Chopper replaces North Shore power lines |

Chopper replaces North Shore power lines

Seth Lightcap/Sierra Sun

The steady roar of helicopter will echo above the tree line on Highway 89 during the month of October as crews from the Sierra Pacific Power Company work to rebuild power lines supplying electricity for nearly 9,000 North Lake Tahoe customers.

The 60,000-volt electric transmission lines were originally built in 1950 and the wooden poles are being replaced by steel poles, which will improve the reliability of the system, said Karl Walquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Power, in a news release.

The 72 new steel poles are stronger ” providing greater fire and storm resistance ” and will range from 55 to 90 feet in height, Walquist said.

In addition, the existing wires will be replaced by a new aluminum wire that is both wider and stronger and trees running parallel to the lines are being trimmed to prevent outages during winter storms, Walquist said.

The total cost for the project is approximately $3.3 million and is being subsidized through customer rate funds collected over the years, Walquist said.

The power line stretches approximately 3.1 miles from a substation near Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows on the rocky hillside above Highway 89.

Crews have been hiking in to the area to dig holes for the poles, which must be airlifted to the job site by helicopter from a staging area above Jackpine Street in Tahoe City, said Mike Smart in the release, the utility executive responsible for electric operations at North Lake Tahoe.

Construction will end in early October and is not expected to affect traffic on Highway 89; however, roughly 50 electric customers located along the Truckee River between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows will continue to experience some scheduled electric outages due to the project, Smart said.

“We appreciate their patience and we’re confident they’ll enjoy more reliable electric service, along with other Sierra Pacific customers on the North Shore when this project is completed in early October,” Smart said.

A tree-removal contractor for Sierra Pacific Power dropped a tree on a power line near the Donner Lake interchange last August, igniting a 170-acre fire near the 6,000-home subdivision Tahoe Donner.

The fire came within a quarter-mile of the subdivision, but no structures were damaged and the fire was fully contained within hours thanks to aggressive fuels reduction programs and quick response from local fire fighting agencies.

The tree removal company has since changed personnel and altered procedures to ensure a similar incident does not occur again, said Karl Walquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific.

The same company was hired on to clear trees for the new power lines near Highway 89, and Sierra Pacific also hired a private firefighting firm to stand by at the job site as an extra precaution, Walquist said.

“Due to the dry conditions, this is something we would have done whether we were using this same tree company or a different tree company,” Walquist said.

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