The splice is nice
The old adage “the third time’s a charm,” held true this past week for National Grid in its latest attempt to splice the electronic transmission cable that runs from Block Island to the mainland. National Grid was foiled in its first attempt last spring when the conduit that holds the cable became clogged with “debris” and could not be cleared by the time the company needed to be off the beach and out of the parking lot in time for the summer season.
When they came back last fall, the debris was finally cleared, but no weather window presented itself so that the critical step of splicing could be performed. Because of the size of the barge used in the shallow waters off of Fred Benson Town Beach, seas above four feet and winds over
approximately 35 miles per hour would prevent crews from working.
NGRID has said it would need at least a five-day window of calm weather to get the job done. It did not get that last fall, and so, they arrived early in April with hopes of finally getting the job done. Locals were skeptical – April can bring intense storms to the island. Overnight, Monday into Tuesday this week, winds gusted up to 80 miles per hour at the Southeast Lighthouse and Tuesday’s ferries were canceled for the day.
But NGRID was done before the storm arrived. On Sunday, April 10, the Block Island Power Company switched its power from the cable to its diesel generators and the splicing began. By Friday, the cable was ready for its first test, which involved lowering it back into the water and letting it soak for a while.
BIPCo President Jeffery Wright told The Block Island Times: “Grid’s cable repair went perfect and the cable was returned to service on Sunday. All the fibers tested one hundred percent perfect.”
Town Manager Maryanne Crawford was ecstatic that the job was finally completed, and said that all eight of the town’s fiber optic cables slated for the island-wide broadband installation had been tested and were working. She added that crews were able to double up on some of the work and have already removed the old sections of the cable.
The only remaining step remaining is to restore the parking lot at the beach, work that is actively going on.
The island-wide power outages the island experienced during the wee hours of April 9 and 10, and then again for a bit longer in the early morning of April 21, were not related to the cable work, but to BIPCo’s voltage conversion project that changes the electric transmission system from a Delta type to a Wye type, and will increase the electric capacity of the power lines on the island, as well as reduce line losses.