Puget Sound Energy prepares city for next winter storm

In a scene from last January’s winter storm, vehicles drive on a snow-covered 1st Avenue South in Federal Way. - Courtesy photo
In a scene from last January’s winter storm, vehicles drive on a snow-covered 1st Avenue South in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Puget Sound Energy is doing a lot of work in Federal Way to ensure the power stays on when a major storm happens.

“We are working on a half mile of underground feeder. We’re also replacing some large switches in the area that over the years have deteriorated, before they fail,” said Doug Corbin, PSE’s municipal liaison manager, in a presentation to the city council Nov. 20. “We’re replacing bare conductors with tree wire, at two different locations this year, and also for next year, we’ve identified at least two others.”

Corbin added that PSE would be working on Redondo Way beginning Nov. 28. The “tree wire” he referred to is a stronger form of electrical wire that PSE uses that can better withstand the effects of falling limbs and branches in the event of a major storm. Outside of those improvements, PSE has also been doing extensive work underground, Corbin said.

“We’re in the process of replacing 24 aging underground cables. We’ve got about 60 to 70 percent of those done. The remaining ones will hopefully get completed by the end of the year,” he said.

Perhaps the largest bit of work PSE will be doing in the Federal Way area is an aggressive tree trimming program, according to Corbin. The energy company has trimmed 3.8 miles of “distribution circuit” tree trimming so far. Those wires are the ones that feed into Federal Way’s neighborhoods and similar areas, Corbin said.

Tree trimming has been done for 1.3 miles of transmission lines, which are the lines that connect PSE’s substations to each other.

Even with all of that done, PSE has set an ambitious goal to be completed by the end of 2012 and will continue into 2013, Corbin noted.

“We have an additional 21 miles that we scheduled to complete this year. We don’t have a lot of time, but they’re aggressively pursuing that, and that’s all in the Federal Way area,” Corbin said.

There will also be 35 miles of transmission tree trimming to help maintain reliability for aerial conductors, Corbin said, and an additional 33 miles of distribution circuit tree trimming is scheduled for the first quarter of 2013.

All of this work, Corbin said, is to make sure the power stays on as much as possible in Federal Way when storms hit the area, like the one in January 2012. Federal Way experienced a number of power outages. There were residents without power for a number of days afterward. PSE’s goal is to make sure those outages don’t occur again.

“We want to work with the city about reliability concerns. We want to know what you’re hearing from your citizens on reliability, so we can make sure we’re hearing the same thing, and doing our due process,” Corbin said. “We’re taking a look at it. We’re making sure that we look at the possibilities of what we can or can’t do.”

Mayor Skip Priest commented on PSE’s efforts.

“I think there’s been a commitment by PSE that we’re very appreciative of,” Priest said, “to be very proactive…that we address these issues before, rather than after.”


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