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Council Approves Halt to Controversial Power Undergrounding Project

At last week’s Alameda City Council meeting, council voted unanimously to accept a status update from Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) that explained how the city-owned utility was going to halt its undergrounding program, take a step back and re-work it.

The undergrounding effort involves moving aerial utility service wires, such as those for cable television, telephone and electrical service, to underground conduits and ducts. Among other things, AMP’s program would move aerial service wires to a lateral conduit between the house or building and the street, and transfer responsibility for maintenance of that service lateral to the property owner.

The program ran into difficulties about a year ago when residents affected by the Webster Street undergrounding effort balked at the expenses they would have to bear, even after AMP rebates.

The Alameda Public Utilities Board approved a halt to the program, and redesign, on May 21 of this year.

Alameda Municipal Power Office

Alameda Municipal Power is going back to the drawing board on its undergrounding program. (File Photo)

Addressing Alameda City Council, AMP General Manager Girish Balachandran explained that that plan for the Webster Street district was finalized in 2004, when the economy was still strong.

Nonetheless, Mr. Balachandran said that the utility plans to reach out to the public and other utilities nationwide to develop a new undergrounding program. “Let’s step back and redesign the entire program,” he said.

The old program stretches back 28 years, he said, and included six phases and several updates, which “were not made in a holistic manner, each change was just added to each other.”

Alameda resident Corrine Lambdon, voicing support for the new initiative, said that one of the problems with the old program was “insufficient financial assistance for property owners.”

The utility plans further updates on the redesign process later this summer.

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