By Marcy Stamper
The Methow Valley and Malott lost power for a little more than an hour on Friday afternoon (April 21) when a contractor working for the town of Twisp hit part of the powerline near the Twisp substation.
It was not clear if the contractors, who were working about 1 mile south of Twisp, struck the distribution line directly or hit a power pole, which could have caused two wires to touch, but the inadvertent contact automatically shut down the system, according to Tim DeVries, director of engineering and operations for the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD).
The distribution line that was affected belongs to the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative, but the line receives power through the PUD’s high-voltage transmission line and substation. Because the PUD has been working in the area installing a new transmission line, the PUD has increased the sensitivity for automatic shut-off near the substation to provide added protection, said DeVries.
PUD technicians were able to locate the source of the problem, but DeVries said PUD staff were initially concerned that the problem could have been caused by erosion and saturated soils on the Loup, which the PUD’s transmission line crosses to reach the Methow Valley.
Crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation allowed PUD technicians to check the transmission line along closed sections of Highway 20 over the Loup and found no problems with the powerline in that area, said DeVries. They located the problem near the substation in Twisp and were able to reenergize the line, he said.
Most of the power poles carrying the transmission line are considerably north of the Loup Loup highway and the line is not affected by the mudslides that have closed the roadway, according to Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall. PUD technicians can get emergency access to the powerline if needed, he said.