Final EIS/EIR favors shortest route for Barren Ridge Renewable Energy Project

The final environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (EIS/EIR) for the Barren Ridge Renewable Energy Project in Los Angeles and Kern Counties of California identifies the shortest of four alternatives as the preferred route under both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) criteria.

The project, which was proposed in the utility’s 2007 integrated resources plan, was proposed as a way to bring renewable energy from the remote locations where it is generated – including the Owens Valley, Mojave Desert, and Tehachapi Mountains – to the load centers of Los Angeles. The project will help the state meet its aggressive renewable portfolio standard of 33% renewable energy by 2020.

Begun in 2008, the scoping process included informational public meetings, preliminary studies, and public comments on the draft EIS/EIR. A total of 16 identified alternatives to the project were considered and eliminated, including generation, design, and routing options.

The final EIS/EIR includes four alternatives for building the project, along with a “no action” alternative.

The proposed project consists of four components that are common to all four of the action alternatives analyzed in the final EIS/EIR. According to the document, those components include adding 12 miles of a new 230-kV circuit to existing double-circuit structures from Haskell Canyon to the Castaic Power Plant, reconductoring 76 miles of 230-kV line with larger-capacity conductors between the Barren Ridge switching station and the Rinaldi substation, expanding the existing Barren Ridge switching station and building a new switching station in Haskell Canyon.

The component of the project that will differ between the action alternatives is the construction of a new 230-kV double-circuit transmission line from the Barren Ridge to Haskell Canyon switching stations.

For that component, the final EIS/EIR identified four alternatives listed as alternatives 1, 2, 2a, and 3.

Alternative 2 is the preferred alternative and, at 61 miles, is the shortest route for the new transmission line. In that alignment, the entire route would parallel existing transmission lines and remain within designated utility corridors.

Alternative 2a is similar to alternative 2, but is rerouted around the unincorporated community of Green Valley, Calif., and adds approximately two miles to the total length of the line. Approximately four miles of this alternative that passes through the Angeles National Forest (ANF) would have to be constructed by helicopter where terrain is steep and access is limited.

Alternative 3 would also parallel existing transmission lines for much of its length but would take a more circuitous route totaling 76 miles. According to the final EIS/EIS, alternative three “has the potential to impact portions of unincorporated Kern and Los Angeles counties” as well as 11 cities and towns.

At 83 miles in length, alternative 1 would be the longest route. A portion of this route would be constructed within the ANF, and would require helicopters to complete the construction of approximately eight miles of line where terrain is steep and access is limited.

The final EIS/EIR also includes a “no action” alternative, under which current, on-going operation and maintenance of existing facilities would continue. However, a “no action” alternative would avoid all impacts associated with construction and maintenance of the proposed project.

The document lists seven “adverse environmental impacts” that cannot be avoided. Those consist of impacts on biological resources and cultural resources, including the Olive Power Plant 1 transmission line, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The final EIS/EIR was prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (USFS), and the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as co-lead agencies under NEPA, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) as the lead agency under CEQA.

Design and engineering is expected between 2012 and 2014, with construction beginning in 2013. The project’s target in-service date is Dec. 2016, a LADWP spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 6. Estimated cost of the project is $410m.