Edison plans grid upgrade completion by fall

Southern California Edison power lines run through the Santa Clarita Valley. Bobby Block / The Signal

Seven electric circuits in Santa Clarita frequently impacted by Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS, will be improved to reduce the number of power outages triggered by extreme weather events, according to Liz Seelman, a representative for Southern California Edison. 

Edison expects to complete the improvements by September 2021, Seelman told the Santa Clarita City Council in a presentation Tuesday night. Seelman said these seven circuits have experienced four or more outages since 2019, qualifying them for a variety of improvements.  

SCE will enhance 81 miles of wire in a process known as grid hardening, which is a targeted replacement of bare wire with insulated wires. Grid hardening gives the wires the ability “to safely brace the wind-speed thresholds that trigger a PSPS event,” Seelman said. 

“Grid hardening will make circuits more resilient in the face of extreme weather events,” Seelman told council members. “It’s going to reduce the scope (and) the size of the (PSPS) event (and) the frequency and the duration of future PSPS events.” 

Segmentation is also part of Edison’s menu of improvements.  

“We are installing additional automated devices on circuits that allow us to further isolate and reduce the number of customers that can be de-energized during a PSPS event,” she said. 

A planned weather station near Sierra Highway will help too, according to Seelman. 

She said the weather station will “improve our situational awareness and increase the accuracy of where PSPSP de-energization may need to take place.” 

Switching protocols — moving customers in a deenergized circuit to a nearby energized circuit — and operational protocols — area-specific fire risk assessments by fire scientists — will also help achieve Edison’s goal of a 98% reduction in customer outage time. The goal assumes weather conditions experienced in 2020. 

Historical buildings receive funding 

Council members approved $125,000 for seismic improvements to four historical buildings at William S. Hart Park.  

The buildings are owned by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, which formally requested the financial support in a letter to the City Council dated April 19, and sit in a park owned by Los Angeles County. 

“We’ve had several conversations over the last month or two regarding the state of the buildings. We’ve also seen the plans, we’ve seen the pictures, we’ve seen in depth the current situation with the structural deficiencies,” City Manager Ken Striplin said. “We do believe that, based on the structural integrity, it does warrant an emergency grant to help get it fixed sooner rather than later.” 

Seeking to bridge union, hospital divide

Council members repeated their calls for a civil conversation between Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and union carpenters around the hospital-expansion plan, which the City Council approved on April 13. 

“It would be a very good thing if all the parties met and discussed,” said Mayor Bill Miranda, noting he supports fair wages and fair benefits for labor hired to build new buildings on the hospital’s campus. “I, as mayor, would be willing to be part of that meeting, if it makes it any easier to take place.” 

“I don’t like this fight,” Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste said. “I’d like to see people sit down and work through it.” 

Councilman Jason Gibbs echoed Weste’s comments. 

“We work better and we deserve better to have everybody in the room together,” said Gibbs, who has met with hospital and union leaders. “If they can sit with me individually to do that, they need to be able to sit with each other to do that.” 

Councilwoman Marsha McLean called union protests of the hospital “premature.” 

“I was told that when it comes time for the contracts to be negotiated, there will be seats at the table for everyone,” McLean said. “Everybody needs to treat everyone else with respect.” 

The hospital has not set a timeline for constructing the 200,000-square-foot expansion, which will include a new inpatient tower, diagnostic and treatment building and new levels to an existing parking structure. 

The City Council is scheduled to hold its next regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. May 11. Council members are expected to join the Santa Clarita Planning Commission the week before, on May 4, for a joint budget review session. 

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