likely is doomed, because the three agencies were expected to fund more than two-thirds of the project.

The Transmission Agency of Northern California, a consortium of power agencies that proposed the power line, is expected to map its next steps at a special meeting today.

In Turlock, the about-face drew little reaction. In Modesto, a brief announcement by board President Tom Van Groningen brought cheers from opponents who do not want power lines and towers in their back yards.

Stephen Cole, an attorney who came to the meeting to represent an ad hoc coalition of concerned residents, said he feared that the power line would displace his home in El Macero, near Davis.

Public agencies such as the Transmission Agency of Northern California can use eminent domain to take property, paying market value to relocate the owners.

"If I disagreed, the only reason for the court action would be to fix the market value," Cole said.

Jon Tremayne, an opponent from Ripon, said a state plan to increase energy from renewable sources 33 percent by 2020 is laudable. He takes issue with the plan because it relies on solar and wind farms that have not been built.

"There are no renewables up there," said Tremayne, who added that ratepayers ultimately would pick up the cost of the power line.

TANC is a consortium of 15 power providers who own the majority share in a power line between Oregon and Northern California. The agency began planning a new power line in 2007 and started holding public meetings on proposed routes this spring.

Five of TANC's 15 members were expected to split the costs, with a 34 percent share for SMUD, 28 percent for the city of Santa Clara, 23 percent for the MID, 13 percent for the TID and 2 percent for Redding Electric Utility.

Opposition was strongest in Redding, where a group called Stop TANC sponsored public protests and threatened to bring a lawsuit.

Supporters noted that Northern California has not had a new power line since 1993. Power providers hoped to build the line by 2014 and said it is needed to relieve congestion on existing lines and to transport green energy to urban hubs.

According to TANC spokesman Brendan Wonnacott, the state has identified four areas where renewable energy from the sun, wind or geothermal sources would be most productive. The proposed line would tap 85 percent of that market because two locations are in Lassen County and one is near Redding.

After votes in Modesto and Turlock, MID General Manager Allen Short, who also is chairman of TANC, called a special meeting to decide the future of the project. According to an agenda, participating agencies must decide if TANC should "proceed, suspend or terminate activities related to the project."

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.

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