Homer storm damage expected to approach $1 million

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The cost of repairing utility damage from two winter storms around Homer is expected to reach about $1 million.

Storms in late December pushed hundreds of trees onto power lines, cutting electric service to some homes for up to a week.

Repair costs will not affect rates, however.

''The cost will have to be absorbed by Homer Electric, but it won't be reflected in higher rates,'' said Homer Electric spokesman Joe Gallagher on Wednesday.

Gallagher said one possibility is that consumers might see lower capital credits allocated.

About 50 percent of the cost from the storm relates to labor costs, Gallagher said. More than 30 lineman from Homer Electric worked around the clock during the holidays. They were assisted by at least that many workers hired in contract crews, Gallagher said.

In repairing damage, the utility installed more than 500 splices and more than five miles of new line, Gallagher said.

The cost of the repairs far exceeded the utility's budget for the storm damage, but the cost could have been higher.

Gallagher said dead spruce trees were the main cause of power outages in this and many recent storms for Homer Electric. During the past two years, the electric company has worked to diminish the number of dead trees -- killed by spruce bark beetles -- that could fall and damage electric lines.

The utility has concentrated on roads east of Homer, in the city and along the Sterling Highway.

As a result of the storm, a crew that was working on the northern portion of the Sterling Highway has now moved to North Fork Road, Gallagher said.

Gallagher said the utility estimates that 30,000 more beetle-killed trees will need to be removed.

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