Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Major Planned Power Outages Coming To Areas Of Neighborhood - Learn More At Special City Light Meeting Tomorrow Evening

City Light crew

A large area of Laurelhurst will be undergoing a major electrical system rebuild, including a full replacement of cables, transformers, junction boxes (protective connections for cables) and connectors as an original underground electric cable installed in the 1940s is aging and inadequate needs to be replaced, despite efforts to update and stabilize it over the years. 
The work, which should improve the area’s electrical reliability and reduce unplanned outages. will start between June 3-17 (exact start date is crew-schedule dependent) during the weekday hours of 8-5pm.  Crews will be staging the area/setting up equipment, putting up no-park signs starting next week.
The residents living in the area bordered by NE 46th Street on the north, NE 42rd Street on the south, 55th Avenue NE on the east and 51st Avenue NE on the west, about 250 customers, received a letter sent out May 9th from Seattle City Light detailing the project and its impacts, including planned power outages of up to ten hours, parking restrictions and traffic blockades where trucks are working.   All work will be done at electrical vaults in public right-of-way.
Tomorrow evening from 7-8pm,  City Light will be holding a community meeting at Laurelhurst Elementary School, to inform the neighborhood about the upcoming work, including coordinating scheduled power outages and answering questions.

The upcoming work is in part a result of East Laurelhurst Drive NE resident Jim Woods' letter to Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco in December of last year describing the increasing frequency of lengthy power outages, 6 hours or longer, mostly during daytime hours between 2011-2013 as well as this year alone already four power outages, including one on February 14 that lasted over 8 hours, "without immediate and substantial attention to this issue on behalf of Seattle City Light," Jim told the Blog staff.
Jim wrote in his letter to Carrasco:
In conversations with City Light workers responding to most of these outages, it appears that these arise largely from failure of antiquated and poorly maintained equipment at the underground station UEO8PO4 located at the intersection of NE 45st Street and 50th Avenue NE in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle.   
In most instances, response to these outages requires 3 to 4 hours from the time they are reported, and another 3 to 4 hours for repairs to be accomplished. This commonly observed routine implies a current system-wide policy of waiting for equipment to fail and then responding retroactively to effect repairs in stop-gap fashion.  If so, this describes a wasteful, costly and highly inefficient practice that essentially guarantees future outages of greater frequency and longer duration, as has been substantiated by our experience over the past several years.
These power outages are more than inconvenient: they disrupt sensitive equipment throughout the house (even those with surge protectors), some of which have had to be replaced.  More importantly, they cause loss of income due to lack of access to landline telephones and computers for business and professional purposes and cancelation of appointments. 
We have been Seattle City Light customers for many years and have come to expect much better and more consistent level of service from this company than has been the circumstance during the past several years.   
Your boast in the latest Light reading that “Seattle City Light is the nation’s greenist utility” confers very little consolation to those of us residing in Laurelhurst and other neighborhood(s) whose electrical power is frequently, unexpectedly and unwarrantedly compromised owing to antiquated and broken equipment, lack of essential maintenance and an apparent institutional policy that places retroactive response to system failure over provision of the fundamental services for which its customers are paying and are, hence, are entitled to receive.

Carrasco responded in February writing:
You have every right to be dissatisfied. Four of the five outages you reported were first three outages were related to the circuits serving you. On one occasion we lost the entire North Substation serving you.
Laurelhurst is served by an underground system that was originally designed to provide overhead service. In the mid 1940's , the Laurelhurst neighborhood paid to have the 4KV overhead system placed underground.  While performing system planning analysis in the 1960's Seattle City Light discovered there would be not enough capacity on the 4kv systems to serve the Laurelhurst area, so Seattle City Light slowly began a program to replace all 4KV primary system with 26KV. 
The area of Laurelhurst bounded by NE 50th Street to NE 55th Avenue between to NE 41st to NE 47thStreet was the first area in Laurelhurst to 26KV in 1985.  The portion of the system serving your home began experiencing an increased number of outages in in 2010.  Since that time, Seattle City Light have done some maintenance work to stabilize the system, and we are in the process of a major rebuild of this system to permanently address this issue. 
Please be assured that a solution is coming very soon that will drastically improve your service reliability.

And the Laurelhurst Blog Staff followed up with Jorge and his staff who responded:
I apologize for our crews not starting work in your area in mid-May as we had promised.  We have been working other projects in the Laurelhurst area that will improve reliability in the area. 
Seattle City Light is undergoing a major electrical system rebuild of the Laurelhurst communities. We are addressing issues in order to provide residents you with the much needed service.   
Currently, Seattle City Light crews are working on upgrading to the 4kV system in other construction areas in the final two phases of the Laurelhurst conversion Phase 8 and Phase 9.   
Phase 8 covers an area of customers located along NE Laurelcrest Lane (51st Ave NE, NE 47th Ave, NE 35th St and NE 36th St).  Phase 9 covers an area of customers along E Laurelhurst Drive and NE 33rd St.  It is expected that the construction in that area will continue for at least 3 months until fall 2014. 
The engineering design was completed on January 24th of this year. Crews will first be in the neighborhood surveying vaults and other equipment as they prepare for the construction phase of this project, which would follow soon after. That survey will allow the crews to determine which areas can be isolated for each stage of construction and the maximum number of outages a resident could anticipate during the work.  
During construction, there will be a number of planned outages during the construction period. It is anticipated that these scheduled outages will last 8 -10 hours. Notification letters will be mailed two weeks prior to each resident affected, which will include project work outages and impacts.  In addition to scheduled outages, there will be some outages due to weather related issues and other external sources beyond City Light’s control, such as the unknown/unforeseen can happen with Mother Nature (e.g. windstorm that would impact crew work and cause delays) or other external factors that would delay/hinder/push out the project completion date (e.g. Mylar balloon getting tangled in a powerline causing an outage). We will do our best to conduct these outages at a time most convenient for the neighborhood residents. 
 When finished, this project will improve the reliability of electric service to the neighborhood. It will not prevent all outages. Weather, foreign objects getting tangled in associated overhead lines and other issues beyond our control could still cause service interruptions.  

In addition to the cable replacement project that is underway, Seattle City Light has completed other work to improve the reliability of service in this area. For example,  a switch was replaced at the North Substation following the November 8 outage.  And tree trimming has been completed for the overhead lines that bring power from our North Substation to the neighborhood’s underground power lines.
For more information on the project go here. And for questions contact Patty Breidenbach, Electrical Service Representative at (206) 684-4795 or or Kelly Enright, Customer Servicer Director at 206-684-3111 or Kelly.enright@seattle gov.  
(photo courtesy of Seattle City Light)    












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