The city’s urgency in undergrounding utilities is the mitigation of risk from wildfire caused by Edison utility poles, yet nothing in the schedule or execution of this project actually mitigates fire risk until project completion.
That’s because the project duration is so long the town remains under threat from fire while you are busy replacing poles for 51 years. It’s like a moon-shot project, first you subsidize a spaceship for 12 years and $25.4 billion, but you land a man on the moon at project end.
The undergrounding project plan calls for removing Laguna’s threatening utility poles. City undergrounding supporting documents show four wildfires occurred in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2015 associated with Edison utility poles. One pole was located along the main evacuation route of Laguna Canyon Road, one fire started by a fallen tree, one by a car impact, two caused by Edison equipment failures.
Taken in sequence, the projects of Laguna Canyon Road, evacuation routes, and residential assessment districts would take 51 years to complete (6+15+30) for $200 million ($90+$45M+$65M). Fifteen years into the project our traffic will increase by 167% and the threat from wayward drivers will also increase. Fifty-one years in, the project will finish and the Morlocks below ground rejoice (H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”). Above ground the power delivery technology has changed, the buried utility is now obsolete and the Eloi are screwed. Apollo 11 doesn’t go to the moon anymore because the purpose for going and technology are both obsolete.
The supporting documents show one encouraging slide titled City Acquisition of Electrical System, the last bullet reads “Costs and Debt Unknown” but sadly the project has not investigated this option. Another slide titled Harden Existing Utilities System explains how the existing overhead utilities could be upgraded and “hardened” from fire danger in two to four years.
If we want to mitigate Laguna’s risk from wildfire we should do something effective like turn the power off or better: perform inspections upgrades and install impact barriers around poles while we study replacement utility technologies.
P.S. Apollo 11 landed on the moon today, July 20, 1969. We watched the landing on a 13-channel black and white Zenith television (made in the USA).
Les Miklosy, Laguna Beach