East County News Service
January 7, 2020 (Julian) – SDG&E has begun construction to place powerlines underground east of downtown Julian along Banner Road (State Route 78) and Cape Horn Avenue).
The project aims to reduce wildfire risk and allow key facilities to remain open during safety power shutoffs, according to a press release issued by SDG&E.
“Unlike overhead power lines, underground lines do not present a fire risk during high winds and elevated fire danger conditions. Facilities that will benefit from the undergrounding work include: the post office, county branch library, Julian Union High School, Julian Charter School, Julian Elementary School and the CAL FIRE Station, as well as a county public works maintenance yard and a school bus yard,” the utility states. Existing overhead power lines in the area will remain, as they are needed to continue serving some customers.
Currently, the commercial heart of downtown Julian is served by underground power lines. As a result, SDG&E is able to power Main Street businesses with a 1-megawatt mobile generator during power shutoffs. However, the existing undergrounding infrastructure does not extend to key community facilities that are located just outside of the commercial core.
Over the past decade, SDG&E has also invested in replacing many wood poles with fire-resistant steel poles; building a sophisticated weather monitoring network and fire and weather forecast models; updating operating protocols; and building partnerships to enhance the region’s overall ability to respond to wildfires.
The company’s 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan outlines a suite of programs and initiatives to continue to advance wildfire safety. One of those initiatives is strategic undergrounding of overhead power lines.
“Burying power lines removes the risk of these lines sparking fires during adverse weather events, but more importantly, buried lines can remain energized during safety power shutoffs, reducing the impact of power outages to fire-prone communities,” according to SDG&E.
The Julian project will be completed in two phases over the next few months. Unforeseen weather conditions could affect the construction schedule.
Phase I construction is scheduled to take place from December 2019 – January 2020 and Phase II construction is currently in design and that schedule is being determined.
Construction crews are working Monday through Sunday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Motorists and residents can expect intermittent traffic along the construction routes – Main Street, Banner Road and Cape Horn Avenue – during work hours. Traffic controllers are onsite to help direct the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
SDG&E indicated has been in touch with key stakeholders to work with them to minimize the traffic impact.