Negotiations With Navy Slow Transition That Could Solve Treasure Island Power Outage Troubles

San Francisco’s Treasure Island lost power briefly Thursday morning, a recurring problem with the island’s aging infrastructure that city crews are trying to patch up but cannot permanently solve while the property is still owned by the U.S. Navy.

Thursday’s outage covered most of the island and lasted just over an hour, starting around 7 a.m. and ending around 8:10 a.m.

A seagull that flew into overhead wires and died caused the outage, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokesman Charles Sheehan said.

Sheehan said the outage was the seventh in 2013 on the 404-acre island, which has some parts of its power system that date back to the 1940s.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2011 approved a massive redevelopment project to add thousands of new residential units, commercial space, a ferry terminal and other new infrastructure on Treasure Island, where the U.S. Navy closed its base in 1997.

However, the island and infrastructure is still owned by the Navy, with plans to transfer it to the city in four major phases scheduled to start in October 2014 and ending in 2021, said Bob Beck, development director of the Treasure Island Development Authority, which is overseeing the transition.

The redevelopment has been delayed because of a lawsuit against environmental plans for the project, as well as lengthy negotiations with the Navy over the document governing the transfer of the property to the city, Beck said.

Beck said in the meantime, his agency is working with the SFPUC on “improvements that can be made to the existing system to increase its reliability, with recognition that virtually all of these utilities are going to be replaced as part of the development.”

Sheehan said more improvements were made in 2012 and earlier this year, including adding sensors that SFPUC crews can use with infrared goggles to see where hot spots are on wires and make preemptive repairs before a possible outage.

Crews are also stepping up their inspection of transformers on the island and increasing the trimming of tree branches near power lines, he said.

Residents and business owners said the problem was much worse last year but has gotten better since the improvements.

Jim Mirowski, owner of Treasure Island Wines, said frequent power outages last year were “a disaster” but have lessened in recent months.

“There’s been a few but it’s been better,” Mirowski said.

Mark Brueaker, a resident on the island, said “it’s been really bad in the past,” as frequently as once or twice a week but also said it had gotten better recently.

Sheehan said Thursday’s outage would have happened whether it was on Treasure Island or elsewhere.

“It’s not unique to our system,” he said. “A bird flying into lines will cause an outage anywhere in the country.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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