Bury Above Ground Power Lines in Colorado Springs | Cronin & Loevy | Colorado Politics

Now is the time to bury the 20% of Colorado Springs’ utility power lines that remain above ground and are susceptible to being knocked down during the region’s frequent windstorms and heavy snowstorms.

The need to remove utility poles and power lines above ground and put them underground was amply illustrated by last month’s horrific windstorm.

He felled countless large trees, some falling on power lines, snapping them and knocking out power to hundreds of homes in Colorado Springs.

A Colorado Springs Utilities worker clears debris from a power line following Wednesday’s storm.

Some people and families in the city center were plunged into darkness and cold for three or more days. Loss of electrical power for lighting also means loss of gas furnace (it is electrically controlled) and loss of refrigeration for frozen foods.

About 80% of homes and businesses in Colorado Springs already have buried power lines and are therefore protected against power outages from windstorms and snowstorms. Since the early 1970s, new housing construction in Colorado Springs has required buried power lines. The unburied 20% is therefore concentrated in the old quarters of the city surrounding the city center.

Burying power lines in new construction in Colorado Springs is the result of an agreement between city officials and the building industry. In exchange for permission to install (cheaper) rolling curbs at the edge of new streets instead of standard (more expensive) curbs and gutter, the building contractors agreed to use the money saved to bury the lines electricity in new homes. and businesses.

It was a compromise. Save money by installing rolling curbs, use that money to bury power lines.

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A lineman works to repair Colorado Springs Utilities poles along Nevada Avenue to restore power to residents still without power in Colorado Springs on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. A windstorm tore through El Paso County, causing significant damage to trees, houses, sidewalks and power lines. City crews and logging companies are working to clean up the aftermath of Wednesday’s hurricane-force winds that exceeded 100 mph in parts of El Paso County. Colorado Springs Utilities crews are working around the clock to repair power lines and restore power to residents still facing outages in some areas. (Chancey Bush/The Gazette)

Electricity in Colorado Springs is provided by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), which is owned by the city government. The Colorado Springs City Council serves as the board of directors for Colorado Springs Utilities. If overhead power lines need to be buried, the Colorado Springs City Council will have to do the work.

There is a movement underway in our city’s older neighborhoods to ask the city council to use the city’s utilities’ high credit ratings to borrow the money needed to bury the last remaining above-ground power lines. . This will immediately remove the threat of downed lines and power outages.

The borrowed money will be repaid with a slight increase in electricity bills.

Otherwise, City Utilities will only bury power lines at a slow pace as funds become available, a process that will take many years and will likely guarantee a number of severe power outages in the city’s future. .

Not only the old neighborhoods around the city center have most power lines above ground. They also have a large number of mature trees that have reached great heights. These large trees can cause large amounts of destruction to power lines and utility poles when they collapse during wind storms. During snowstorms, heavy snow-laden branches break loose and break power lines as they fall to the ground.

The Old North End, Patty Jewett, Middle Shooks Run and other older neighborhoods were hit hard by the mid-December storm. Estimates range up to more than 100 downed trees, leading to widespread power outages.

Dutch Schulz, president of the Old North End, is recruiting other downtown neighborhoods, organized as the Historic Neighborhoods Partnership (HNP), to join in the defense of 100% buried power lines in Colorado Springs.

Schulz argues that the wildfires caused by the California electric utility (Pacific Gas and Electric) further illustrate the need to put all power lines underground in the central city. Older neighborhoods in Colorado Springs, where most of the remaining above-ground power lines are located, are particularly at risk from potential electric utility fires.

These older neighborhoods are filled with mature trees, have mostly wooden houses, and houses close together. Additionally, these neighborhoods have old Victorian-era structures that, unlike modern ranch homes, are tall (2.5 stories) and therefore can easily catch flying sparks.

Having above-ground power lines in older neighborhoods is a recipe for fast-spreading electrical fires that could do big damage.

While the cause of the recent wildfire that devastated the Marshall area of ​​Boulder County is under investigation, this wildfire has shown that fires of all kinds can devastate similar densely populated built-up neighborhoods. to the older neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. This shows just how extensive the damage from a utility fire in Colorado Springs could be.

In the meantime, we salute the much-needed efforts of state and county officials to advance fire mitigation efforts in our neighboring foothills. The current drought and climate forecast prompt us to redouble our collaborative efforts in this demanding policy area.

The city took a significant step forward in the 1970s by arranging buried power lines in newly built residential neighborhoods. Now is the time for Colorado Springs Utilities, by planning ahead and borrowing the necessary money, to extend buried power line reform to the entire community, old and new.

Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy write about Colorado and national political issues.

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