Crews have been working 10-hour days for more than a week to restore power to homes near the rubble of the landslide that devastated 1,000 feet of shoreline on Central Whidbey Island.
Those work crews are installing a conduit about five feet underground that will carry power, cable and telephone lines to the homes that have been without power since March 27. It is one of the projects underway to restore utilities to affected homes.
Walt Blackford, community services manager for Puget Sound Energy, said he hopes power will be restored to homes located south of the landslide by the end of the week.
Work installing the conduit started April 4.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee along with a group of local, state and federal elected officials visited the landslide area and talked with construction workers during their tour.
He highlighted several reasons that factored into the decision to bury the power lines.
Placing the lines above ground on poles would have meant cutting down trees, which would expose the bluff to further erosion.
The conduit project comes as Island County recently converted a hiking trail into a gravel road that is wide enough for cars to access Driftwood Way, a stretch of road that was cut off by the landslide.
Blackford added that the recently installed road isn’t wide enough to accommodate power poles. The risk vehicles colliding with power poles on the narrow road would be too high.
Seventeen homes have been without power since the landslide. That number includes the five homes that county officials yellow tagged, which means someone can enter it but not live in the house. One house has been red-tagged, which means its unsafe to enter.
Blackford said the new utility lines are being paid through rates Puget Sound Energy customers pay and the expense of the emergency project is spread throughout the system.
While Puget Sound Energy works to restore power, officials from a neighborhood water association are gauging the damage.
The March 27 landslide destroyed approximately 300 yards of water main, which cut off several homes on Driftwood Way from the Ledgewood Beach Water Association system.
Ralph Young, commissioner of the Ledgewood Beach Water Association, said the homes that lost their connection to Ledgewood Beach have been connected to the neighboring water system in Bon Air. Young said the people at the Bon Air water association have been very cooperative in helping the homeowners on Driftwood Way. Water got restored April 1 to homes that are still habitable.
The landslide looks to have damaged one of the water system’s three wells. The water table dropped by six feet, Young said.
“We’re going to monitor that well closely,” Young said adding leaders are working with the Island County Health Department concerning the well.
The other two wells provide enough water for the neighborhood’s 135 homes, Young said. There won’t be a backup in place. The small system currently has a capacity for 189 shares.
He said the well will be monitored as the geologic event continues. Young added there is also a considerable amount of paperwork involved to permanently transfer the homes. Young said the cost to ratepayers would be huge to replace the water main. That would entail a longer water line that would go through the debris field and down a steep slope.
He added that he’s uncertain on how to proceed. The big unknown is how much the damaged well will cost the members of the water association.