Story Corps

Placeholder Image photo credit: Courtesy of PG&E website
PG&E's undergrounding plan for Sonoma County.

Ongoing work by utility PG&E to bury some ten thousand miles of powerlines is drawing local criticism. 

The massive, multi-year project, announced in July 2021, is meant to eliminate one of the significant causes of California wildfires---overhead power lines. 

According to the company, it operates twenty-five thousand miles of overhead distribution lines in the highest fire threat areas.

Glen Ellen resident David Gleba said he recently pored over the utility's construction plans for the next three years, and that Sonoma County is getting the short end of the stick. He's urging county elected officials to step up and use their influence.

"They project they are going to underground 2,000 miles in the next three years," Gleba said to county supervisors at the April 18 board meeting. "Napa County is going to receive, according to the information in the spreadsheet, a hundred and fifty-five miles of undergrounding, Sonoma County is slated to receive seven. I don't have the standing ask why there's that discrepancy, but you do."

 PG&E spokesperson Megan McFarland said the company is addressing the biggest dangers first.

 "When we made this ten-thousand undergrounding miles commitment, we prioritized undergrounding in the highest fire risk communities within our service area," McFarland said. 

This year, 2 miles of distribution lines are scheduled to be buried, along highway 12 in Sonoma Valley. In 2024? 4 miles.

McFarland said which potential dangers get addressed first is based on science and research.

"We have this machine learning-based risk model that looks at fire propagation technology and we look at the areas and identify those with the highest wildfire risk. we also use a team of local fire safety and public safety specialists, they know a lot about the local conditions," McFarland said. 

While the utility plans to underground 41 miles worth of lines in Napa County by late next year, even more work is planned for counties along the east slope of the Sierra, which have also seen one devastating fire after another.

For example, 65 miles are expected to be undergrounded in Nevada County, and in Butte County, 125.

  • SoCo Calendar
  • Right Now
  • Weather
  • Earthquakes
  • First News
thumbnail FirstNews logoA weekday early morning podcast that offers a first look at the top local news stories and weather forecast you need to start your day.

Sonoma County news stories featuring the latest in breaking news, county government, elections, environment, cultural happenings, and updates on your communities, from Petaluma to Cloverdale, and from Sonoma to Bodega Bay, and everyplace in between.

Subscribe to the Sonoma County First News podcast through our website, the NorCal Mobile App, NPR Podcasts, NPR One, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Read More

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.