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Manteca power outrage

Rural residents upset about transmission line plans

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POSTED May 13, 2009 1:49 a.m.
A 30-acre almond orchard that has been home to five generations of the Freitas family faces the threat of being bisected literally by giant power transmission lines.

Not only would the towering power lines that look like robots in the horizon intrude on the almond blossoms on spring; building them would take a swath of up to 200 feet wide of prime land straight down the middle of the small farm that has been with the family since the early 1930s.

Don and Mary Freitas are not the only ones rising up in arms against the gigantic 600-mile project of the Transmission Agency of Northern California. Simply called the TANC Transmission Project or TTP, the proposal is to construct a nerve center of transmission lines stretching from Fremont up to north of Redding and Lassen County along the stretch of the Interstate 5 and Highway 99 corridors, and jogging east on the south side of the 120 Bypass in Manteca on its way to the foothills via San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

In fact, the map that shows the preliminary TTP routes being proposed shows the transmission lines marching up and down the entire south side of Fig Avenue which stretches from Union Road to Airport Way. This low-density area is home to several farming homes.

This segment of the route actually forks south of Wetherbee Lake, with the northern tine as the one running along Fig Avenue. The southern branch of this fork runs along the south side of the entire length of farm-rich Veritas Road until it meets up with the northern line near Highway 99 at Austin Road.

“They want to take 200 feet of our property right down the center of it,” said a furious Mary Freitas whose family farm is located at Veritas and Tinnin roads.

“For them to just say, ‘this is what we’re going to do, we’re taking your property,’ is kind of shocking. And the thing is, high voltage power lines going into your property lowers the value of your property. No one would want to live under power lines,” she said.

Another small-farm owner who lives not too far from the Freitas orchard is Mark Roiland. He fully agrees with Mary Freitas’ sentiments about the project’s impact on the value of their properties.

“My property here now is probably worth between $800,000 and $1 million because we have a big house, a six-car garage, a riding arena and horses with stalls. It’s got a lot of potential. They put that stuff (power lines) and I won’t be able to put this place away if I want to move,” said Roiland who, along with his wife, are hoping to augment their retirement pensions from the small income they generate from their 11-acre almond orchard.

But, he said, just three or four of those “gigantic towers will take up my whole property; they might as well take it away.”

He said his next-door neighbors who farm a 19-acre almond orchard are also concerned because the husband does not have a pension and, like Roiland, are relying on their almond crop income to live by.

“That (project) is going to kill our entire crop because they are going to use our entire ground,” Roiland said.

He said they are also concerned about what impacts these high-voltage power lines will have on the health of residents who live near them.

Meeting on project in Tracy Thursday
“Both my wife and I have had cancer, so this is adding more stress in our life. If you’re living near these high-tension wires 24/7, you’re affected constantly by those things,” Roiland said.

Ironically, he said, “Of all the millions and millions of acres in California, you (referring to TANC) are going through my 11 acres? This is insane. What are the odds of that happening?  It’s like winning the lottery. It’s unbelievable.”

What’s making the property owners like the Freitas and Roiland families hopping mad even more is the fact the notice that they received in the mail late last week was only the extension of what they understood to be a period in which TANC was supposed to collect input from affected property owners in conformity with government mandates for projects like the TTP.

“We never got any notice at all. We didn’t even hear anything about it until we got this one in the mail. I received mine on Friday,” Roiland said.

The notice on TANC’s web site states: “The Transmission Agency of Northern  California and Western Area Power Administration have heard your requests for more time to submit scoping comments on the preliminary proposed TTP study areas. As a result, we have chosen to formally extend the public comment period for the TTP Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) scoping process by an additional 31 days.”

The web site goes on to say that comments are now accepted through May 31.

The notice stated that these comments must be submitted in writing to Mr. David young, NEPA Document Manager, Western Area Power Administration, Sierra Nevada Region, 114 Parkshore Drive, Folsom, CA 95630. They may also be faxed to 916-353-4772, or e-mailed to TTPEIS@wapa.gov no later than May 31, 2009.

Concerned property owners who would like to know more about this project and what they can do about it are also invited to attend an informational meeting Thursday, May 14, at 9:30 a.m. at Old River Golf Course, McArthur Boulevard at Highway 205 in Tracy. This meeting is being held in conjunction with the Farm Bureau, which may be contacted at (209) 931-4931 for more details.
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