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Backyard

PG&E has abandoned plans to install a new pole in this backyard on Hudson Avenue in St. Helena.

ST. HELENA — PG&E has decided not to build a new pole in the backyard of a Hudson Avenue home, to the relief of homeowners who said they were not notified of the proposal.

The utility decided to eliminate the Hudson pole “after carefully considering the options,” according to a July 15 letter from a PG&E representative to the California Public Utilities Commission.

The CPUC had already “suspended” the previous project description in response to objections by city officials and the affected homeowners, who said the utility lacked the legal authority to build on their property without their permission. The new pole would have been part of the comprehensive “reconductoring” of PG&E’s Fulton-Calistoga 60kV Power Line, which is aimed at producing a safer electrical grid that complies with current codes.

The July 15 letter also revealed plans to build a new pole in a parking lot in the 1600 block of Voorhees Circle. According to City Manager Mark Prestwich, the property owner “does not appear to have an issue with that at the moment.”

The Hague family and their neighbors on Hudson Avenue are satisfied that PG&E “will not build an additional transmission line tower in our backyards,” according to a statement issued by Jessica Hague.

“Moreover, our efforts to require PG&E to disclose the full scope of the project were successful, more is now known,” Hague said. “We’re grateful that PG&E took the time to reconsider the initial plans — and that their governing body, the California Public Utility Commission, has held them to task.”

“It’s a sobering fact that the infrastructure PG&E is planning to replace throughout St. Helena will outlast my, and my children’s lifetimes. Ideally, this 60kV high voltage transmission line would not bisect St. Helena as it currently does. There is more work ahead to ensure that the best alternatives are sought for the safety of all St. Helena residents.”

Mary Novak tree

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There’s also good news for the popular Mary Novak tree at the corner of Madrona and Hudson avenues, which is under one of the existing lattice poles that is slated for removal.

Previous plans had called for the tree to be moved from its current location, which would have effectively killed it. However, PG&E is now proposing a pair of poles about 10 feet to either side of the existing pole, “creating a softer angle in the line to avoid the tree.”

According to PG&E’s latest project statement, the utility plans to replace “approximately” 91 lattice steel poles, five light-duty steel poles and six wood poles with “approximately” 75 lattice steel poles and 22 steel poles. The new poles will be up to 25 feet taller than the existing ones.

Construction in Napa County and St. Helena is expected to begin in September or October and take about four months.

The city has until Monday to respond to PG&E’s latest project description. At Tuesday’s council meeting, Prestwich discussed a potential alternative that would move the 60 kV line running through St. Helena to run parallel with an existing 115 kV line south of town, thereby avoiding residential neighborhoods entirely.

That alternative would require larger towers, trigger a new environmental review, and create new right-of-way issues that could delay the project by two to five years, Prestwich said.

Another alternative, placing the 60 kV line underground, has been estimated to cost $20 million per mile, Prestwich told the council.

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