Summer Construction Season

Dan Schaefer, Line Superintendent

The snow has finally melted away, and that means your cooperative can get to work on some important maintenance projects. To do all we need to do, Nodak reaches out to local contractors who have proven their skill and dedication to detail.

Underground Power Lines

North Plains Utility Contracting is based out of Devils Lake, N.D. Its contractors install all of Nodak’s underground primary and secondary distribution lines by means of trenching, plowing or directional boring. Nodak has North Plains start when the frost comes out of the ground in the spring and continue until the ground freezes in the late fall. They provide one large plow that is pulled with two steel-tracked machines. One smaller machine has a trencher, plow and a backhoe all in one. They also have two directional bore machines when needed.

North Plains Utility Contracting
Long earthen trench dug to lay pipe or optic fiber.
  • Trenching is cutting a trench 4 inches wide with a trenching machine. The machine has a long steel bar with a chain that cuts the trench to the needed depth. The cable is put in the bottom of the trench, which is then backfilled. A lot of labor is involved in the backfill process, as the soil that is put back in the trench needs to be compacted to prevent settling. This is typically the procedure used when there are large, or many, cables in the same trench. It is mainly used in new housing areas.
  • Most cable is installed by means of plowing. The plow chute is lowered into the ground to the desired depth (normally 4 feet). The cable goes through a chute and makes its way through to the bottom of this chute, then rests at the bottom of the trench that the plow has made. The plow and chute vibrate up and down very fast to help cut through the soil. Very little cleanup is needed in this process, and it is mainly used in rural areas.
  • Directional boring is used when Nodak must cross a paved road, slough area, drainage ditch or congested area where trenching or plowing is impractical. This is accomplished with a specialized machine that spins pipe-type rods into the ground with a special boring bit on the end of the pipe sections. This bit has an electronic device inside of it that sends a signal to a hand-held transmitter above ground, allowing the transmitter and bore machine operator to steer the bit up, down, left or right. Water is pumped inside the bore pipe and exits through the end of the spinning boring bit. This allows the bore hole to stay open so the cable can be pulled back through this opening. This procedure is very expensive and is only used where it is absolutely needed.

Vegetation Management

To address vegetation management issues affecting Nodak’s overhead distribution system, Dakota Tree Service (Devils Lake, N.D.) and AW Power (Hannover, N.D.) are hired to assist in these efforts.

Trees that are touching the energized conductor can cause power quality issues such as blinking or dimming lights and power outages. If the right of way is properly cleared, it will also take less time for our crews to complete repairs. Trees that are touching an energized conductor create unwanted use of electricity known as line loss. Line loss is electricity we purchase from our power supplier that is not sold to our members. Vegetation is managed with a combination of bucket trucks, chainsaws, brush chippers that turn the branches into small chips and large mowers that can grind up small trees.

Pole Testing And Replacement

RAM Utilities

RAM Utilities of Moorhead, Minn., tests every pole on Nodak’s overhead system once every 10 years.

It is crucial to identify the defective poles in our system, as one broken pole can cause a domino effect in a storm situation and take out miles of poles if it is not replaced.

RAM Utilities inspects every pole for decay spots by means of “sounding” with a hammer above the ground line. The pole is lightly excavated at the ground line and a small hole is drilled for inspection of the wood. If everything appears fine, a treated plug is placed in the hole and all hardware is inspected. All information is gathered and GPS coordinates are recorded.

All poles that fail the test fall into one of two categories:

  • A priority reject is a pole that needs to be replaced as soon as possible. The pole has considerable machinery or fire damage or decay.
  • A reject is a pole that will be replaced within one year, as the decay is such that a wind event or sleet storm would break this pole prematurely.

Our crews typically need to change 200 to 250 poles per year, which equates to 1 to 2% of our poles. Most of these poles are changed out with the line energized so members do not experience an outage.

Painting And Fiberglass Repair

Mother Nature is tough on the paint covering our meter sockets, pad mount transformers, sectionalizing cabinets and switch gear. Joe Ritter of Metal Refinishing

Joe Ritter, Metal Refinishing Services

Services from Little Falls, Minn., is equipped to sandblast and paint these items on site, which saves the time and expense of changing out the piece of equipment that needs a paint job.

Ritter also repairs fiberglass on cabinets that have machinery damage. It is more cost effective to repair fiberglass than purchase new. The repair can also be completed with the device energized so the customer’s power is not interrupted.

Watch For These Contractors In Your Area

  • North Plains Utility Contracting – Install underground lines
  • RAM Utilities – Pole testers
  • Dakota Tree Service – Tree trimming
  • AW Power – Tree trimming
  • Joe Ritter, Metal Refinishing Services – Painting and fiberglass repair