NorthWestern Energy is installing six new steel power poles on concrete foundations, and stringing new high-voltage transmission wire to replace structures damaged during last spring’s flooding.
Work began at the end of January, and a flagger is limiting access to the popular 120-acre Tower Street Open Space recreation area for safety reasons.
The temporary closure comes as crews work on the installation of the new lines, which replace a key 210,000-volt transmission line that dipped into the Clark Fork River during the height of the flooding. The power to the line automatically was shut off and rerouted once it dropped into the river. The line serves the Target Range area, Miller Creek and the Bitterroot Valley.
Jo Dee Black, a public relations specialist with NorthWestern Energy, said the open space near Tower Street will re-open to public access on Monday, April 8. The closure will resume later this spring or early in the summer, once conditions allow, when crews will return to the area to complete the project.
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"We know this is an inconvenience and appreciate the public's patience and cooperation," Black wrote in an email to the Missoulian. "We are working to get the work done safely and efficiently to minimize the impact on the people who enjoy that open space."
Relocation of the lines and their corridor was needed after the floodwaters created a new Clark Fork River channel. Clearing the corridor meant removing ponderosa pine and cottonwood trees directly under the new line, and crews also are creating snags and scattering slash to improve the habitat; they’re also trimming some tall tree branches.
Once the new line is in place and operating, the old power line corridor will be reclaimed, and existing poles and the line will be removed. Some of the anticipated reclamation includes transplanting some of the cottonwoods removed to create the new power line corridor. Crews also will plant willows, ponderosa pine and other native species, while enhancing existing trails.
The new location is expected to prevent future damage from flooding and improve service reliability for NorthWestern Energy customers.