WI Electric Co-Op

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WECA News Release

Disaster declared in power cable failure
Agencies directed to assist

JULY 13, 2018, Washington Island, WI…..Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker today issued a disaster declaration requested by Washington Island Electric Cooperative, directing state agencies to assist with ongoing repair and mitigation activities arising from damage to an underwater power cable that left the roughly one thousand members of the state’s smallest electric co-op dependent on backup generation for nearly two weeks.

 Walker’s action could potentially open up access to state or federal assistance for repair and replacement of the submarine power cable put out of commission by damage from a Lake Michigan “ice shove” this spring.

 The cooperative receives electricity through a 37-year old cable running under the Porte des Morts Straits and linking the Island to the tip of the Door County peninsula at Northport. Co-op Manager Robert Cornell said Friday examination of a 40-foot section of cable removed during splicing operations late last month revealed apparent ice damage along its entire length.

 Walker’s executive order, issued Friday morning, proclaims that a state of emergency exists in Door County and on Washington Island and directs all state agencies to assist in the recovery. It noted that the cooperative turned to diesel backup generators as a “temporary solution”—in practice, the first of multiple temporary solutions.

 An earlier, local emergency declaration issued on behalf of the co-op by Door County Emergency Management and Communications Director Dan Kane facilitated transportation of additional backup generation equipment from Minneapolis in the early stages of the recovery. Movement of the equipment might otherwise have been delayed more than 24 hours by federal motor carrier hours-of-service regulations.

 Splicing of the damaged cable is yet another temporary step. Co-op members have been receiving power through the cable since the night of June 27, after splicing and testing was completed. However, it is likely ice damage may have occurred elsewhere along the line and complete replacement with a new cable is considered necessary to ensure reliability.

 That stage of the operation will require several more months, at minimum.

 Within half an hour after the cable failed at about 2:30 on the morning of June 15, co-op personnel restored power with backup generation and maintained service for nearly two weeks. During that time a diver located the fault, repair vessels were engaged and brought to the scene from their base in Michigan, suitability of spare cable already on hand at the co-op was verified, the damaged cable was raised to the surface, and two splices were completed.    

 The cooperative is working with the Department of Natural Resources, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service on permitting for a replacement cable to cross Plum Island, a route where ice shoves have not historically presented problems.

Courtney Cauldwell