Why Aren’t Power Lines Buried?

After the extended loss of power in the area (which continues for some Central Virginia residents) owing to Hurricane Isabel, an obvious question that comes to mind is that of why our electrical lines aren’t buried. Virginia Dominion Power says that it could cost “several million dollars a mile” to bury utility lines, but others argue that it couldn’t be nearly that cheap. Attorney Lloyd Smith has discovered that Charlottesville’s 1888 franchise agreement requires Dominion Power to bury the lines, if City Council so requests. Who is right isn’t clear, but it’s newly-obvious that something has got to change. Lisa Provence has the story in this week’s Hook.

15 thoughts on “Why Aren’t Power Lines Buried?”

  1. From the Progress story:

    “It’s so obvious that if these lines were underground, this would be a different story,” says downtown doyenne Kay Peaslee, a former newspaper editor who accuses City Council of caving in to the electric company by not demanding underground utilities.

    Both Peaslee and Smith mention that utility lines are buried throughout Europe. “Italy can put them through solid rock,” says Smith.

    From CNN.com today: Electricity was restored across Italy as investigations were under way into the cause of the country’s worst power failure since World War II.

    Initial findings show that storms may have tossed a tree branch onto power lines in Switzerland, starting a chain reaction by overloading another Swiss line and knocking out power from French lines into Italy.

    “After that, all connections to Italy dropped out,” Rolf Schmid, spokesman for the Swiss power company Atel, told The Associated Press.

  2. I wonder if Provence tried (or tried and failed) to get any other City leaders on the record, beyond (*bleech*) Blake?

    What again is our mayor’s purported field of expertise?

  3. If the city requires Dominion Power to bury the lines, who foots the bill for that? If it is Dominion Power, you know they will pass the expenses on to the consumer, and you will see you electricity bill go up.

  4. As the article suggests, have Dominion Power bury a reasonable amount each year- certainly any location where streets are being dug up for other reasons. I can’t imagine the past week and a half were "cheap" for Dominion Power- paying overtime and other companies to help get all but 20% of their customers back online. If it is in the 1888 agreement to have them buried upon our request, than of course they should be buried! Anyone who agrees should write city council members and Mayor Cox and tell them how you feel.

  5. There’s a lovely controversy going on right now regarding Dominion Power in the areas harder hit than we were. Apparently Dominion’s phone message said that the worker’s were working "around the clock" to restore power. The controversy being that some people foolishly took that to mean (actually, everyone took that to mean) that crews were out on rotating shifts working through the night. But Dominion in fact only had out their regular skeleton crews that are always on duty anyway (described by a rep from Dominion Power as 1 or 2 crews- for the greater service area). This due to the fact that they don’t want to pay employees a lot of overtime. Meanwhile, the employees have stated that they’re more than happy to work longer shifts more often until the power is all restored because they’d love the chance for some good overtime. So everyone in New Kent and Dinwiddie, etc. is pissed at Dominion because they’ve not been doing all they can to get power back up faster. Overtime? Nope.

    (Source was interviews with Dominion by the Richmond news station that broadcasts Michael Graham.)

  6. I’d have to disagree with that report. In my neck of the woods (west of the mislabeled urban ring), there were both Dominion and PIKE (from Mt. Airy, NC) crews out 24-7 for the first few days. We were offering them coffee and expressing our gratitude, and they reported having been working non-stop. I didn’t get the impression that they were being dishonest.

  7. No one said the line workers were being dishonest. It’s the people still without power that are pissed because after that initial few days it was back to a day only work schedule (Two 12 hour shifts overlapping mid-day). Dominion reps were interviewed on the radio about it admitting that they were back to a couple of night-time skeleton crews as usual, so you’d be disputing Dominion themselves.

  8. this is ridiculous. bury the power lines? ok, first ofall, you’ll have to take parts of the grid down for extended periods of time while you bury the lines. not to mention the traffic snarls it will cause while dom. va. power is digging up roads and sidewalks all over town. not only will it be extremely expensive to bury the power lines, but they’ll be more expensive and time-consuming to maintain, b/c every time there’s a problem with a line, they’ll have to dig it up. there’s more downtime and more delays.

    given the fact that power outages of the magnitude of the one caused by isabele happen VERY rarely, i think all this bitching and moaning about power is unfounded. sure, it’s a PITA to not have power for two weeks, but when was the last time you remember that happening? i think people would be more pissed about a 30% increase in their power bill to cover the costs of burying the lines.

  9. It is a LOT more expensive to bury the lines than to repair them when they go down. This isnt even a point for discussion, the answer to the question is money.

    Do you want to pay for it? So far voters everywhere have decided they’d rathar not spend the money.

    This is only an issue now, a year ago we wanted to buy a ten bazillion dollar water treatment plant. Next year we will want a monorail. Go back to your 22 minute sitcoms and keep your short attention span out of our infrastructure planning.

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