Swamps, woodlands & main streets: Nothing this crew can’t handle

By Maura Mone

Apprentice and veteran line workers tackle a major challenge together

MA-Swamplands-1Have you ever gone walking or hiking, come across electricity distribution poles in the middle of nowhere, and thought, “What happens if these lines get damaged? How on earth do we get a bucket truck out here?”

Good questions. Repairing lines in rural areas of our service territory takes innovative and often physically demanding solutions.

Last year, when we needed to replace lines in Massachusetts woodlands and wetlands, a team of employees from the Spencer and Monson, MA platforms delivered one of these solutions.

What started off as a seemingly routine line replacement project quickly gained complexity once the team completed an assessment.  A 5.5 mile feeder line running between two substations in rural Southbridge and Sturbridge (built in 1945) needed immediate repair.

Woodpeckers had bored holes “the size of soccer balls” into many of the poles, lines were damaged and 450 spacers had to be replaced. It wasn’t going to be an easy fix; the project would require resetting 35 poles and creating a new H-frame infrastructure to hang line across wet, swampy areas.  It would mean arduous days climbing poles, battling ticks and trekking through difficult terrain. It would also mean working in neighborhoods and on main streets that the feeder crossed over – where we’d practically be in customers’ backyards.

MA-Swamplands-2To tackle such a huge project, New England Overhead operations took a new approach – apprentice (3rd class) linemen from Monson teamed up with experienced linemen (1st class) from Monson and Spencer. Together, they worked with a contracting crew who helped clear debris and set the poles with specialized equipment meant for backcountry jobs (like excavators, ATVs, and swamp vehicles), to get the job done.

“What this team achieved is nothing short of operational excellence,” said Bay State West Overhead Director, Paul Brochu.

Over the course of the major project, there were no LTIs, RTCs or OSHA recordables. The project came in much lower than the original budget forecast and there were no calls from area customers – despite teams working in very close proximity to homes. It was a testament to the professionalism, skill and efficiency of the team.  It was also a unique opportunity for apprentice line workers to do this kind of line replacement work.

“They rose to the challenge; I’m totally impressed with their performance,” said Manager John Doherty. “Every new lineman should get a chance to do this work.”

“I’ve seen a lot of training crews, but this one is really great,” said crew leader Dave Bombard.

The successful completion of the project was another major win for National Grid, and an important investment to bolster infrastructure in the area. Here’s a photo of the whole team that contributed:



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