Cable Replacement Communication #3
Several months have gone by again, and with so much happening it only seems like days. While waiting for permitting, we received preliminary approvals from the Department of Natural Resources, the United States Corps of Engineers and the United States Coast Guard to move forward. Seaworks Group, of Benton Harbor Michigan were contracted to do a side scan sonar survey of the routes. This survey showed that we were in the clear along these routes both from a bottom terrain perspective and from a historical (shipwreck) perspective. Roen and their crew fought rock and weather to install 10 inch conduit 3 to 4 feet under the bottom out to a water depth of 20 feet at 4 shore landings in preparation for the cable arrival. KS Energy fought pouring rain to complete the installation at Northport. The first reel of cable arrived and was unloaded by Bay Shipbuilding using their large gantry crane “Big Blue.” The second reel was another story. Manufacturing issues not only required splicing of the phases, but the fiber was damaged during this time and also had to be spliced. The manufacturing issues delayed the shipment considerably and then when it finally did ship, weather on the east coast caused further delays which ended up running us into the Thanksgiving holiday. Both of these reels weighed in excess of 140,000lbs and were thus not only an oversize load, but were classified as a “Super Load” which put many travel restrictions on not only route and time of day, but also required state patrol escorts through the states of Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. With the help of Jennifer Esser and Gary Ishmael with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and their contacts in other states, we were able to get travel waivers for the second reel to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, however, Indiana could not provide State Patrol escort for the 4 day weekend and the reel sat in Ohio until Monday November 24 and did not arrive in Sturgeon Bay to be unloaded by Bay Shipbuilding until Friday November 28. This put a serious hurt on our installation schedule. Weather early in November was favorable; however, without the second reel here, we were unable to take advantage of it. The weather in December was not our friend, but with numerous practice runs and false starts in heavy seas and currents, we were finally able to lay the first reel on December 14th and the second reel on December 15th . We also were forced to lay an additional reel of fiber optic cable because the repaired fiber in the submarine cable did not test as good as it should have. Roen Salvage did an outstanding job for us.
Because of these manufacturing delays, we also were set back on our terminating schedule. Final cabinet placement could not be accomplished at the 4 shore landings (two on Plum Island) until after the cable was laid. Weather in late December further complicated these things and we, with the help of Tom and Brian Jordan, were able to get the cabinets placed, the armor stripped off the ends of the cable and have everything prepped in order for Wisconsin Public Service to assist us in the installation of termination elbows in the cabinets. A trip was made to Plum Island (after several weather delays) on January 3rd and all termination work was completed there. Weather and cold in January were also not in our favor and due to this WPS was not able to come to the Island to terminate until finally, on January 23 rd they instead terminated the cabinet at Northport and left the pole riser terminations there for a later date. After a stretch of bitter cold weather, they were finally able to come to the Island on February 4 th and we completed the termination work here. Our current schedule is for them to do the pole riser terminations at Northport on Friday, February 8th . In conjunction with this, the cable from Northport all the way to the shore landing on the Island will be tested and then hopefully energized and the old cable will be moved to insulated standoff junctions and be re-energized with no load. It will remain there as an emergency backup spare until it is no longer viable.
Tom Jordan returned the first empty reel to Connecticut last week during the bitter cold weather and will be returning the second reel sometime after the 15th of February.
During all this installation activity, with the assistance of WECA we met with Representative Joel Kitchens and Senator Caleb Frostman and discussed the possibility of a State budget solution to our funding problem. They were both agreeable to be supportive of efforts. We then met with Governor Walker’s staff and they, while not guaranteeing anything were also positive about the possibility. After the November election, with Governor Walker’s loss to Superintendent Evers and Senator Frostman’s loss to Representative Jacque, we found ourselves having to virtually start over with discussions on this issue. We met with new State Senator Andre Jacque on January 14th and he was agreeable to be supportive of the efforts. Steve Freese, Tim Clay (of WECA) and Robert Cornell met with Dan Smith, the CEO of Cooperative Network on January 16th and Dan was able to make arrangements for us to meet with Governor Evers’ staff on February 6th . We are hopeful for a positive outcome.
In addition, Caleb Frostman, who will now be Governor Evers’ Secretary of Workforce Development, has agreed to continue to be supportive of our efforts in whatever capacity he is able.
The Town of Washington Passed a Resolution of Support and Door County has provided a letter of support with a resolution to follow at a meeting, so, once again, we do have plenty of folks on our side.
We are hoping for a budgetary consideration that mirrors the Wisconsin Disaster fund. This would have the State ofWisconsin, through either the Town or County, provide funds equaling 70% with the Cooperative carrying the remaining 30%. This is a big ask and one made potentially even more difficult with a divided government, but we are hopeful that all involved will see that replacement of this critical infrastructure is a large burden for a small community to bear.
In the meantime, as you are all aware, we increased the base charge rate on every meter by $20 in order to cover the debt service for the emergency line of credit we obtained. All the bills are not in yet. The project is not yet complete and will not be complete even when the cable is energized as there will be plenty of cleanup and restoration left to do. With the cost of the cable repair, the engine repair, the cable replacement and all ancillary costs associated with the project, our total costs will be over $4 million. If we are successful in our efforts, you will see this increase reduced. We appreciate your support and understanding.