OCEAN CITY — The ongoing undergrounding of electric high-voltage power lines under the bay between West Ocean City and downtown Ocean City has been put on hold for the season after suffering a series of setbacks.
For the last several months, Delmarva Power has been boring pathways under the Isle of Wight Bay between West Ocean City and the south end of Ocean City in order to install a duct system that will ultimately carry high voltage power lines under the bay’s floor. The installation of the duct system was scheduled for completion next month although the entire project was not scheduled for completion until early 2017.
However, a series of setbacks has now forced Delmarva Power to suspend the operation and restore order around the downtown area near 1st Street and St. Louis Avenue with another summer season just around the corner. According to a source, the work included installing the familiar blue conduits that have become a regular feature on the West Ocean City landscape, but the pipes broke around 1,100 feet into the drilled lines. In addition, the project has been plagued by wet weather issues throughout the winter and early spring.
“Progress on completing the underwater work has been hampered by weather and a slower than anticipated drilling process,” said Delmarva Power Media Relations Manager Matt Likovich. “Recent setbacks have prohibited the completion of the ducts within our targeted time frame this spring and as such, we will need to suspend our construction work for the summer vacation season and then resume work in the fall.”
In an effort to enhance electric service in Worcester County, Delmarva Power has, over the last few years, been rebuilding a 69,000-volt transmission line between Berlin and a substation on 2nd Street in Ocean City. The first major phase of the project was replacing the high-voltage lines for the length of Ocean City a couple of years ago including the replacing of old wooden utility poles with taller steel poles.
The second phase, which began in the fall of 2014, included replacing the company’s high voltage power lines between Berlin and a substation in West Ocean City and also included the replacing old wooden poles with taller steel poles. The last link in the chain is the connection of the high-voltage line in West Ocean City to the substation on 2nd Street.
The project required boring under the bay floor from West Ocean City to the substation to install two ducts for the underground electric cables. For the last several months, crews have been drilling under the bay floor for the installation of the ducts that will ultimately carry the high-voltage cables from West Ocean City to the south end of Ocean City.
The huge blue conduit pipes have become a familiar part of the landscape in and around Route 50 in West Ocean City, while the Park-and-Ride has been used as staging area. On the other side, the area near 1st Street and the bay where much of the construction has been taken place has been torn up with road closures and detours. Complicating the situation around 1st Street for part of the time was the ongoing installation of the new water tower at 1st Street, although that project is now ahead of schedule and no longer impacting the roads and traffic patterns.
The installation of the duct system under the Isle of Wight Bay was scheduled for completion next month. The high-voltage power line between Berlin and West Ocean City was built over 50 years ago, while the submarine cable under the Isle of Wight Bay was last installed over 40 years ago.
With the suspension of the project, Delmarva Power is now preparing to repair the areas around 1st Street that have hampered some businesses and residential areas by April 15. The plan is to restore order in the downtown area for the summer season and resume the project in the fall.
“Meanwhile, the company plans to finish street repairs and property restoration associated with this project in the vicinity of 1st Street in downtown Ocean City by April 15,” said Likovich. “Delmarva Power is now in the process of re-evaluating its options and timelines for the completion of this project.”
Likovich said the utility company is evaluating its temporary exit strategy from the project area and it remains uncertain if the blue conduit pipes and other materials in and around West Ocean City will be packed up and removed for the summer season although that appears likely. The project features a modernization of infrastructure and will increase the electric system capacity in order to improve reliability and plan for potential load growth in the north end of Worcester in the future.