*Editor's Note: This story was originally published by NBC San Diego’s Joe Little and can be found here.*
SDG&E says it wants to underground 1,500 miles of power lines throughout San Diego County
By Joe Little • Published September 25, 2023 • Updated on September 25, 2023 at 10:45 pm
The old gold mining town of Julian won’t have to close its doors the next time the dangerous Santa Ana winds blow through the San Diego County mountains.
“We’re working to make our electric system more resilient,” smiled Tim Knowd.
Knowd is San Diego Gas & Electric’s electric system hardening program manager. He said the utility just completed more than 29 miles of power line undergrounding leading up to and around Julian.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment,” Knowd said. “Just knowing that the customers up here will stay energized for the most part during these more severe conditions is very gratifying.”
In recent years, Julian and other communities with high fire risk have been subject to Public Safety Power Shutoffs when strong winds threaten the integrity of power lines.
A downed power line sparked the Witch Fire in 2007. SDG&E now voluntarily shuts off electricity if strong winds threaten power lines.
It’s a double-edged sword for people who live and work in communities like Julian.
“We worry about the winds knocking down powerlines or knocking down branches which knock down power lines,” sighed Lori Sorbo, the owner of The Olde Goat store on Julian’s Main Street.
“When power is cut, we not only can’t open the doors but sometimes we lose product as well,” she countered. “When businesses can’t open, then our livelihood suffers.”
“We don’t like it but we appreciate it,” Sorbo added.
Now, she doesn’t have to worry about it. SDG&E is investing millions to underground hundreds of miles of power lines throughout San Diego County. The 29 miles leading to Julian was the latest stretch to be completed.
“We can still open our doors and we’re not going to go home and be sad and depressed because we had a crummy day,” said Sorbo. “It’s very comforting.”
Knowd said SDG&E’s job is far from over. He said the utility wants to underground 1,500 miles of power lines during the next decade.
“It’s not an easy job but it’s challenging, and it is fun because of the challenge,” he concluded.