Friday, July 20, 2007

Crews wrap up transmission line repairs

Volcanic rock slowed repair work on Shoshone-area power lines

Express Staff Writer

Crews with the Idaho Power Co. have completed repair work on the second of two 345,000-volt power transmission lines damaged by the large Red Bridge Fire less than two weeks ago. The crews had to repair about 30 power-line support structures in an area of hard volcanic rock, the company's corporate communications specialist, Russ Jones, said Wednesday.

"They had to blast the holes," Jones said.

He said the crews, which also faced hot, dry weather while working to repair the line, worked from daylight to dark to replace the structures. He said work on the second line was completed by Friday, July 13.

Idaho Power crews had completed their work on the first of the two damaged transmission lines on July 9. They had to repair 12 power-line support structures there.

The sudden arrival of an afternoon thunderstorm on Friday, July 6, prompted the fire, at the time covering less than 1,000 acres, to jump containment lines and within several hours race up to 12 miles north to the outskirts of Shoshone. In addition to damaging the two large transmission lines, the fast-moving fire destroyed five buildings and damaged five more in the area south of Shoshone.

As it burned its way north, the blaze actually jumped Highway 93 and started burning on the highway's west side, said Brock Astle, fire information officer for the BLM's Twin Falls District.

"It just jumped the road like it wasn't there," Astle said. "That was a great example of erratic fire behavior."

In all, the blaze burned a total of 45,862 acres of sagebrush and grass in a large area south and southeast of Shoshone.

The two 345,000-volt Idaho Power transmission lines feed east from the company's Midpoint Substation near Shoshone to another major transmission substation and ultimately company power plants in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. Immediately after the fire, the loss of the lines reduced the company's transfer capacity between the Borah Substation, near American Falls, and Midpoint from 2,557 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts. With the restoration of the first line, capacity increased to 1,600 megawatts.

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