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Backyard

The backyard of Jessica and Kevin Hague's house on Hudson Avenue, where PG&E wants to install a tower.

After a St. Helena couple was startled to hear that PG&E planned to install a pole in their backyard, the utility says it’s still deciding exactly where that pole will go.

Last week Jessica and Kevin Hague described learning from a PG&E subcontractor that the utility planned to build a support tower – not a pole – in their backyard on Hudson Avenue, in addition to replacing the existing transmission towers along the Fulton-Calistoga Power Line.

The City Council responded by asking the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to put a stop to PG&E’s work within the city until details of the project are sorted out and the impact on residents is reduced.

After the Star covered the situation last week, PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras issued a statement saying the upgraded lines and towers will require one new pole along the span that runs parallel to Hudson between Birch and Spring streets.

“The engineering plans were not, and have not, been finalized,” Contreras said. “We are in the process of engineering where that one pole will be inserted.”

“We are working on three scenarios for the location of the pole and reached out to one customer on Hudson (Avenue), who owns the lot where we believed was the best location, according to preliminary plans,” Contreras said. “We wanted to give the customer ample notice that their lot was a possible location.”

Contreras said PG&E representatives met with three property owners, along with City Manager Mark Prestwich, on June 12 and showed them two “engineering possibilities” which would affect one of their properties. A third option would affect a fourth property and require the removal of several redwoods, Contreras said.

“It’s frustrating that PG&E continues to downplay the impact on our property and our neighborhood,” said Jessica Hague. “We met for several hours. Alternatives were discussed and many were met with resistance.”

Hague said she’s also disappointed that PG&E is calling the apparatus a pole instead of a tower, even though its height has been confirmed at 75 feet.

City councilmembers said last week they were taken aback by the new proposal because PG&E representatives had previously mentioned only the replacement of existing towers and poles, not the installation of new ones.

The council noted that PG&E issued two different versions of a letter describing the work, with varying descriptions of the number of towers and poles. The council also questioned whether PG&E has a legal right to build in the Hagues’ backyard, since an easement from 1928 cited by PG&E stated that no new poles can be installed without the property owner’s agreement.

Contreras said that when PG&E representatives briefed the council on April 6, “we only had preliminary engineering plans and didn’t know an additional pole was necessary.”

“It wasn’t until we looked at the engineering that it was determined we needed an additional pole,” Contreras said.

The public comment period for the project closed on April 7.

Contreras said PG&E will keep working with the city and customers along Hudson “to come to a resolution by late summer.”

The work will need to be complete by October for the line to be put back into service. The goal of the project is to produce a safer and more resilient electrical grid.

Prestwich said the CPUC hasn’t responded to the city’s request, but he understands that the letter is under review.

Jessica Hague said Hudson Avenue homeowners are in direct contact with commissioners at the CPUC, and State Sen. Bill Dodd has toured the neighborhood and continues to be directly involved in the situation.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.