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Electrical cables being pulled under Patuxent

Information Source:Henan Huadong Cable Co., Ltd  Release date:2014-10-27

Two tunnels were dug underneath the Patuxent River last fall. This week electric cables are being pulled through those tunnels to complete a new loop of stronger power between Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

That loop, which will upgrade the existing lines from 69 kilovolts to 230 kilovolts, should be electrified by Thanksgiving, officials with the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative said.

In mid-September more than 36,000 customers in St. Mary’s County briefly lost power when a short circuit at the Buck Hewitt Road power station in California caused a breaker to open at SMECO’s Ryceville station in Charles County. When the completed loop is in place, SMECO will be able to push power south from Prince Frederick through its new Sollers Wharf station into St. Mary’s County to restore power in such an instance, said Tom Dennison, public affairs manager for SMECO. And more power would be able to be pushed from St. Mary’s to Calvert if there were a massive outage there, he said.

More than 200 larger and taller electric line towers were installed in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties as part of the Southern Maryland Reliability Project. The last construction component is to pull the cables through the tunnels that were installed under the Patuxent River last year.

“This is the biggie,” Dennison said.

With lines already installed underground at the Solomons Navy Recreation Center and at North Patuxent Beach Road to connect to the new towers, there is 4,510 feet to traverse under the Patuxent River, said John Bredenkamp, SMECO project manager.

“This is a very long, continuous pull, that’s the significance of it,” he said. “Nobody has ever pulled this size cable this long in the industry.”

“The real deal is the material for that length,” said Ted Aggeler, project manager for Black & Veatch.

There are two tunnels under the river, each with five protective conduits in them. The Patuxent reaches a depth of 110 feet and the tunnels are at least 50 feet below that.

In one of the tunnels, there will be three electrical cables pulled through in three separate conduit pipes. The other conduit already has a communications cable, which can be used by SMECO and the Maryland Broadband Initiative, Bredenkamp said. “We’re pulling two fibers — one for them, one for us,” he said. The fifth conduit is a spare.

The second tunnel with its five conduits will be used sometime in the future, perhaps in five or 10 years, Dennison said.

Massive reels sit at the Solomons side of the river, waiting for crews to pull the electric cables off them and under the river from the Town Creek side. The reels are 14 feet tall and 18 feet across, holding about 4,600 feet of electrical cable on each one, weighing 140,000 pounds. Purchased from South Korea, delivered to the Port of Baltimore and driven to the Navy Recreation Center by truck, the cables are worth $100 per foot, Bredenkamp said.

While it took 45 days to fully bore out the tunnels under the river last November, the work to pull the cables through could be done as quickly as 90 minutes each, Aggeler said.

“I am shocked how easily the cable’s going in” at the other underground conduits, Bredenkamp said.

Once the cables are pulled under the river, it should take another month of splicing before the lines go live. “Our goal right now is Thanksgiving. I want to be off for Thanksgiving,” he said.

“They’ve kept on schedule with everything they’ve done,” Danny Johnson, lead for utilities for Patuxent River Naval Air Station, said. “Everything they’ve said they’d do, they’ve taken care of.”

Roads that were ripped up for work at the Solomons Navy Recreation Center have since been repaved.

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