Corning’s City Council unanimously approved an urgency ordinance allowing the city to form Underground Utility Districts by passing resolutions designating the districts.

The need for the ordinance is connected to the city’s desire to conduct projects to place overhead utility lines underground.

“This is for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Corning, to reduce outages caused by winds and storms, to remove potential obstacles for traffic accidents, and to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the city,” said City Manager Kristina Miller.

Formation of the districts will be at no cost the residents of the community.

Miller reported the California Public Utilities Commission regulations permit cities to adopt rules designating certain areas within its jurisdiction as underground districts.

“The ordinance seeks to give the City authorization to designate certain areas as Underground Utility Districts by passing a resolution making underground installation of overhead facilities mandatory,” she said. “A resolution for a specific project to place overhead lines underground will only be passes following a public hearing where property owners and all affected persons having overhead facilities can appear and provide input on the resolution.”

The city currently has $500,000 in funds designated to conduct a project to place utility lines underground. 

However, if those funds are attached to a specific project and resolution, under California Public Utilities Commission rules, they can be “stolen” or taken by another jurisdiction for use, Miller said.

The ordinance states, “in recent years, poles, overhead wires and associated overhead structures have caused numerous and significant fire-related disasters, road closures, power outages due to downed utility lines in the city, including multiple significant fires in the region in the recent years caused by electrical sources.”

Miller said there are no immediate projects inline for placing utility lines underground, however, if the city is awarded the multi-million dollar state park grant for which it is applying, an underground utility district would need to be formed for that project.

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