Utility plans September vote on wildfire mitigation plan

Lassen County’s local utility is near completion of its state-mandated wildfire mitigation plan.

The draft plan was completed by the utility’s staff in accordance with Senate Bill 901, which is now Section 8387 of the Public Utilities Code

Lassen Municipal Utility District’s Assistant General Manager Patrick Holley sent the draft plan as “homework” for board members at its Aug. 27 meeting, and back for board approval at its Sept. 24 meeting.

It includes steps LMUD will take to “minimize the chance of ignition of fire” due to its equipment.

Upon completion, the plan will be monitored by the California Public Utilities Commission.

LMUD will expand its inspection program, its tree-trimming program and many other elements, including drone patrol.

The utility also put into the plan weather monitoring, and Holley noted that it requires money and resources to fully implement.

“Additionally, we’re looking at specialized equipment that reduces the potential for ignition,” said Holley. “There’s all kinds of technology that’s out there that’s relatively inexpensive.”

SB 901 mandates plans be finished before January 2020, but Holley brought the draft early to give the board time to sort through the entire plan, which includes various funds be spent.

LMUD general manager Doug Smith told board members the utility put the draft plan before the board early because they were also going to send it to other agencies before its completion.

Those agencies include the city of Susanville, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, local fire departments and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The draft plan presented by the staff incorporates the utility’s objectives and strategies toward minimizing sources of ignition; resiliency of the electrical grid and wildfire prevention strategies and programs.

It outlines the utility’s governance structure of wildfire mitigation; its roles and responsibilities for recovery; coordination with local water departments, communication infrastructure providers and a standardized emergency management system.

LMUD’S draft identifies the risks and drivers of those risks associated with topographic and climatological factors, such as extended drought, low humidity, weather (including high winds and lightning), terrain, human activities and climate change.

The utility will take aim at incorporating the CPUC’s fire threat map, which considers the service area as a Tier 2 — or elevated and not extreme — fire risk.

In addition to weather monitoring, LMUD will continue to monitor the National Electric Safety Code and assess the radial clearances of its bare line conductors from tree branches, foliage and vegetation.

The utility will continue to implement workforce training, and do so speaking to the new requirements as it develops new or updated procedures.

It shared LMUD’s plans for deenergization due to fire threat conditions, impacts to public safety; customer notification protocols; community outreach, public awareness and restoration of service.

The draft plan concludes with a plan for the program’s evaluation.