CALIFORNIA, (KTXL) — Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) are undertaking one of the largest infrastructure projects in state history as they work to bury 10,000 miles of power lines to help prevent wildfires.
In July 2021, PG&E Chief Executive Officer Paddy Poppy announced the massive project as the Dixie Fire was raging across five counties near the Plumas National Forest.
The fire was caused by a tree falling onto a PG&E power line and ended up burning nearly one million acres of land and destroying hundreds of homes.
“That tree that fell on our line is one of eight million trees that are in strike distance to our lines,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Patty Poppe said. “This is an extraordinary problem.”
The utility company is currently targeting high fire risk areas, like in Pollock Pines, where work is underway to get those overhead power lines underground.
“I am actually surprised that they opted for this,” Pollock Pines resident Randy Immer said. “I mean it is a good option, but oh my goodness the expense.”
During last year’s Caldor Fire that burned through the Eldorado National Forest and threatened homes in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine Counties, Immer was evacuated from his home for 17 days.
There are 20 counties that have been listed for underground work this year including Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas and Solano counties.
The utility is projected to be $3.7 million per mile with an anticipated total cost of tens-of-billions of dollars.
The goal for 2022 is to bury 175 miles of line and by 2026 to have 3,600 miles buried.
Something to keep in mind is that while PG&E is placing their lines underground it does not mean that cable and telephone companies will do the same, even though PG&E has invited them to do so.
This means that power poles will remain up and PG&E is working to replace combustible wooden poles with noncombustible composite poles.
PG&E has not provided a completion date for the 10,000 miles yet.