Nebraska Public Power District, Columbus, Neb, placed into service the last of 37 transmission line segments damaged, or destroyed, by the late December ice storm. This accomplishment comes six weeks ahead of the original reconstruction schedule.

Along with good weather and an ability to secure agreements with multiple contractors early in the reconstruction process, NPPD also received timely access to materials and resources—all of which helped accelerate completion of the initial work scope. The use of helicopters also helped reduce costs and shorten reconstruction time.

“This (reconstruction effort) was a major undertaking on behalf of NPPD employees, contractors and our public power utility partners,” said NPPD President and CEO Ron Asche. “I am extremely proud of the focus to reconstruct the system as quickly, and efficiently, as possible. Nearly three years of traditional work was completed in under four months.”

To help strengthen electric grid reliability and reduce the risk of such significant damage in the future, NPPD replaced its two pole structures with five pole “storm structures” every six to eight miles. NPPD also replaced some pole structures with custom-made laminated poles, designed to bend, but not break. In addition, the telecommunication lines that NPPD lost in several areas due to the initial storm were buried to eliminate future outages.

Several of NPPD’s hired contractor groups, who work on high-voltage transmission line projects across the United States, commented they had never seen one storm cause one utility such extensive transmission system damage. Utility personnel also said it was the worst storm in public power’s history.

"Rebuilding an electrical system that was essentially sliced in half has been a priority for our transmission staff, and we thank our customers for their patience as we rebuilt the system," said Asche. “With this work complete, our transmission priorities will transition to other critical projects such as the construction of a new 345-kV transmission line from Norfolk to Lincoln, reliability refurbishments at various locations throughout the state, and the pursuit of transmission studies necessary to incorporating more wind generation into our system."

NPPD also plans to continue working with property owners who incurred damage primarily to farm fields and pastures due to construction traffic during reconstruction. The District also has some line re-sagging work to finish, which is estimated to be complete by the first week in June.

At the height of the storm, NPPD and its public power utility wholesale customers lost service to more than 40,000 customers, primarily in Central Nebraska. Service was restored to all customers by Jan. 19, 2007. NPPD sustained damage to 18 substations and a total of 37 transmission line segments totaling 1,053 miles. A total of 1,137 of NPPD’s transmission line structures were damaged as well as 301 miles of transmission line conductor (wire). Between 200 and 300 contract workers assisted in the reconstruction effort.

While costs continue to be finalized, total expenses for restoration and reconstruction currently stand at $123.7 million. Approximately $74 million of this amount is expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The remaining amount will be financed through long-term debt and paid over 20 to 25 years