1. City of Santa Clarita's Proposed Establishment of a New Transmission Line Right-of-Way and New Access
The City of Santa Clarita (City) proposed an alternative that would require the establishment of approximately 8.5 miles of new ROW within the Santa Clarita area for a 500 kV transmission line (with a minimum width of 180 feet) through undeveloped lands (assuming the alternative turns east to rejoin the proposed Project route at approximately Mile 18.6). The establishment of 8.5 miles of new ROW on undeveloped lands, as suggested by the City's proposed alternative, would increase visual impacts, as the natural-appearing landscape would be dominated by industrial structures.
Furthermore, the City's proposed alternative would result in a longer alignment (approximately 27.1 miles) than the proposed project (25.6 miles), Alternative 2 (26.7 miles), Alternative 3 (25.6 miles) and Alternative 4 (25.9 miles). A longer alignment along new ROW where access has not been previously established would result in increased air quality impacts compared to these alternatives due to the longer length of the alignment and the establishment of additional access roads.
Within the Santa Clarita area, the proposed project and Alternatives 2 through 4 would be placed within the existing Pardee-Vincent transmission corridor. The existing single-circuit towers would be replaced by double-circuit towers within this existing corridor. The long-term effect of the project within the City of Santa Clarita would be the visual difference in tower heights between single-circuit 500 kV towers, which range in height from 113 to 178 feet, and double-circuit 500-kV towers, which range in height from 175 to 220 feet.
However, with City's proposed alternative, new visual and biological impacts would result from placing the transmission towers along approximately 4.9 miles of relatively undisturbed natural habitat where no existing transmission line exist. Thus, the City's suggested alternative would have greater impacts to the natural environment than the proposed project because it would create new ROW, traverse more open land, and affect more areas of relatively undisturbed natural habitat.
The City's proposed alternative would avoid impacts to the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch and the proposed Meadow Peak Project. However, these impacts have already been addressed by Alternative 4. Furthermore, the City's suggested route alternative would impact future development planned in the area around the new route, as well as existing development, including:
· Traversing the edges of the Tesoro del Valle Development Project;
· Bisecting the proposed Tapia Ranch 405-home residential development project site;
· Traversing the Castaic Creek Trail, which is a designated State trail in unincorporated Los Angeles County;
· Traversing both known (the Hondo Rancho and Wayside Canyon oil and gas fields) and potential oil and natural gas extraction areas, as well as various producing, idle, and abandoned oil and natural gas wells just north of the City limits;
· Traversing the Castaic Conduit, a pipeline owned by the Castaic Lake Water Agency that is used to deliver water to purveyors; and
· Traversing the Los Angeles County property that is part of the Pitchess Detention Center.
Additionally, whereas the proposed project and all alternatives (except Alternative 1) presented in the Final EIR/EIS result in less-than-significant impacts to the Bouquet Canyon Stone Quarry, these impacts would not be avoided by the City's proposed alternative.
Although the City's suggested route alternative may reduce or avoid some of the project's and alternatives' impacts on the human environment such as construction noise and visual impacts (taller towers would be the only visual difference from existing conditions), the new route would create a number of new impacts, such that it would, overall, have greater adverse effects on the natural environment than the proposed project.
Specifically, the new alternative suggested by the City of Santa Clarita would result in greater adverse effects on the natural environment than the proposed Project, primarily because it would traverse a substantially greater amount of undisturbed natural habitat area, as well as natural streams and drainages. It would also have a greater impact on visual resources by introducing transmission infrastructure into natural areas where such infrastructure does not currently exist. From an environmental perspective, the permanent visual and biological impacts to the natural environment resulting from the City's proposed alternative are considered more significant than the temporary impacts from construction on the human environment or the long-term visual difference in tower heights which would result from the proposed project or Alternatives 2 through 4. Because this alternative would not result in overall environmental benefits over the proposed project or the alternatives analyzed in the EIR/EIS, is not significantly distinguishable from the alternatives considered, and results in substantially similar consequences, further analysis of this alternative is not required. Neither NEPA nor CEQA requires a separate analysis of alternatives which are not significantly distinguishable from alternatives actually considered or which have substantially similar consequences.
A more detailed discussion of the new, potentially significant impacts associated with the City of Santa Clarita's proposed alternative can be found at pages Ap.8A-30 to Ap.8A-34 of the Final EIR/EIS.