Burying Power lines supported by US Federal Emergency Management Agency

RETA has repeatedly emphasized that there are many good reasons to support burying the transmission lines that are built. (Although we would ultimately prefer that lines aren’t built at all in cases where they are not needed). While we have primarily argued this on health grounds, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now funding undergrounding in order to eliminate the disastrous affects of having power lines knocked down during a storm. The importance of undergrounding as a disaster-mitigation strategy will vary depending on the weather in a particular area, but it underscores the viability and the importance of undergrounding technology.

Recognizing the benefits of undergrounding, FEMA provides funding through their Hazard Mitigation Grant program which communities can use to bury power lines. One community that took advantage of this was the city of Bardstown, Kentucky. In one particularly densely wooded subdivision, storms would frequently knock trees onto power lines. This frequently left residents in the dark, and forced the city to pay for regular repairs. In frustration, they decided to bury the lines. Through a Hazard Mitigation Grant, FEMA paid to have the lines put under ground.

In 2008 a disastrous ice storm struck Kentucky, knocking down forests and destroying power lines throughout the state. However, in this otherwise-vulnerable section of Bardstown, the lights stayed on and nobody had to pay for repairs.

People in other states across the US are calling for undergrounding – every time inclement weather causes line damage and a power outage, these debates are re-ignited. Avoiding potential damage from winter weather is a good reason to put lines underground from the beginning, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping nothing happens. In Kentucky, they realized that burying the line was a better option, even though the lines had already been built above ground. How much better it would have been to put the line underground in the first place.

Of course, it’s different in Alberta, because these lines aren’t supplying electricity to anyone who needs it. We’re building lines to nowhere. The best thing to do would be to cancel the 500kV lines legislated by Bill 50. But, if the government is intent on building these useless transmission lines, then they ought to at least build them in the most responsible way possible.

~ by RETA on December 29, 2011.

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