This power line runs through rugged terrain in Northern Lassen County near the Hayden Hill Gold Mine site. File photo

Local utility sends Hayden Hill letter to county

Those at the Lassen Municipal Utility District prepared a letter to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors in regards to the Hayden Hill power line.

The utility’s letter is in response to a request by the county late last year asking LMUD to either make plans for the removal of the Hayden Hill power line, or present a proposal that would sufficiently please the county as well as be legally acceptable.

LMUD general manager Doug Smith gave a summation of the main points expressed in the letter to be shared at the county’s March 2 meeting and at the utility’s Feb. 25 meeting.

“So the key points are that the county amended the reclamation plan in 1999 to allow the line to stay in place,” said Smith. “The original reclamation plan called for it to be removed but they were approached by some residents of the area up there, and the county agreed to amend the reclamation plan.”

Smith said the amendment would require the county to make an amendment to its general plan, but that it was doable.

The letter also centered around points the utility wanted to make to the county, such as, “the removal will be costly and could have adverse environmental impacts” and that “the line is not currently energized so it poses no risk” of such things as fire.

The letter mentioned LMUD’s stance that the line could be used to provide electricity to a small number of residents in the power line’s area.

Smith wanted to make a point to address the power line as a valuable piece of infrastructure: “There are really a limited number of parcels that could be developed without further action and approval from the county. So the future development is really under the control of the county to a large degree.”

LMUD board member Jess Urionaguena suggested placing at least an estimated numerical value of the line in the letter.

Smith shared the letter’s final point which was LMUD finds no compelling reason to use public funds to remove the line.

The power line sits in Surprise Valley’s territory, and according to Smith the utility in the area has an “absolute right and actually an obligation — if there were no line there, they have the right to put a line in. It’s just really a matter of the funding of the line, and so the line is there now. The citizens that are up there — that would otherwise have to pay Surprise Valley to put a line in — can benefit from the line already in there.”

LMUD counsel Eugene Chittock suggested the letter address the estimated cost to remove the line, the power line’s total estimated value and what it would cost to replace.

Urionaguena mentioned a conversation he recently had with Lassen County supervisor David Teeter. He told the board Teeter feels that “somehow, some way there has to be an environmental impact statement” for the power line to remain.

Urionaguena suggested Teeter did not care if the line would cost the utility up to $2 million.

Smith and the several of the board members disagreed with the potentially expensive environmental review.

The key point Smith made to the board (as well as in his letter) is that, “there really is no environmental impact just for leaving the line in place,” and that “the only potential environmental impact that’s mentioned … is from growth in the area. Fish and Wildlife is concerned about lost habitat.”

Chittock had recently spoken with another attorney from Downey Brand, who told him the financial expenditures for an environmental impact review would be less than $200,000.

Smith spoke of the insistence of the county concerning the absolute need to perform the environmental work. However, he mentioned LMUD’s CEQA attorney did not agree.

Nagel interjected, “We may have new supervisors (soon) too.”

Chittock responded, “Well, that’s the whole issue. March can bring us some new faces.”

The final point made in the letter to the board of supervisors was the request for both Lassen County and the utility to hold a meeting to discuss the matter together.