PG&E power shutoff panel urges public to shop local, prepare for outages (VIDEO) | TheUnion.com

PG&E power shutoff panel urges public to shop local, prepare for outages (VIDEO)

John Orona
Staff Writer

Representatives from across Nevada County government and community agencies urged residents in a town hall to shop locally, think of their neighbors and pressure Sacramento.

Officials at the Friday town hall discussed what went well, what needs improving, what to do next and took audience questions about last month’s PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

Across the panel, representatives said the collaborative and supportive response from the community and in each agency’s staff was what went well.

“It was really the community looking out for each other that most impressed,” Nevada County CEO Alison Lehman said. “Our community is not passive, it was engaged. As we move forward this problem solving mindset is going to be really where we shine.”

Aside from that, there was little to celebrate. The panel described the communication with PG&E as one of the things that went the worst during the shutoffs, though their communication was constant.

“We communicated almost hourly with the OES,” said Sue Urban, with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, of the Emergency Operations Center. “They had their PG&E rep, we had our PG&E rep and we’d compare stories because we were getting different stories.”

Co-produced by YubaNet, Nevada County and #ReadyNevadaCounty, the panel featured Lehman; Urban; Rem Scherzinger, Nevada Irrigation District general manager; Scott Lay, Nevada County superintendent of schools; Shannan Moon, Nevada County sheriff; Tim Kiser, Grass Valley city manager; Lt. Bobby Jakobs, Nevada County Emergency Operations Center; Ann Guerra, 211 Connecting Point; Brian Snyder, FREED; Ali Lightfoot, KVMR general manager; and local business owners.

Going forward

The panel also discussed steps to mitigate shutoff interruption going forward.

Scherzinger said the water district has taken the next steps in its bid to buy PG&E assets and take over power distribution by submitting a notice of intent to PG&E, and working with county and city governments on a joint powers agreement.

Many residents were interested in setting up the kind of priority generator network in Nevada City that powered some of Grass Valley’s critical infrastructure in the Glenbrook Basin.

According to Scherzinger, NID is looking into the possibility of creating such a backup network with solar power if it were to take over power distribution. He also said NID would have the ability to pinpoint shutoff locations during a dangerous wind event, something PG&E was criticized for not doing.

At the meeting, officials encouraged residents to send letters to the California Public Utilities Commission following the joint letter sent by Nevada County, Nevada City and Grass Valley to the governor and utilities commission.

The county is planning to meet with a local commission representative.

At the end of the night, the panel assigned the residents some homework: shop locally, think of their neighbors, be prepared for the next shutoff and pressure Sacramento into action.

“We are planning as if this is our new normal, we don’t think this is going away,” Lehman said. “Our message to the community is you prepare as well.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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