Manitoba Hydro staff and line construction crews continue today to expedite restoration of electrical service to the communities of Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi.
Forest fires damaged approximately 100 poles on the line serving the communities, resulting in an extended power outage affecting approximately 1,500 residents. Most residents had been evacuated earlier this summer due to the threat of wildfires.
“From the time we were finally able to safely access the area by helicopter last week, our goal has been to get this work done as quickly as possible to allow residents to safely return to their homes,” said Jeff Betker, Manitoba Hydro’s Vice-President of External and Indigenous Relations. “This is a top priority for Manitoba Hydro.
“We understand how difficult and disruptive it is for people to be out of their homes for weeks at a time. Fortunately, the damage was not as great as we initially feared.”
Earlier this week, the utility completed a damage assessment of the line by air, hired a line construction contractor, acquired accommodations for crews, and identified work yards near Bloodvein previously used during the construction of the East Side Road to store material and use as staging areas. Materials are already being shipped to those staging areas and crews being marshalled for repair work along the line, the majority of which is accessible only by helicopter due to lack of road access.
It is anticipated line repair and pole replacement work will start Monday, August 23.
“We estimate it will take six to eight weeks to fully restore service to these communities,” Betker said, adding there is a chance crews will discover additional damage as they begin their work on the ground. Weather conditions, which can restrict the ability of helicopters to ferry in crews, equipment and material, is also a concern.
“We need to ensure we do this job right, and do it safely, to ensure the safety of the communities, our employees, and contractors,” he said.
An additional challenge is the number of poles set in rock outcrops surrounded by swamp. These poles – known as “rock sets” – require specialized equipment and take longer to install than poles set in earth or boggy terrain.
“The terrain makes this extremely difficult work,” Betker said, noting swampy terrain also prevents use of larger construction equipment, such as heavy machinery used during restoration efforts during the October 2019 storm, difficult, if not impossible.
“We will be flying in crews from the staging areas each day along with the tools and equipment they require to do the work,” he said. “The new poles will have to be assembled and then flown into damaged sections of line for setting from the air.”
Local fishing camps are providing accommodation for crews, and the community of Bloodvein First Nation has been assisting wherever possible to make the restoration work go as smoothly as possible.
“We know this is a long time for residents of Little Grand Rapid and Pauingassi to be away from their homes. We appreciate their patience and support as we work to get this line rebuilt and get them back into their homes as quickly as possible,” said Betker.
Updated information will be posted on the Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi restoration update page.
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