After spending two weeks battling mud, snow and ice in the steep terrain of the Columbia River Gorge, BPA line crews have repaired and re-energized the historic Bonneville-Hood River line.
"It was an incredible feat of human endurance. We did what we had to do for the many people who depend on BPA transmission," says Scott Williams, line foreman III from The Dalles.
The fierce storm that swept through the Northwest on Jan. 19 and 20 brought down two sections of the 115-kV Bonneville-Hood River line located 18 miles east of Cascade Locks. It damaged three towers and destroyed seven others, bending some of the 100-foot-tall metal structures clear to the ground.
The Bonneville-Hood River line is made up of two sections. Unfortunately, the powerful storm brought down both, which knocked out power to Cascade Locks. Within hours, transmission crews restored service to the community by repairing one tower on the Acton to Cascade Locks section of the line. But to restore transmission reliability for the area, it was critical to quickly fix the heavily damaged 1.5 mile section that stretches from Cascade Locks to Hood River.
This repair job became a top priority for Transmission Services. Dozens of employees from several BPA departments quickly developed and approved plans to restore the line and the damaged towers. Line crews either hiked in or used tracked vehicles to access the remote area and begin the repair.
"Our crews worked in tough conditions and rebuilt the line in 14 days, which is a huge accomplishment," says Brian Silverstein, senior vice president of Transmission Services. "Thanks to their efforts to get the job done quickly and safely, BPA was able to re-energize the line Feb. 3. Their commitment is impressive, and is something we can all take pride in."
This accomplishment was no easy task. For two solid weeks, crews from The Dalles, Redmond, Ross and Salem plus additional workers from Pasco, Ellensburg, Spokane, North Bend, Alvey and Montana put in 16-hour days. They also faced a grueling work environment that included brutal weather, two feet of mud and terrain fit only for goats.
Dave Koski, Operations and Maintenance manager for The Dalles District, says the Bonneville-Hood River line repair is one of the most demanding projects he's seen in his 30 years in the utility industry. "I have never seen the combination of damage, weather and terrain challenges wrapped into a single event," Koski says. "Our crews did a fantastic job."
Williams was not surprised by his crews' dedication to the project. He knew they were up to the challenges.
"To everyone involved in the Bonneville-Hood River restoration, my hat's off to you for doing your job and doing it well," Williams says. "We all did what we do, and that is providing safe and reliable electrical power to the people of the Northwest."