PG&E seeks support for power line project

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The nearly $150 million project would have power lines carrying 230 Kilovolts of electricity running from just north of Fresno 70 miles to just outside Coalinga. Five different routes have been proposed. The goal is to more efficiently tap power generated by the Helms project near Shaver Lake.

Lynsey Paulo of PG&E says the lines are needed to boost the growing local demand for electricity.

Paulo explained, "In order to accommodate the people who are moving in here particularly to accommodate agriculture and agricultural growth we do need this line to be able to have the capacity as we go into the next decade."

To make electricity the Helms project moves water between an upper and lower reservoir, using the flow of water down to turn turbines that generate power during the day. At night, when demand is low the water is pumped backup to the higher reservoir.

The new power lines would help distribute the power throughout the Valley. A group called the Central Valley Coalition for Reliable Energy is endorsing the project. Coalition member and Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President Al Smith is among those who say the power is needed.

Smith said, "The Central Valley will be the growth area of all of California."

PG&E says one big reason these new transmission lines are needed is to serve is the increased demand by agriculture for electricity. But their toughest sell could be to the agricultural community since these power lines will cross miles of farmland. But Ryan Jacobsen, President of the Fresno County Farm Bureau says he's pleased with the utility so far.

Jacobsen added, "They are working with us to make sure any affected landowners we can do anything necessary to really work around those impacts."

It will be up to the California Public Utilities Commission to decide if the project is feasible and if so, to pick a route. Any opponents of the project will be able to voice their concerns at a series of public hearings.

PG&E hopes to get through the process and have the lines up within five years.

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