The unincorporated township of Gualala, in all its virgin beauty and coastal innocence, has been shamefully deflowered by a gang of unsavory phallic intruders that remain at large and in clear public view. The proper authorities — in this cold case PG&E — have repeatedly failed to apprehend these perpetrators, allowing the gross violation to continue to violently penetrate the collective body of Gualala natives, disgracefully rearing its ugly head for all to see. Thousands of year ago Native Americans appropriately named this quaint place, “where the water comes down.” Unfortunately in more recent times, the naturally intrusive white man has christened Gualala, “where the overhead utility facilities come up.” When Gualala pioneers Elizabeth and Cyrus Robinson began parceling land north of Mal Paso Creek in the mid-19th Century, they did so in a manner as to contractually prevent the new inhabitants from erecting any bars or hotels as a means to protect Gualala’s pristine integrity. In 2007 that integrity remains tainted by overhead distribution facilities that ravish the signature oceanic optics of the South Mendocino Coast.
In August of 2000, at the request of the Gualala community, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution under Electrical Rule 20A and Telecommunications Rule 32a2 to bury the electrical facilities underground. Six years later County Resolution No. 00-145, authorized by PG&E in 2001, failed to accelerate the project’s completion.
Gualala is not alone.
In an attempt to protect the architectural beauty of its Afro-Hellenic homogenous Leroy and Euclid neighborhoods, the city of Berkeley passed ordinances to convert overhead 12kV lines to underground facilities. In accordance with Electrical Rule 20a and Telecommunication Rule 32a2, PG&E started the design phase in 1997, seven years after the initial resolutions. Leroy and Euclid also forced the local cable and phone company (TCI) to consolidate their lines into a single trench with PG&E. Like Gualala, Leroy and Euclid tapped into monies set aside by PG&E for service areas that have accumulated credits through a corporate formula. Once a specific area has accrued sufficient credits, PG&E trench crews break ground and the project begins.
But why the seven year wait for the Gualala project to begin? Why has the Spanish maiden Gualala continued to suffer in shame?
Well, before Leroy and Euclid had their way and the cable was laid, PG&E had to notify local companies that had underground lines in the target service area that they’re going to begin the trenchwork. Those smaller companies then go out and mark their lines to indicate their location to PG&E, clearing the way for the beginning phases of the project. Another major contributor to the seemingly endless project timelines are the earth-friendly methods now employed by PG&E. Their trench crews use hand tools to carefully minimize any environmental damage that will inevitably occur during any earthmoving project in sensitive areas. The application of such commendable green techniques creates delays. Additionally, the colossal length of Leroy and Euclid’s combined cable was nearly 10,000 circuit feet, including switches, fuses, mainline ties, and several horizontal transformers that tie the underground system into the PG&E mainframe. Lots to handle.
In the Leroy and Euclid partnership, 103 overhead facilities were placed underground, and the city installed 27 new streetlights and sidewalks. Their construction presented potential time impediments, and of course Leroy and Euclid wanted the project done in a timely manner, not on PG&E-time. In an effort to expedite the project, the PG&E crews worked day and night, thereby minimizing project set-up and tear-down time and optimized the work effort.
The electrical devices under scrutiny in Gualala are the same 12kV overhead distribution facilities that were replaced with cable laid by Leroy and Euclid in Berkeley. That city, like Gualala found them to be, are an eyesore and moved to have them replaced. Gualala superhero Marshall Sayegh expressed his optimism to the Board of Supervisors recently why their removal is especially important to this small, coastal enclave
“Gualala creates a tourism industry and generates revenue for all of Mendocino County.”
To the oceangoing public in Gualala, the removal of the highly visible electrical devices remain a central issue that undermines potential tourism money that could be lost to south of the Sonoma border. In a community that relies heavily on sea faring adventurers, the removal of these onshore oil platforms are much more than just a community restoration project. The ongoing existence of these electrical derricks has everyone in Gualala wondering what the hell SBC, now AT&T, have been doing since the turn of the 21st century. The company claims they’re planning to move 4,000 circuit feet of the overhead distribution facilities underground along State Highway One, less than half the size of Leroy and Euclid’s mammoth cable, partially removing the stain from Gualala’s dress.
Last January PG&E requested approval to relocate the overhead electric devices underground into a single trench along with telephone lines east of State Highway One. In the case of Leroy and Euclid, PG&E found this method to be cost effective because it calls for only one trench as opposed to an additional, adjacent trench for telecommunication lines, easing property and easement concerns along State Highway One. Additionally, a single trench would minimize domestic intrusion and property concerns.
Presently, PG&E owns twelve easements along State Highway One initially purchased for additional overhead utility facilities. For the last seven years however, Gualala residents have been patiently waiting for PG&E to break ground on this project.
This August, Mr. Howard Dashiell, Mendocino County Director of Transportation, presented the Mendocino Board of Supervisors with an amended version of the prospective Gualala underground utility district. His proposal called for a one mile expansion of the zone in question, extending the projected range from Center Street north to Hubert Avenue along State Highway One. The motion carried unanimously, designating the Gualala area as underground utility district 10, ensuring that there won’t be anything on the horizon in the near future.