Setbacks Continue For Underwater Transmission Line Project

Setbacks Continue For Underwater Transmission Line Project
Contractors are pictured repairing "a sink hole of sorts" on 1st Street where conduit pipes end in Ocean City. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — The ongoing undergrounding of high voltage power transmission lines under the bay between West Ocean City and downtown Ocean City is off again after the project could not be completed before the arrival of the summer season.

For at least the last two years, Delmarva Power has been boring pathways under the Isle of Wight Bay between West Ocean City and 1st Street in Ocean City in order to install a duct system of sorts that will ultimately carry high-voltage power lines under the bay’s floor. The project began at least two years ago and was expected to be completed sometime in 2017.

However, a series of setbacks has now again forced Delmarva Power to suspend the operation and restore order around the downtown area near 1st Street and the bay with another summer season quickly approaching.

“Essentially, all of the work has been completed for this spring,” said Delmarva Power Strategic Communications Manager Jake Sneeden this week. “Being a good partner with the Town of Ocean City and the business community, we will cease all other aspects of this project and will return to complete it in October. We anticipate the transmission line project to be completed and energized by early 2019.”

Sneeden said the now-familiar blue plastic pipes that have dotted the landscape in West Ocean City and downtown Ocean City over the life of the project beginning in 2016 have been successfully installed under the bay and that portion of the project has been completed. The next major step is pulling the transmission power lines through the plastic conduits under the bay, a project that is expected to be completed next fall.

“As the project goes into next fall, all of the drilling has been completed and the last component is actually pulling the wire through the conduit under the bay,” he said. “Once that happens, we’ll make the connection from the end of the transmission line in West Ocean City to the line in Ocean City.”

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. The last link in the chain is the connection of the high-voltage line in West Ocean City to the substation on 2nd Street.

Photo by Chris Parypa

The project required boring under the bay floor to install two ducts for the underground electric cables. Sneeden said this week there have been some setbacks along the way, complicated by an abbreviated work schedule in partnership with the town of Ocean City and the summer season.

“This project had taken a little longer than anticipated and we’ve had some setbacks,” he said. “When it’s finally done, it will all be worth it. It’s going to greatly enhance reliability in that entire service area.”

Another setback occurred just last weekend when soil around the eastern terminus of the conduit pipes under the bay at 1st Street eroded, creating a sink in the area of 1st Street near de Lazy Lizard restaurant. Repairs were being made this week on the sink hole before the overall project was suspended again until next fall.

“There was some ground sediment that eroded and it did create a sink hole of sorts,” he said. “Basically, some of the soil in the area of the conduit on 1st Street west of St. Louis Avenue failed. We went in and back-filled it and now we are placing a steel plate over the area and will cover it with asphalt. That is going on this week. When we come back in the fall, we’ll take that patch up and begin pulling the wires from the transmission line through the conduit under the bay to finish the project.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.