North Arkansas Electric Cooperative is starting an overhaul of electric utility lines serving Salem and Ash Flat.
"We are replacing between seven and eight miles of line. Part of this is copper line replacement that we hope FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) will reimburse us for due to damage from the ice storm," said Director of Member Services Jerry Estes. "This project was in our long-range work plans, but the stress the ice storm caused on the poles and lines made this project more urgent."
The copper wire will be replaced with lighter, stronger aluminum wire of a larger diameter. The wire performs better under electrical loads.
NAEC also has plans for a similar upgrade beginning at Norfork Lake and going to the state line to begin as soon as the current project is completed.
"Normally, we would have to hire contractors to complete a project of this size, but due to the slow economy and building in our area being slow, we are able to do these jobs with our own crews," Estes said. "We have similar jobs going on in our other district."
All of these projects are an indirect result from the historic ice storm of late January 2009.
The upgrades were a part of NAEC's long-range plans that were moved forward in a timeline, because of damage the lines and poles sustained during the ice storm. Because the ice storm was a FEMA-declared disaster, NAEC anticipates some reimbursement for the costs. All of the projects are expected to be completed by February 2013.