MISSOULA – Right around this time last year, the Clark Fork River swelled over its banks, flooding parts of Missoula.
The Tower Street area was hit especially hard, damaging homes and power lines. On Tuesday, Northwestern Energy was in the area putting up taller, sturdier power poles in the hope of weathering another flood season.
“This is a reroute of our previous structure that was damaged from flooding last spring and it was important for us to work with the city to reroute our lines to a different area and provide much larger structures to mitigate any risk of flooding damaging those lines,” said Northwestern Energy Community Relations Manager Steve Clawson.
Footings for the structure are steel rebar and concrete spanning nearly 34-feet-deep into the ground. The new power poles they support range from 75 to 95 feet tall to clear the tree line.
Crews say they’re built to take anything the Clark Fork can throw at them.
“These are designed to withstand a significant amount of water pressure. I can’t imagine the water would ever be high enough or strong enough to even do anything to these structures,” Clawson added.
And keeping the line unscathed isn’t just for the sake of public safety, but to also guarantee that power keeps running for many Northwestern Energy customers.
“You know the Tower (Street) area, Target Range, it supplies power clear down the Bitterroot, so it’s a wide area and that’s why it’s a very important piece of our infrastructure, because it serves a lot of our customers,” Clawson said.
The lines run through Tower Street open space, which is host to a number of species of wildlife. Northwestern is working to make sure those animals are not impacted affected by the new poles and lines
“We worked pretty closely with the city about the habitat out here in the park, and we have paid special attention to the treework we did to make sure it was important for bird habitat and for other animal habitat involved and wildlife here in the park,” Clawson said. “The structures, where they have been set and the things we have done around those, are going to provide an environment that’s good for habitat.”
Officials from the project estimate that total distance the new line will run will be in the 2,500-foot range and expects the project to finish up in the fall.