SCE Inspecting Malibu Power Lines with Drones and Helicopters
Southern California Edison (SCE) has started conducting aerial inspections of their power distribution infrastructure in the Malibu area using drones and helicopters during daylight hours. The activity will continue for several weeks. For more information, visit the SCE website.
SCE's tree trimming work is underway in malibu
State regulations require utilities to trim trees or vegetation so they do not grow into or fall into high-voltage power lines, which can cause a power outage, as well as spark a fire or be a danger to the public. SCE's enhanced tree trimming is part of its Wildfire Mitigation Plan submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in February, 2019 and SCE's Grid Safety and Resiliency Program filed with the PUC last year. SCE has posted information about its tree trimming efforts. It includes a Q&A and a diagram of how they plan to implement clearances.
Right Tree, Right Place - SCE FAQ Handout
SCE produced a handout with information about making tree and landscaping selections to ensure that the vegetation planted is appropriate for a specific purpose or location.
Upcoming Tree Trimming Schedule:
General information ABOUT SCE's TREE TRIMMING PLAN
- SCE acknowledges that work in the Coastal Zone is subject to stricter rules than non-coastal areas due to Local Coastal Programs (LCPs).
- SCE agrees to share the results of all of its initial surveys with the City and County prior to beginning any work so that staff can confirm that only routine vegetation maintenance work is proposed, and that any work requiring a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) will be identified before trimming work starts.
- SCE believes that, even with the new, greater CPUC clearance recommendations, the overall majority of work will involve maintaining trees at the same cuts as last year and previous years. SCE agreed that cutting deeper than the previous years’ cut could warrant the need for a CDP, especially in the case of the City’s five protected tree species and Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA). The City will review all of the inspection results and coordinate with SCE on CDP requirements.
- SCE's biggest concerns are with fast-growing trees and palm trees due to high fire sensitivity. As part of the inventory, SCE will provide a list of fast-growing trees to the City.
- SCE has performed similar tree-trimming procedures worked closely with other communities that have sensitive tree and habitat issues (La Cañada Flintridge) and is willing to work with City staff to ensure all necessary approvals will be granted and procedures followed prior to commencing work in Malibu.
faq about Sce's tree trimming plan
Were concerns raised about the timing of the trimming, specifically relative to nesting birds?
Staff has raised concerns with SCE about nesting birds. They have protocols for nesting bird inspections prior to trimming and stated that they will set buffers and avoidance areas, not only as required by the LCP, but also as required by state and federal law when nests are encountered. The pre-inspections identify nests, and then pre-trim inspections 5 to 7 days before the proposed work actually starts repeat the inspection. Any tree where active nests are identified would be scheduled to be trimmed after the nests are no longer occupied or active. SCE will work closely with City staff to ensure all proper protocols are undertaken with regards to nesting bird sites.
Were concerns raised about the lack of professional arborists working with the project?
Yes. A professional arborist is managing the project and arborists will be involved in the tree trimming throughout the City, but not on every crew. City staff was concerned about this and asked for SCE to make sure that arborists would be involved with any heavy trimming (trimming areas over 7 inches in diameter) or removals. They indicated that the pre-inspection and inventory is important as the arborists are sent to supervise where the most sensitive work will occur, including heavy trims and removals.
Were concerns raised about the lack of communication with homeowners?
Staff emphasized the concern about this. SCE leaves a door hanger and knocks on the door to try to make contact with every property owner where heavy work is identified. This occurs during the preliminary inspections 30-45 days before the work is scheduled to begin, then again closer to the scheduled work, approximately one week in advance.
What if a property owner has additional questions or concerns?
If a property owner has questions, SCE recommends contacting the person listed on the door hanger who will have site-specific knowledge of the tree and property. If the property owner calls the typical SCE customer service number, the operator will only be able to give general answers. The best point of contact for specific questions is the person listed on the door hanger. SCE will present a short presentation about the proposed tree trimming during the May 13 City Council meeting.
SCE is developing a new system for dealing with objections from property owners that they will be rolling out in about in mid or late May. If property owners are not satisfied with how SCE is addressing their objections, or are having trouble reaching SCE, they can contact the City for assistance. Call City Hall at 310-456-2489.
PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM CITY OF MALIBU REGARDING TEMPORARY SCE STAGING YARD
February 22, 2019
Southern California Edison Setting Up Staging Yard at Civic Center Way and Stuart Ranch Road for Emergency Utility Inspections and Work in Malibu for Wildfire Mitigation
Recently Southern California Edison announced a plan to conduct emergency equipment inspections and work in Malibu as part of its Wildfire Mitigation Plan:
"SCE is currently conducting additional inspections of its equipment in "High Fire Risk Areas" which may require access to SCE’s electrical equipment on your property in the City of Malibu. Additionally, for the next few months, Malibu residents may see increased activity by SCE and their contract crews. Some of the work being conducted in your area includes: - Enhanced inspections of its overhead infrastructure - Maintenance of its equipment to further strengthen the local grid. You will be notified in advance if a power outage for scheduled maintenance is required - Increased Vegetation Management including tree pruning or removal Maintenance activities will require SCE to hold a temporary equipment staging area at Stuart Ranch Road and Webb Way. This staging area will be used as a reporting location for personnel, vehicle and equipment parking, and material storage." https://www.malibucity.org/DocumentCenter/View/23737/SCE-activities-in-High-Fire-Risk-Areas.
To facilitate these inspections, upgrades and increased vegetation management SCE applied for and received two permits for this activity on the privately owned lot located at 23833 Stuart Ranch Road: one Over-the-Counter (OC) permit for site preparation involving the removal of grass, firming the damp soil and laying down gravel in preparation for staging of trucks and equipment onsite and one Emergency Coastal Development Permit (ECDP) for the use of the lot for truck and equipment staging.
SCE requested approval of this work on an emergency basis because it needs to complete this work in "High Fire Risk Areas" before the summer when fire danger grows higher. The situation is especially urgent in Malibu considering the increased vegetation that is anticipated citywide due to the heavy rains, which increases potential for dangerously high fuel loads in the upcoming dry months. The nature of this work is urgent due to the City’s vulnerability to additional wildfire; delay in initiating the project could result in work in the City being significantly postponed which would increase this vulnerability—SCE needs to complete this work in many cities and if it is unable to stage its equipment in the City SCE will move forward with other cities before coming back to Malibu.
The OC permit was issued the same day so the site preparation work could begin right away. The site preparation work to remove the grass, firm the soil and lay down gravel is exempt from a Coastal Development Permit (CDP). The property is zoned Community Commercial. The site has been historically used for commercial nursery and agricultural purposes, and the soil regularly “disked” by the owner to manage weed growth multiple times a year. The site was screened and cleared for environmentally sensitive habitat area and sensitive cultural resources based on information on file with the City.
After work began, a wetland on the adjacent property to the west was identified. Staff alerted SCE that a 100-foot buffer from the wetland must be provided. As the ECDP was processed, conditions were included into the ECDP to ensure the required 100-foot buffer was respected.
The use approved under the ECDP will last for 90 to 120 days, and the site is required to be restored to its previous condition, including removal of the gravel, at the conclusion of the work. A regular CDP will be processed concurrently over the next few weeks.
Additional conditions have been placed on the ECDP in order to protect the surrounding environment and minimize the impacts to the surrounding community, including the following:
(1) SCE is required to work with the City Public Works Department to schedule work and vehicle movement activity in such a way to minimize traffic disruptions on the surrounding streets.
(2) SCE must adhere to noise ordinance requirements for work hours to minimize noise impact on the neighboring residents.
(3) The site must be monitored to ensure its activity will not cause excessive dust, or mud and water runoff off of the property.
(4) SCE must maintain a 100-foot buffer to protect the neighboring wetland parcel from environmental damage as well conduct an inspection performed by the City Biologist before use of the site as a staging area commences. The description of this wetland area can be found in an attachment to the ECDP Notice of Decision.
(5) SCE must return the site to the condition in which it was found prior to project completion. This is also a requirement of the agreement between the property owner and SCE.
(6) SCE must place and direct their temporary lighting in such a way that it will not disrupt the residential neighbors or motorists on adjacent streets.
The application materials for both permits including the stamped (approved) plans can be found on the City’s public records portal, OnBase: https://www.malibucity.org/794/OnBase-Portal. (The Over the Counter Permit number is OC 19-024, and the ECDP is ECDP 19-005.
SCE did not apply to use the City-owned lot across the street on Civic Center Way, that it had used for staging and emergency utility repair work immediately following the Woolsey Fire, because that lot is already reserved for parking for the Chumash Day Powwow and will be used for City Hall parking when work begins on the City Hall solar project in the near future.
The City’s Code Enforcement Office has been alerted to this project given the proximity of the wetland and the nearby residences to the west, has inspected the site, and will continue to monitor its use to ensure compliance and that any violations are promptly addressed.
For additional questions or concerns, please contact the Planning Department 310-456-2489, ext. 485 or email email@example.com.
For more information on post-wildfire issues related to utilities, visit https://www.malibucity.org/913/Utilities.
For more information about SCE’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan, visit https://www.sce.com/safety/wildfire.