Anyone driving on Pimpewaug Rd. in central Wilton would have a hard time not seeing machinery and multiple construction zones along the mile of roadway between Danbury Rd. and Cannon Rd.. Eversource crews have been at work there as well as across Rte. 7 near the substation at 53 Old Danbury Rd. since mid-September to replace towers and wires on the utility’s right of way between Wilton and Redding.
Crews will be replacing a total of 13 aging steel lattice towers and wood structures that have been in place since the 1940s and 1950s, according to Eversource spokesman Frank Poirot. Both structures are vulnerable to weather, as well as woodpecker damage, rot and cracks sustained by the wood structures. They’ll be replaced with the newer monopole towers similar to the ones erected in Wilton Center two years ago.
It’s part of a project to upgrade the infrastructure along seven miles of existing transmission right-of-way from the substation near Rings End Lumber up to a substation in Redding.
Poirot says that the project is part of bringing the company’s entire network to meet “more stringent national reliability standards” for safety clearances and reliability.
“It’s to maintain more of a clearance between our lines and the ground, or our lines and whatever’s below them. Whether it be a road, or certainly from trees. We try to clear trees as far away from our lines as we can. All the work is going on within existing transmission rights of way,” Poirot says.
Similar work is being done elsewhere across the state, based on intelligence Eversource gathers through site surveys from the ground as well as the sky, using helicopters and now drones. “They survey trees that are growing in our right of way or near them. The actual equipment, while looking for damage from say, lightning strikes and other things. It’s a very dynamic environment that our equipment exists in. We can follow the deterioration sometimes of these structures, and that’s what drives our maintenance and our upgrade work throughout the state,” Poirot explains.
As part of the project, work crews have built construction access roads and construction pads to build platforms for equipment and personnel at some of the sites.
Some of the tower placements involve Eversource rights of way very close to homes and private structures. Crews have laid thick wood beams and railroad ties to construct platforms for the heavy machinery–sometimes in someone’s front yard. Poirot says those platforms not only keep crews safe and machinery stable but they will help crews avoid compacting the soil or leaving ruts behind from heavy equipment, making the restoration of the property–Eversource’s responsibility–go a little smoother.
“Before we arrive with the equipment, probably a year or more before that, we reach out to each of the property owners. Each property is different. If you were to follow our right of way throughout Wilton and Redding, people have built homes close to this right of way. So we don’t just go in, we do a lot of advanced work with individual property owners, and it’s very much a vibrant two way conversation. We explain our timeline for doing the work, the nature of the work, and we want to hear about anything that is in that backyard or on that property that might be sensitive to this work–from an invisible dog fence, to a septic, just anything. We want to we want to work as collaboratively as we can with each of the property owners, because of course we have right of way rights, but they have the property and we want to be respectful of it,” Poirot says.
Eversource will develop a landscape restoration plan for each property where work is done, “…which will include plantings and things like that, to bring their property back and stabilize the soil and clean it up. So their property is whole once we are done with our work.”
Poirot says work is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, with property restoration expected to be completed in spring 2020.