2020 Work Plan Update

Posted: June 1, 2020
Mark Hayden
Mark Hayden, GM

As a member-owned utility, Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC) strives to uphold a commitment to service excellence, while delivering safe, affordable, and reliable electricity to its members. We are pleased that our efforts to improve reliability are paying dividends as we continue to trend downward not only in the frequency of outages, but the duration of these interruptions as well. This drive for constant improvement continues in 2020, and here is a partial list of projects that are scheduled for this year.

El Mar Estates Upgrades

It is in the spirit of improved service that we are embarking upon a major reconstruction project in the El Mar Estates neighborhood. Each year, residents in this community just west of Missoula are experiencing more frequent power outages due to aging underground power cables. These lines deliver power to approximately 500 homes, and were installed more than 40 years ago. While they have generally performed well, they are reaching the end of their useful life resulting in a growing number of power interruptions every year. Each outage is unpredictable, and in addition to being an extreme inconvenience, they add to increased maintenance costs for all members. Replacing these outdated underground cables will provide reliable, affordable, and safe power today and for decades to come.

Because this community is heavily developed, MEC intends to minimize the need for open trenching to the extent possible by utilizing directional boring to install the new conduit and cable between transformers. To begin this work and reduce the impact to residents, we’ll need an updated map of the area to make sure our construction plan is as precise as possible. Surveying has already begun, and we expect to begin construction in phases beginning later this summer. Property owners directly impacted by this work may also receive letters, postcards, emails, and other correspondence, and as we get closer to breaking ground, our construction project manager will go door-to-door as the work proceeds. For more information and periodic updates on our progress please visit our project website at www.ElMarPowerUpgrade.com.

Transmission Line Rebuild

If you are traveling on the Woodworth road this summer it will be difficult to miss our MEC crews rebuilding the transmission line that serves the area. This critical line connects our supply points at Placid Lake and BPA’s Big Ovando substation, and along the way delivers power to our three substations in Seeley Lake, and one each located at Woodworth, Ovando, and Helmville.

Right-of-Way clearing for this project began in mid-May, and construction will follow once scheduling allows. Upgrades have already occurred from Placid Lake to Woodworth, and from our Ovando substation heading east. The completion of this multi-year project will allow for improved reliability and increased operating voltage which is good news for our members in these areas.

SMART Reliability Program

In 2013 we introduced a targeted system maintenance program we call SMART (System Maintenance and Reliability Task force). Now in its 8th year, our maintenance crews continue to inspect and maintain overhead and underground lines across the territory, with the focus this year on Clinton, Helmville, and the Swan Valley. This pole to pole, cabinet to cabinet program not only includes a visual inspection of MEC equipment, it also involves the tightening of aging connections and installation of insulated wire and plastic guards to protect wildlife and prevent the outages they can trigger. In addition to inspection and maintenance activities, our tree trimming crew will be concentrating their efforts in these areas once the inspections are complete. The combination of inspections, maintenance and right-of-way clearing has drastically reduced nuisance outages since the program’s inception and solidifies the Cooperative’s commitment to delivering safe and reliable power.

If you have any questions regarding these or any projects at MEC, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I hope that everyone has a healthy, safe and enjoyable summer, and please remember to watch out for your MEC crews during your travels.