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Underground Power Line Projects To Begin Next Month...But Are They Infallible?

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Utility EWEB plans to start 16 projects in April.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, four of them will put underground power lines in Eugene’s South Hills.

EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood says the projects will cost more than $2.7 million, but FEMA grants will cover three-fourths of the expense.  Harwood outlines where some of the underground power lines will go.

“One would put a large section of the line that goes along Blanton Heights underground, and there’s also an area up in the South Hills, off of Fox Hollow, Princess, Imperial, 52nd…  that would also be getting underground lines.”

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Utility crews in Belltown, Washington install electric and sewer lines underground. While some feel these are best protected from storms, installing and accessing such lines can be more challenging and costly.

While some see underground power lines as the best protection against storm blackouts, Harwood says they’re often twice as expensive as above-ground lines.  For example, it costs $150 a foot for underground lines.  Overhead lines cost $70 per foot.

Underground lines are also more labor intensive. As opposed to simply climbing a pole, utility crews would have to bring in earth-moving equipment to fix a damaged line…something made harder if the ground is frozen and covered in deep snow or ice.

And underground lines remain vulnerable to earthquakes and unauthorized digging.

Copyright 2019, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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