Illustration by Adriana Heldiz for Planetcob

Back in 2021, the city of San Diego agreed to a new 20-year contract with power supplier SDG&E – with some strings attached. One of those new requirements was that the company would produce audits every two years in exchange for its monopoly on power supply.

A draft of the first such audit flags SDG&E’s exorbitant costs to underground power lines, a process that makes them less susceptible to weather damages and less likely to start fires. One undergrounding project, the audit points out, ended up costing $44.3 million – 81 percent more than the company estimated it would. Those added millions were due to unaccounted for “overhead costs,” though it’s unclear what that phrase actually means.

“SDG&E’s failure to provide comprehensive and accurate initial undergrounding project costs estimates and delays … created challenges for the city to forecast its future undergrounding cash flow,” consultants wrote.

Getting to the bottom of how to more accurately forecast costs for undergrounding projects is vital because San Diego has long planned to bury all local power lines. But thus far the progress has been glacial. Since 1970, only 400 miles of lines have been buried, leaving about 1,000 miles left.

Read the full story here.

Related: City officials say they’re finally getting serious about burying power lines by upping the budget to do so from $50 million to $250 million. That increased budget comes as the price tag to bury power lines has shot up from about $3 million a mile to $8 million a mile.

Moving forward, the city has adopted a policy to prioritize the burying of power lines in areas at higher risk of wildfire. That will include suburban areas, but also urban areas near canyons.

A New Railroad Bridge? In This Economy?

In other “things-are-more-expensive-than-they-used-to-be” news, a plan to replace an 80-year-old railroad bridge in Carlsbad has shot up by $42.5 million. That’s a 26 percent increase that brings the project’s total cost to $165.6 million.

The bridge will include two tracks instead of the one currently there, which SANDAG officials hope will take more cars off the road. It will also be higher than the current bridge, an effort to mitigate any effects from sea-level rise and reduce impacts on the lagoon below.

One of the cost stressors is a new requirement to cease construction during the nesting season of the California least tern, a bird recently removed from the endangered species list. That requirement increased the project length from two-and-a-half years to four years.

Song of the Week

The Gift Machine, “I’m On It Now”: The Gift Machine’s latest album, “Consolation Prize,” finds the band doing what it does best – crafting dreamy, guitar-led indie pop. “I’m On It Now,” showcases the band’s knack for breezy and infectious songwriting. That musical lightheartedness allows even heavy lines like “I didn’t mean to be honest. Is it time we called it a truce? Can you cut me down from this noose?” to be delivered with a certain weightlessness.

Read more about the song of the week here.

Like what you hear? Check out The Gift Machine at Comet Theatre on Saturday, June 1.

Do you have a “Song of the Week” suggestion? Shoot us an email and a sentence or two about why you’ve been bumping this song lately. Friendly reminder: all songs should be by local artists.

In Other News

  • County health experts are working with MTS to notify blue line trolley riders that they have been exposed to tuberculosis. (Times of San Diego) 
  • The city of Chula Vista is ready to get rid of streetside patios that businesses set up during the pandemic for outdoor dining. But business owners are worried the move will hurt their businesses. (NBC 7) 
  • SANDAG is considering getting rid of the only toll road in San Diego County. The agency’s board voted to pay for a study that would look at eliminating the toll at state Route 125. (CBS 8) 
  • Officials closed San Clemente beach on Memorial Day after a shark bumped a surfer off his board. They later reopened the beach but issued a shark advisory to swimmers. (Union-Tribune, Times of San Diego)

The Morning Report was written by Jakob McWhinney and it was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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