California became known for its widespread power shut-offs over this last fire season. Nevada, however, is also not immune from this push by electric utility giants in the Golden State being used to prevent wildfires.
More than 200 member-owners of Valley Electric Association Inc. could see their power shut off during the fire season.
James Andresen, director of engineering and operations for Valley Electric Association, said, “Our members in Fish Lake Valley are impacted by the Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS).”
These power shut-offs, done to prevent wildfires, were used heavily throughout the 2019 fire season by major utilities in California such as Pacific Gas &Electric Corp. and Southern California Edison. In one instance, PG&E cut power to 738,000 customers in Northern California.
In Fish Lake Valley, the impact will be much smaller in comparison to those numbers. Andresen said about 209 member-owners in the Fish Lake Valley area have the potential to be affected by the shut-offs.
The power is coming from Southern California Edison into the Fish Lake area, but Valley still services the transmission lines.
Andresen said Fish Lake Valley could be affected “because they’re served from Southern California Edison. It’s a stranded system up there. There’s a transmission tie between Southern California Edison and Silver Peak, and Silver Peak is NV Energy, and Bishop controls Southern California Edison.”
Andresen said the likelihood is high that these lines could be shut off.
“There’s a very good likelihood that they will shut it off,” Andresen said. “It’s a very old line that runs through from Bishop through Fish Lake Valley onto Silver Peak.”
Andresen said, “If they do fall into a Public Safety Power Shut-off event, the line will not be re-energized until the entire line has been patroled. That transmission line has to meet certain criteria to hit this. We haven’t hit it at all yet …”
Fish Lake Valley did suffer an eight-hour power outage this fall “because there was a red flag warning, and the line opened right at the end before the red flag warning expired, and they would not energize it until it was completely patroled, so they suffered about an eight-hour outage that day,” Andresen said.
Valley has communicated this information to those that could be affected by the shut-offs. Kathleen Keyes, director for Valley’s District 4 and the co-op’s board president, has held town halls in the area to alert those members, according to Andresen.
Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at email@example.com, on Twitter @MeehanLv
BLM implements policy for wildfire prevention
The Bureau of Land Management Nevada State Office instituted a new policy that could prevent future wildfires.
The BLM implemented a new policy to limit fire risk from power lines that cross BLM-managed public lands. The BLM’s policy lays out guidance for effectively managing vegetation adjacent to and within electric transmission and distribution line right-of-ways, which the BLM calls ROWS.
“By allowing utilities to conduct operation and maintenance activities to prevent and suppress wildfire immediately, without an additional authorization from the BLM, we can reduce the amount of hazardous fuels and increase the safety of communities throughout the state,” said BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby in a news release from the BLM state office.
“The new policy also includes updated guidance on agency monitoring of ROW holders’ activities for preventing wildfire in and around a ROW,” the BLM’s (state office) release stated.
The BLM has tens of thousands of miles it administers with right-of-ways (nearly 17,000) for electric transmission and distribution lines across 11 western states and Alaska. The transmission and distribution lines run across over 70,000 miles in these states.
“These ROWs (right-of-ways) often contain or are adjacent to dead or dying trees and other vegetation that, if not properly maintained, can make contact with power lines and create a fire hazard,” the BLM’s (state office) release stated.
Congress took action in 2018 to reduce these fire hazards by amending the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Congress added “specific agency requirements for administering power line” right-of-ways.
“The policy is part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13855 – Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order (S.O.) 3372 – Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management,” the BLM’s release stated.
The release stated, “The two orders direct the BLM and other Interior agencies to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.”
—Jeffrey Meehan, Pahrump Valley Times