Mining company offered to transfer Hayden Hill line to landowners 24 years ago — if the line’s removal is not required

Here’s the letter to the landowners’ association.

For nearly 25 years, landowners in the North County have sought to get power from the Hayden Hill transmission line, and the requirement to remove the line once the Hayden Hill Gold Mine closed has been a thorny, unresolved issue since the very inception of the notion to convert its intended sole use by the mine until it closed to use by nearby landowners. Those two issues collided, perhaps for the first time, in a 1998 letter to a landowners’ association from the gold mining company.

Arnold D. Luther, an environmental coordinator representing Lassen Gold Mine, Inc., wrote a Willow Creek Landowners Association attorney stating the gold mining company would “transfer title of the transmission line” to the group “if Lassen County determines removal of the line is not necessary.”

Luther wrote the letter to WCLA attorney Trent W. Orr on Nov. 9, 1998.

“Thank you for your letter dated Oct. 14, 1998, on behalf of your clients, the Willow Creek Landowners Association, concerning the power line serving Lassen Gold Mining, Inc., Hayden Hill Gold Mine,” Luther wrote.

“As stated during our phone conversation on Oct. 14, 1998, with respect to the ultimate disposition of the power line, it is the position of LGMI to neither support nor oppose a title transfer of the power transmission line. LMGI is currently required by the county use permit to remove the line. If Lassen County determines removal of the line is not necessary, LGMI will transfer title of the line to the Willow Creek Landowners Association. However, LGMI will not initiate this request with Lassen County nor participate in such a request. We appreciate your interest in the power line and hope the issue can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Until all permit issues are resolved, LGMI is not prepared to issue a letter of support to the Willow Creek Landowners Association.”

No correspondence from the landowners’ association to the county was included in public documents Lassen News obtained from the county’s building department regarding the Hayden Hill line.

And all these years later, that battle still rages. Now the publicly owned utility district wants to help those North County residents who are not and never will be its customers finally get the power from the line as they desired all those years ago. However, the sticking point still remains — the county requires removal of the line because an EIR was not done when it went in under the condition it be removed when the mine closed. LMUD wants to change all that.

Last week, Maurice Anderson, director of the Lassen County Department of Planning and Building Services, made a presentation to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors on the progress made to date on a request for an EIR on the line and subsequent possible modifications to the county’s General and Reclamation plans from LMUD. The publicly owned utility district plans to spend $300,000 for the study rather than remove the line, a condition LMUD agreed to when it purchased the line for $65,000 in December 2007 — a purchase LMUD later characterized as “worthless.”

On Tuesday, March 22, LMUD General Manager Pat Holley told the supervisors not only would paying $300,000 for the EIR save the ratepayers’ money (when compared to the $1 million estimated cost of removal — bid at $38,000 when LMUD bought the line in 2007) — it is now considered a “valuable asset” that should remain in place for future use by North County residents.

According to LMUD’s EIR request to the county signed by Holley, “LMUD will take responsibility of completing necessary environmental studies per Lassen County Department of Planning and Building Services. LMUD seeks approval within the General Plan and the Reclamation Plan to allow Surprise Valley Electrical Corp. to own and operate the Hayden Hill line as described above. The ownership and permits for the Hayden Hill Line would be transferred to Surprise Valley and then they would engage in preparing to provide electrical service to individual customers on parcels that are located adjacent to the line.”