By Allison Jarrell
Sections of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposed electrical substation expansion in San Juan Capistrano are now being recirculated by the California Public Utilities Commission. The revised DEIR includes a new “environmentally superior” project alternative and additional “significant impacts” of the proposed project the CPUC says were not disclosed in the first draft.
The recirculation of the report is part of the ongoing environmental review process for SDG&E’s South Orange County Reliability Enhancement (SOCRE) project, which aims to create a redundant electrical system that would rely on two substations rather than just the current facility in Talega. SDG&E initially filed the proposal for the project about three years ago with the CPUC.
Following CEQA Guidelines, portions of the DEIR were revised with “significant new information” and are now being recirculated for public comment, which began Aug. 10 and ends Sept. 24. The initial DEIR for the SOCRE project was circulated for public comment for 45 days, beginning Feb. 23 and ending April 10.
In the revised DEIR, prepared by the CPUC, an additional option—Alternative J—is identified as “the new environmentally superior alternative” to the proposed substation expansion in San Juan Capistrano. The alternative involves the expansion of SDG&E’s existing Trabuco substation in Laguna Niguel “to add an additional source of 230-kV power into the South Orange County 138-kV transmission system.”
“This alternative is geographically distinct from the applicant’s proposal, meets most of the basic project objectives, and reduces or avoids impacts identified as significant in the Draft EIR,” the document states.
According to the revised DEIR, the Trabuco substation alternative was suggested by the public during the last 45-day review. The document states “subsequent analysis by the CPUC has shown that the alternative is feasible from a technological, legal, and economic perspective and warrants inclusion in the EIR.”
The recirculated Draft EIR also identifies additional “significant impacts” on biological resources, cultural resources, and land use and planning from construction and operation of the proposed project that were not previously disclosed in the Draft EIR. Such impacts include:
- construction and operation activities within the boundaries of the Talega Conservation Easement and the Prima Deshecha Conservation Easement. The CPUC states that additional coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife is needed to determine the project’s potential to conflict with conservation plans.
- In April, the State Historic Resources Commission recommended that a former utility structure, which sits in front of the existing San Juan substation, be added to the National Register of Historic Places. “Therefore, the CPUC has found that demolition of the…substation, as proposed by the applicant, would result in a significant adverse impact to a historical resource” as defined by CEQA guidelines.
- The proposed project includes the construction of 50-foot-tall buildings, “which significantly conflicts with the applicable building height limit of 35 feet under the San Juan Capistrano Municipal Code.”
“The project, as proposed, is really important for San Diego Gas & Electric and its customers to continue to provide reliable service to all of South Orange County,” said Duane Cave, director of external affairs for SDG&E. “We’re in the process of reviewing the supplemental Draft EIR and will have our comments ready shortly.”
Unlike the previous comment period, which included two public meetings in San Juan and San Clemente in March, the CPUC will not hold meetings during this public review period. Following the 45-day period, the CPUC will prepare a Final EIR. SDG&E officials expect a final decision on the project in early 2016.
To view the recirculated DEIR for the SOCRE project and send comments to the CPUC, visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/Environment/info/ene/socre/socre.html.