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Fayetteville helps get lights back on in Outer Banks

From the August 9, 2017 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published August 8, 2017

By Jeannine Anderson
News Editor

The Fayetteville Public Works Commission in Fayetteville, North Carolina, helped its neighbors on the North Carolina Outer Banks by providing material needed to expedite the building of an overhead transmission line following an accident in late July where a contractor sliced an underground transmission line, causing a widespread power outage on Hatteras and Okracoke islands. Fifty thousand or more summer vacationers were forced to evacuate.

Tourists began flowing back to the barrier islands after a temporary overhead transmission line was completed on Aug. 3, thanks to cable provided by the Fayetteville PWC.

“We were glad to help them out,” David Trego, the PWC’s CEO and general manager, said in an Aug. 7 interview with the American Public Power Association.

The rural electric cooperative that serves Hatteras and Okracoke, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, bypassed the broken transmission link by building the above-ground line. Quick access to the cable needed for the temporary line was key to restoring power — and allowing visitors to resume their vacations, as the outage happened during the height of the tourist season on the Outer Banks.

The new temporary transmission line goes up.
Photo courtesy of Fayetteville PWC

The outage occurred on Thursday, July 27, when a contractor working on the Bonner Bridge drove a piling through one of three underground transmission cables, Trego said. The cable was severed, and two other cables also were damaged, he said.

After reviewing the damage to all three phases of the underground/underwater transmission cable, Hatteras Electric determined that repairing the underground cable link could take weeks, so it decided to build a temporary overhead transmission connection while the underground cables were being repaired.

The buried cables have been in the ground for a long time, and they sit underneath about 10 feet of water and another seven feet of sand, Trego said. The temporary overhead transmission line, built with the help of Fayetteville’s cable, “gives them some added flexibility” while the underground work is being done, he said.

Hatteras Electric, working with Booth & Associates and contractor Lee Electric, reported that it needed 8,000 feet (1.5 miles) of 954 mcm conductor, Fayetteville PWC explained in an Aug. 4 news release.  

“Wanting to help in whatever way we could, PWC also made contact with other APPA members at Santee Cooper and the City of Springfield, Missouri,” the PWC said. Mike Hyland, the Association’s senior vice president of engineering services, was also contacted and was prepared to send out a call for the needed 954 conductor.

It turned out that PWC had 25,000 feet in inventory, explained PWC spokeswoman Carolyn Justice-Hinton.  The two big spools of wire were picked up in Fayetteville on July 31 and made the 250-mile trip to the Outer Banks, arriving just as the new transmission poles were set, she said.

Lee Electric began connecting the new cable to the mainland transmission line the following day and worked around the clock until electric service was restored the evening of Aug. 3, she said — one week after the outage.

“Transmission power has been restored to all of Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island!” Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative exclaimed Aug. 3 in an update posted on its website. As of noon on Aug. 4, Dare County officials were lifting their mandatory evacuation orders for all visitors to Hatteras Island, and electricity conservation appeals that had been in place for the previous week also were lifted, the co-op said.

“Fayetteville PWC was glad to provide assistance to a neighboring utility in a time of crisis,” said Trego. “This is a great example of the value of public power and the resources that municipal utilities can bring to their customers and the utility industry as a whole.”

The public power utility provided the cable via a mutual aid agreement, he said, noting that mutual aid “can go both ways.”

The PWC has mutual aid agreements, not only with its sister municipal utilities, but also with rural electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities, Trego added.

With mutual aid, when trouble comes, “you only have to make one call,” he said.


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