MOORLACH UPDATE — Moving Down the Line — August 31, 2016

Today is the last day of Session. We continue to process bills at a heavy clip and need to conclude by midnight.

Some bills are amended enough to find no opposition and are put on the consent calendar. That’s what happened to SB 1463, a local bill that my office and I have been working on with the city of Laguna Beach (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016 march 25, 2016 john moorlach).

The OC Register provides the latest on this effort in the piece below (read online here: http://m.ocregister.com/articles/fire-727460-city-laguna.html)

Laguna Beach’s undergrounding bill headed to governor

ocr2cf-b88787166z.120160830181716000gm4ii3dt.10.jpgMotorists head northbound along Laguna Canyon Road underneath power lines. A plan to bury utility lines to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire in Laguna Beach might be getting some help from Sacramento.H. LORREN AU JR., REGISTER FILE PHOTO

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE / STAFF WRITER

A plan to underground utility poles and wires in Laguna Beach to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire might be getting some help from Sacramento.

City officials on Monday announced that legislation initiated by the city is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Senate Bill 1463, authored by state Sen. John Moorlach on behalf of Laguna Beach, provides direction to the California Public Utilities Commission to develop enhanced fire mitigation measures to prevent fires caused by overhead electrical lines. The bill further directs the CPUC to prioritize areas at high risk of fires from overhead utility lines and to describe how the concerns expressed by local governments have been addressed through the process, City Manager John Pietig said in a statement.

Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the legislation.

“I am extremely pleased that our months of hard work on this legislation has paid off for Laguna Beach and other cities like ours that face extreme fire risk from above-ground utilities,” Councilman Bob Whalen said.

He also thanked Moorlach’s efforts to push the bill in Sacramento. Whalen has traveled to Sacramento a few times in recent months to testify before committees and to consult with legislative staffs.

“It was an uphill battle with the electric utilities, the cable TV operators and their lobbyists watching our every move,” he added. “We didn’t get everything we wanted in this bill, but it is an important first step and will strengthen our hand as we do battle at the CPUC to make sure that Laguna Beach is recognized as an area for enhanced measures to prevent fires caused by overhead utilities.”

City officials called for citywide undergrounding of utilities following a 15-acre wildfire in July 2015 that started when trees fell into utility wires, causing a power surge that sparked flames. More than 200 firefighters, including many resources from the Orange County Fire Authority and other agencies assisted the Laguna Beach Fire Department that day.

“We can no longer risk the public safety of Laguna Beach by allowing above-ground utilities,” Whalen said then. “A major fire disaster caused by power lines is only a matter of time.”

In the last 10 years there have been at least four fires in Laguna Beach ignited by downed power lines, including one that blocked Laguna Canyon Road for an entire Labor Day weekend. Just a week ago, the canyon road was closed again for at least eight hours after a car spun and hit a utility pole, knocking down wires.

About 40 percent of the city’s utility lines have already been placed underground, paid mostly by assessment districts.

Contact the writer: eritchie or on Twitter:@lagunaini

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.

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