Submitted by Orcas Power and Light Cooperative
Safety is the primary objective at the core of everything Orcas Power and Light Cooperative does. OPALCO continues to use an aggressive Right-of-Way Program (tree and brush trimming along power lines) and the latest technologies to reduce flammable material and mitigate fire risk. The long-term investment is key to the safety of our island communities. As the dramatic effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, San Juan County will be particularly vulnerable to drought conditions and wildfire safety will be even more critical for our remote communities.
OPALCO’s transmission and distribution system allow OPALCO staff to operate and monitor the system in real-time and respond quickly to any power issues and get the power-up and running when there is a fault in the line. For example, if a limb hits a power line the system is able to “repair itself” and reboot after the limb has fallen off the line. During wildfire season, we turn this feature off which means the system is less likely to cause dry limbs to catch fire. There is also a sophisticated automated system monitoring our high voltage overhead lines that can detect flammable items in proximity to the transmission lines and shut off power when and if one does makes contact.
Recent wildfires associated with electric facilities make it clear that tree contact with energized electrical conductors can be a risk to the safety of people, property, forest health and our essential infrastructure. OPALCO’s Right-of-Way Program addresses vegetation growing in the proximity of overhead power lines and prevents trees and limbs from falling into the lines. OPALCO is exploring key partnerships in the county that take into account forest health and fire resiliency to expand this critical program. It will require cooperation from landowners, OPALCO members and community partners.
The unprecedented climate wildfires and rolling blackouts that California is experiencing today should be seen as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” alerting us to the very real potential for major fires and energy shortages here in the Pacific Northwest as climate extremes move northward. Each of us can do our part to reduce the fuel for wildfires on our property and organize our neighborhoods through programs such as Fire Wise, www.firewise.org, to be prepared. Is your family prepared in case of an emergency evacuation? Learn how at the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management at www.sanjuandem.net.
We’re in this together. As a cooperative, OPALCO needs all members to stay alert and involved to protect our quality of life in San Juan County. If you notice trees that are too close to overhead power lines, call OPALCO at 360-376-3500. OPALCO appreciates your cooperation with this critical Right-of-Way clearing and keeping a safe clearance around all OPALCO equipment on your property.