LOCKEFORD — Several residents who own agricultural properties between Lodi and Lockeford have raised concern about Pacific Gas and Electric’s latest project to increase energy in the county.
The agency on Wednesday hosted two community open houses at the Lockeford Community Center to collect feedback on its Northern San Joaquin 230 kV Transmission Project.
Formerly known as Northern San Joaquin Power Connect, the project includes connecting an existing PG&E transmission line into the agency’s Lockeford substation, located along Kettleman Lane just east of Highway 88.
The project also involves building a new overhead transmission line from the Lockeford substation to a new switching station on Thurman Street in Lodi.
On Wednesday, the agency presented three options for connecting the new transmission lines from Lockeford to Lodi, two of which traverse just south of Kettleman Lane. A second option would have lines and towers constructed on the southern side of the thoroughfare.
John Gash, owner of the PRIE Vineyard and Winery on Alpine Road, said new transmission lines would hang over his business, as well as several others, if the former option were approved.
“This is a tourist community,” Gash said. “Tourists who come into Lodi and come to our wineries don’t want to see high-powered lines over their heads. The sight also ruins weddings and the picturesque view of the surrounding area.”
He said the sight of thick, high-powered transmission lines hovering over wineries could hurt the industry, as it would keep customers away.
Gash said if enough damage is done to wineries economically, some might have to move.
“If we were in Napa, Sonoma or St. Helena, this wouldn’t be happening,” Gash said.
According to materials presented at Wednesday’s open house, the project would help meet the energy needs of the area’s manufacturing and industry businesses.
It would also strengthen the power grid to respond to the growing energy demand from the region’s economic and wine industries.
Adam Mettler of Mettler Family Vineyards said he and other wine growers, as well as walnut orchard owners, have asked the agency to run the new transmission lines through existing easements and corridors that do not traverse over residences or agricultural businesses.
He said two of the three proposed transmission line routes would traverse over about six Mettler family properties.
“This is in an area where people have lived for generations,” he said. “You’re going to get lines going right over their houses. Not to mention you’ve got home site parcels in the area that are assessed with the plan to have a nice home on the property at some point. You don’t want to build anything when lines go through your property.”
Brandi Merlo, spokeswoman for PG&E, said the agency would record the feedback given by residents and incorporate it into the project proposal.
The project will then be submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission for approval in 2020.
“There isn’t a preferred one, two or three project proposal,” she said. “We will hear all the comments from the grape growers, the walnut growers and the farm bureau, and see how we can improve the project and reduce the impact on residents and businesses.”
If approved by the CPUC next year, construction would start in 2022 and be completed in 2024, according to PG&E.
For more information about the proposal, visit www.pge.com/northernsanjoaquin.