By DAVID ROSS
The Valley Center Community Planning Group meeting Monday, September 13, devoted the first part of the evening to the San Diego Gas & Electric Company and the continuing Keys Creek dewatering saga—a discussion that was more kvetching and answer than question and answer.
They included residents who live near the site where SDG&E three months ago pumped more than 3 million gallons from the aquifer and trucked it away before shutting down under County order. The landowners continue to experience rising frustration at not getting answers faster from the utility and not liking the answers they are getting.
Planning Chairman Delores Chavez Harmes reminded the audience that the planning group has no jurisdiction or ability to mediate between SDG&E and the Keys Creek area residents.
One of the first to speak was Don Coleman, who demanded of SDG&E’s Todd Voorhees, “What gives you the right to steal our water?” Of the utility’s initial estimate of how much water it would encounter, he declared, “Your estimates were wildly inaccurate.” He demanded why there aren’t alternatives to SDG&E for buying power. “If you were my wife I would divorce you!” He concluded, “We are going to find out a way to do without you!”
Another one of the owners, Cindy Wright said, “I don’t feel like anyone is advocating for us. All of our trees are very stressed. I’ve lost several feet of water and you guys [SDG&E] feel you are above the law. I’m going to make your life a living hell if you put a drill in the ground.”
The question that remains to be settled is which of three options SDG&E will go with to underground its lines at the Keys Creek Bridge, which the County hasn’t yet built. Option A would call for the utility to resume drilling at the site with a horizontal direction drill. Option B is a temporary overhead shoo-fly drill in a temporary easement. No dewatering would be expected, and less of a staging footprint using this option, but it too might not meet the County deadline. Option C is to defer work until the County completes the bridge. One major downside of this approach is the line would remain “energized” until after bridge completion.
Resident Wayne Strong opposes Option A. In a recent email he wrote: “If SDG&E plans to proceed with Option A, we will be forced to get a court-ordered injunction, and to take it to the streets again. It will get wild this time around.”
At Monday’s meeting Strong reported on a conversation he had with SDG&E’s Regional Public Affairs Manager Todd Voorhees, in which SDG&E said that it had returned the water to the aquifer when it took it to Stehly ranch, 3.5 miles from the Keys Creek site. Strong points out that this is at a lower elevation, so the water won’t be able to percolate back to where it was pumped out.
The Roadrunner sent an email to Voorhees asking for the utility’s perspective on this exchange but has not gotten back a reply.
After the homeowners spoke Voorhees told the audience that he will be there every month to answer questions. “We’re not here to lie to you but to give you the facts as we know them,” he said.
Chairman Harmes said she had spoken to Fire Chief Joe Napier, who is concerned about delaying the de-electrification of Cole Grade Road.
The Roadrunner contacted Chief Napier to get his take and the chief said he wants the project to be done “expeditiously.”
He continued, “I met with SDG&E and community members from the planning group and had a discussion with SDG&E on their progress undergrounding transmission and distribution lines on Cole Grade Road. I have a clear understanding of the community’s concern with the way that SDG&E is progressing with their mission but from the fire chief’s perspective the greatest danger to this community in emergency preparation is wildfire. Anything that we can do in partnership with SDG&E to prevent wildfire from happening should be placed at the highest priority. SDG&E recognizes that it also has to prioritize capital projects to underground electrical transmission lines and has chosen our community in the front of the line to critical infrastructure to protect our community from wildfire.”
SDG&E Claims Process
SDG&E has set up a specific claims representative within our claims department to immediately investigate any concerns customers may have. We have identified an arborist and hydrogeologist to work with customers and our claims team to evaluate any concerns.
The claims process is the first step in identifying potential impacts and commencing a dialogue between SDG&E and concerned customers. Initiating a claim does not forfeit the ability of the customer to initiate litigation.
If you believe you have been impacted by the project’s dewatering activities, please visit www.sdge.com/businesses/savings-center/services/how-make-claim to download a claims form and obtain additional information on SDG&E’s claims process.
Please don’t hesitate to contact Todd Voorhees at 844-765-6388 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions.