The Turlock Irrigation District expects to launch its own transmission control area at the beginning of December in an attempt to reduce its costs and increase reliability. This week's blackout in Los Angles Department of Water & Power territory did not faze the irrigation district, although some say that municipal power agency control districts separate from the California Independent System Operator's operations create higher risks of blackouts. "We don't feel greater exposure" from creating our own control area, said Casey Hashimoto, Turlock's assistant general manager of engineering. He noted that during the state's 2000-01 energy crisis, the district was forced to shed load although it had adequate supplies to serve its customers because of deficiencies elsewhere. The irrigation district's 240 MW Walnut Energy power plant is expected to come on line this December, increasing confidence in its ability to better manage its electrical system, he added. The grid operator is less than thrilled with another utility leaving its fold. "The general concern is that too many control areas makes for coordination and communication difficulties for everyone," said Gregg Fishman, CAISO spokesperson. He noted that the massive East Coast blackout in August 2003 was largely attributed to communication failures. Fishman acknowledged that the grid operator "has to show it can provide value to munis and other utilities." He added that CAISO has taken steps to reduce its costs, including for areas it's indirectly responsible for-particularly congestion. "We are taking a proactive approach to grid planning and not waiting for projects to come to us." Turlock and CAISO have long fought over tariff costs. As a result, the muni began assessing its transmission options a couple of years ago. Like the Western Area Power Administration, Turlock assessed the pros and cons of becoming a metered substation within the grid operator's purview or creating a separate control area. According to a 2004 study, the district estimated that running its own control area could save it as much as $1.7 million a year or result in a $500,000 net yearly cost, according to Ken Weisel, Turlock general manager of energy resources. Turlock hoped to have its own control area in place earlier this year, but disputes with CAISO delayed the project, Hashimoto said. The irrigation district received approval from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, and the district's board approved the move last year. \t TID's service territory is 600 square miles. The district has interconnection agreements with the City and County of San Francisco and Pacific Gas & Electric. Its long-term contracts with PG&E expire in 2008.