Relocation of Tahoe City substation raised in utilities’ plans |

Relocation of Tahoe City substation raised in utilities’ plans

Tom Lotshaw

Some people want to see an electrical substation in Tahoe City moved as part of Liberty Utilities’ proposal to upgrade and in places realign its loop of power lines serving the North Shore.

Liberty wants to upgrade the substation as part of the project. But a desire for relocation has been raised at public hearings on a draft environmental report for the project, including last week’s Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board meeting.

“Based upon significant discussion, I believe this is something we can look at more fully between the draft and final,” Joanne Marchetta, executive director of TRPA, said of the request.

Relocating the electrical substation is a goal in community enhancement plans for Tahoe City and some Placer County officials, community groups and business owners are raising the issue.

The Tahoe City substation, located west of Highway 89 and south of the Truckee River, would be upgraded in a third and final phase of the proposed project so there is time to consider a possible relocation, said Mike Smart, president of Liberty Utilities West. The question for Smart is who would pay for relocation and where the substation would go.

“We’re willing to look at it with Placer County and Tahoe City folks. From my standpoint, being the electric utility provider, moving it doesn’t do me any value as far as cost of service. Here you have a perfectly good substation and location and people want it moved,” Smart said.

“It’s going to cost money, and how’s it going to be paid for? Is it fair for all the other customers in my service territory to pay for it because folks in Tahoe City want it moved?”

The estimated six-year, $46 million upgrade of the electric utility system on the North Shore is being reviewed by the TRPA, U.S. Forest Service and California Public Utilities Commission.

Critics of the project have expressed concerns about its environmental and scenic impacts, the extent to which it would induce growth and the impact that such a large expenditure will have on rates paid by the utility’s 49,000 customers.

The proposed project aims to upgrade power lines and other components from 60 kilovolts to 120 kilovolts — the next higher voltage standard — and realign them in places for improved access and reliability, according to Liberty.

Smart told the TRPA Governing Board the upgrade is overdue and that parts of the system are already being pushed to their limits at times of peak demand. The project is needed even without any new load growth, he said.

“I have to do this. That’s why we’re here talking about this today,” Smart said.

A draft environmental report examines numerous alternatives for the project is out for public comment through Jan. 7. It is available online at

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