No Change For Vulnerable Power Lines

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

August 30, 3006

One of the main issues associated with storms are power outages, and because of the lines that are stung in our area, we are even more vulnerable to that problem.

One of the only places in Charlottesville where you won't find overhead cable lines strung across the sky is on the downtown mall. That's because the city paid over $300,000
per block to have them buried. Their reason, so things would look good, not to correct the issue of power outages.

A web of overhead power lines is an everyday sight for Charlottesville residents. Although not that pleasing to the eye, these cables aren't a problem, until they are down. With over 2,000 outages just last year, the idea of putting cables underground continues to arise, but money, or the lack of, keeps standing in the way.

"It's about a billion dollars to bury all of the overhead infrastructure in an area like Charlottesville," Bill Powell of Dominion said.

According to an 1888 franchise agreement, Dominion only has to bury the lines if the city requests it. They have, but only on the downtown mall, only for aesthetic purposes, and the city was required to pay.

"Things are different on the mall then lets say a residential side street because we have more pedestrian traffic and it also is a business issue," Charlottesville city spokesman Ric Barrick said.

Just last year, close to 200,000 people were at some point without power and funding repair work and crews totaled over one million dollars, but Dominion says that's not something that will be solved by underground lines.

"The outages might be at a different time, but the length of outage is longer in underground, and you may have fewer of them but the impact to the customer remains very similar," Powell continued.

Dominion is only responsible for all safety related issues, and as long as they're required to foot the bill, they say building an underground structure is too much of an undertaking.

Barrick also said they are currently looking into burying the lines around 3rd and 4th street but that's only for aesthetic purposes. For rural areas, the lines will continue to be above ground, and susceptible to the high winds that storms like Ernesto bring.

Staunton is the only town nearby that relies entirely on underground power lines. Federal Grants helped pay for those improvements there.

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