PG&E has been working to place power lines underground in Santa Rosa to help prevent customers from being impacted by a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) during severe weather conditions. That’s great news for part of Oakmont. For the rest, it’s wait ‘til next year.
Crews are undergrounding 3.4 miles of overhead transmission lines located near the PG&E substation in the Rincon area as part of a project expected to be finished by the end of August. The Rincon substation serves roughly 1,733 customers in the western portion of Oakmont down to Central Activities Center.
Plans are to complete hardening of the Oakmont area served by the Dunbar substation in Kenwood next year, said PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras. “It is anticipated that this one portion will include undergrounding lines along a 2.2 mile stretch of Highway 12 (down to Hoff Road),” Contreras said.
As disastrous fires in Sonoma County have made abundantly clear, high winds can cause tree branches and debris to contact energized electric lines, damage electrical equipment and ignite a blaze. PG&E has attempted to stave off disaster by cutting power to affected areas.
PG&E is taking other steps to reduce outages, such as hardening its power lines and poles and installing devices that split the distribution circuit from the rest of the system. PG&E plans to install 29 such “sectionalizing devices” this year in Sonoma County, which is on top of the 89 installed in 2020. Future system hardening projects planned for the coming years that will reduce PSPS impacts on Oakmont customers include hardening and undergrounding portions of the lines in the Pythian Road area, Contreras said.
While the projects have both immediate and long term benefits for Oakmont, the short term impact on traffic is often a source of inconvenience to motorists. But the backups are not all tied to PG&E. On the south side of 12 between Oakmont Drive and Melita Road Cal Trans subcontractors have been doing work removing and thinning trees that would be an easy source of fire fuel in high winds.