A 27-mile-long Pacific Gas & Electric transmission line that runs from Antioch through the heart of Contra Costa County could soon carry more electricity.

PG&E is modifying its 230-kilovolt Contra Costa-Moraga power line by replacing the wire and working on nearly half of the 132 towers along the route. The goals are to meet increasing service loads in Contra Costa and Alameda counties and maintain service reliability, said Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokeswoman.

The high-wire act is slated to begin next year, as PG&E's plans are under environmental review by the state's Water Resources Quality Control Board. The 30-day public review period for the plans started last week and ends on Nov. 7.

PG&E hopes to start construction on the estimated $45 million project by late spring 2014, and energize the new lines by December 2015. During construction, residents may see crews using cranes or helicopters to lift extension pieces or wire to an existing transmission tower, Sarkissian said. One tower is within 130 feet of homes, thus copters can only hover there for 15-minute periods.

Work on the towers includes replacing their cages, which will extend the height of some about 16 feet to meet federal ground clearance standards, and adding steel plates and anchors to the bottom for reinforcement.

It would also have to replace switches and voltage transformers at the Contra Costa, Rossmoor and Moraga substations.

The project will not require any planned service interruptions for PG&E customers, she said. PG&E would not have to change away right-of-ways or acquire new land for the project.

The Contra Costa-Moraga line runs from the Contra Costa power plant substation on Wilbur Avenue in northeast Antioch through the hills north of Mt. Diablo and into Clayton and Concord. It then passes through Walnut Creek, Alamo, Rossmoor and the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail before ending at the Moraga substation near Lost Valley and Valley View drives.

An analysis by the utility in 2009 found that emergency capacity on the line can be exceeded during peak summer hours or times of tough power flow condition. The existing line has a normal summer rating of 826 amps and an emergency rating of 954. The new line would have a capacity of 1,714 amps.

Several East Bay environmental groups contacted last week said they had not looked at PG&E's plans, but planned to and possibly comment.

PG&E will also have to take steps to limit dust and emission from idling vehicles, have a project biologist to monitor or possibly relocate rare animals and birds and can only do construction during the day.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

TO COMMENT:
The 30-day public review period opened on Wednesday and ends on Nov. 7. Written comments should be sent to Brian Dailey, Environmental Scientist, Water Quality Certification Unit, Division of Water Quality, State Water Board, 1001 I St., 15th Floor, #5, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Dailey can be reached at 916-341-5462 or Brian.Dailey@waterboards.ca.gov.
Anyone with questions for PG&E about the project can contact Rory Dimick, customer outreach specialist, at 925-459-6158 or electricreliability@pge.com.
A copy of PG&E's submitted Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration can be viewed at the State Water Board's website: www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/cwa401/notices/2013.shtml.