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

Mar 4, 2019

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.

Satellite map view of South Hills area, Eugene.
Credit GoogleMaps Satellite View

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.”

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.
Credit Washington DOT / Flickr.com

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.