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Work begins to repair flood-damaged Missoula power line

Posted at 7:54 PM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-23 21:54:50-04

MISSOULA – Weeks after a major power line was washed away by the flooding Clark Fork River, crews from Northwestern Energy are starting the tricky process of repairing the damage. When the Clark Fork hit record flood levels in May it not only created major problems for residents living in low-lying areas, it also took out one of Northwestern Energy’s major transmission lines that serves the west side of the Missoula Valley. It took weeks for the water to recede. But now, crews are finally able to start repairs.With crew safety and environmental concerns on the list, a lot of things can complicate the project.“There is, yeah, and the fact there’s still running water through part of this area," said Northwestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe. "Then with the uncertain nature of the ground after the flooding and just rearranging things, it’s taken a while for us to be able to figure out what we need to do here. And we have brought in special equipment that will help us get this work done.”Much of the damage is limited to the half dozen poles crossing, and closest to the river. But with the ground still muddy in spots, and new channels crossing the area, Northwestern is bringing in special equipment to tackle the job. Since this is a transmission line, utility customers won’t be effected. But restoring the line is critical to the overall Missoula power grid.“No, we didn’t lose any power. But this is an important part of our electric infrastructure in the Missoula area," Larcombe said. "It’s a 161 kilovolt line which carries a lot of electricity over a long distance and we rely on this to serve the Missoula area. But we were able to re-write the power so nobody lost power because of the damage here. But we do want to get it fixed and make us feel better about our ability to keep power on for everybody back up to full-functioning capacity.”The city is also using this opportunity to remove debris and reconfigure trails around the new changes.Northwestern Energy is not only repairing this line. The utility is also looking at a possible relocation. But that will take some time to work out the details.“But we have started some initial discussions within the company and we’re working with the city and some other people that would be concerned about a possible re-routing of a small portion of this line so we can get some of the poles out of the floodplain and avoid this problem in the future,” Larcombe said.The repairs are expected to take about three weeks.