After unplanned outages last month left thousands of customers without power, Southern California Edison responded Tuesday to pressure from La Cañada city officials, promising to replace more than 9,000 feet of underground cable and make numerous upgrades in coming months.
Meanwhile, city officials will seek to hire an independent consultant who could report on Edison’s progress and advise staff on the feasibility of seeking electrical utility service elsewhere.
Ken Bodenhoefer, district manager of SCE’s Monrovia service center, shared with the La Cañada Flintridge City Council Tuesday new, expedited plans for improving reliability on the city’s Ravine Circuit, which provides power to 1,337 local customers on and around Foothill Boulevard from Commonwealth Avenue to the Glendale (2) Freeway.
FOR THE RECORD
10/10, 10:16 a.m.: A previous version of this story included an incorrect headline. Edison will replace more than 9,000 feet of underground cable, not 9,000 miles.
“I’ve already got the approval of the funding for that,” Bodenhoefer said. “We’re going to have the actual plans drawn up the end of this week, and my team has told me they’re ready to go.”
In addition to laying new cable, Edison plans to create “branch fusing” off main lines that would prevent a failure in one neighborhood from disrupting an entire circuit, in addition to other improvements that would take place in early 2017.
The manager said the work, which would cost about $5 million to $6 million, would be added to ongoing plans to continue converting transformers throughout La Cañada from a 4-volt to a 16-volt capacity, replace existing power poles with newer, sturdier models and install fault indicators to help engineers better identify problems in underground facilities.
Bodenhoefer estimated SCE spent “in the tens of millions of dollars” between 2010 and 2015 upgrading infrastructure in La Cañada, which reliability reports indicate already has a favorable reliability compared to other areas in its system.
“That doesn’t make the outages your community has experienced acceptable,” he qualified. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”
To ensure those commitments are kept and explore other options the city might consider — including asking the cities of Pasadena and Glendale if their municipal power departments might consider taking over electrical utility service delivery to La Cañada — council members permitted City Manager Mark Alexander to seek the advice of an independent consultant.
An adviser with industry specific expertise would also be able to track the utility’s progress in resolving longstanding reliability issues, Alexander reasoned.
"[It] would be of tremendous help to city staff to have someone who’s very knowledgeable in this area take a look at what Edison is doing and look at some of the information that Edison has provided us, and do the comparisons with some of the surrounding communities and come back to the staff and give us…sort of a report card on Edison,” he told the council.
Council members and city staff had opportunities to pose specific questions to Bodenhoefer about incidents of reliability and specific events and conversations that have taken place between representatives of Edison and the city, and to share their opinions on obtaining expert third-party consultation.
“We have to look at our citizens, and our citizens are crying out for us to do something,” Councilwoman Terry Walker told Bodenhoefer. “The reassurances sound wonderful, but I think we need to educate ourselves to the point where we can look at our citizens and feel confident that we know what you’re doing is what we need to have happen in this town.”
After giving Alexander the green light to look into a consultant, Mayor Jon Curtis thanked Edison for responding so readily to the city’s concerns.
“I just want to thank you for coming out tonight,” he said. "(And) thank you for all the work you’ve done to come up with truly some concrete action steps for 2016-2017, and for putting those types of resources in.”
After the meeting, Alexander said he planned to begin researching possible consultants to contact later this month before bringing the matter back to the council.
Sara Cardine, firstname.lastname@example.org