Story and photo by Sue Nielson
It is important to have good neighbors. Whether you are great friends with your neighbors or live in polite co-existence, good neighbors make life noticeably easier, safer, quieter and happier.
With“home” extending 1.3 million square miles across 15 states, Western has a lot of neighbors, and we pride ourselves on trying to be good neighbors with those whose lands we share.
Recently, Sierra Nevada worked with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, City of Sacramento and local community gardeners to find ways to co-exist under the Elverta-to-Hurley 230-kilovolt line while protecting public and employee safety and the reliability of the grid.
Western and SMUD have parallel transmission lines running west of the Los Ninos Parkway in Sacramento, California, that serve as part of northern California’s interconnected transmission system, supplying power to the whole region. The City of Sacramento, which still owns the land underlying our easement, sanctioned community gardens for a nearby low-income community to grow sustainable food for their families.
Western allows farming crops within our easements, but in this case, the gardens and associated improvements are blocking access to two towers: one on Western’s line and the other on SMUD’s line. To comply with North American Electric Reliability Corporation and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission safety and reliability requirements, utilities (including Western) need 24/7 access to and around the towers.
SN and SMUD have been meeting with the city, the low-income housing management company and the community gardeners to re-establish SMUD’s and Western’s legal access to and around our towers while minimizing the impact to the gardens.
The community gardens situation was unique because it is located in an urban location, unlike the commercial farms, ranches and orchards in many areas.
In the spirit of working with landowners to resolve our differences, several remedial actions are in progress. SMUD is purchasing an access easement from an adjacent cul-de-sac as the closest point of ingress and egress to the two towers. This minimizes the impact to the gardens as an alternative to clearing a route along the length of the right-of-way. SMUD and Western will enter into a cost-sharing agreement for the construction of the access, and when the access is ready, SMUD will issue a License Agreement to Western for access. The city came to the aid of the gardeners and will install another community garden within their Los Ninos Park just north of the existing location. The gardeners have been cooperative during the meetings and appreciate the effort to minimize the overall impacts.
Western always strives to be good neighbors and work with landowners where our rights of way cross orchards, farms and ranches. We were fortunate to work with other local cooperating entities to retain round-the-clock access to our towers.