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PG&E Promises To Move Power Lines Underground In Paradise

Holly Quan
May 23, 2019 - 11:04 am
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 PG&E is going underground in the town of Paradise.

In a surprise announcement, utility officials told residents of the fire-ravaged town at a special meeting that all electric distribution lines will be buried in and around the small city as part of a plan to harden the electrical grid. 

Word of the plan brought people at the meeting to their feet in applause. 

PG&E has over 70 miles of damaged subterranean gas lines to replace in the area. A significant part of the cost of doing that work is digging into the trenches, so utility officials figured they might as well draw up a plan to install its electric distribution lines that bring power to homes and businesses underground. Phone and Internet lines will be buried as well. 

Cal Fire recently made the official determination that PG&E power lines caused the Camp Fire in that killed more people and destroyed more homes in Paradise and other parts of Butte County than any California wildfire before. 

Related: PG&E Equipment Caused State's Worst Wildfire, Cal Fire Determines

The project, which could take up to five years to complete, should harden the electrical grid and improve aesthetics and property values.

Paradise Town Councilwoman Melissa Schuster is all for the plan. 

"It makes our roads safer, because they don't have telephone poles that are going to burn and fall over the roads and prevent evacuations, and they also aren't likely to spark during a windstorm," she said. "I don't think anyone who's lived up here in Paradise hasn't experienced a transformer blowing."

In Schuster's view, PG&E's move goes beyond practicalities for residents who are still coming to grips with the devastating damage the Camp Fire wrought. 

"It felt like a tipping moment, where we can move into forgiveness," she said. 

The project comes at no cost to the town. Work is set to get underway in a matter of weeks.