SMECO to drill under Patuxent -- Gazette.Net



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The Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative is scheduled to start drilling under the Patuxent River on Sept. 9, which will bring noise to the neighborhood on North Patuxent Beach Road in California.

The work is anticipated to last until December as SMECO connects a new electrical loop from Calvert to St. Mary’s County.

The $110 million project started in April 2012 in Calvert County and has installed 186 new power poles there, upgrading a 69 kilovolt line to 230 kilovolts.

When the work moves to St. Mary’s County, 31 of the new power poles will be placed along 4 miles from Buck Hewitt Road to Patuxent Boulevard in California. Old poles with heights of 65 to 75 feet tall will be replaced by taller poles with heights ranging from 110 to 160 feet tall, spaced farther apart, said Tom Dennison, public affairs manager for SMECO.

The project will allow the cooperative to “divert power both ways if there’s a problem on the system,” closing the electrical loop, he said in a Tuesday briefing to the St. Mary’s County commissioners.

SMECO will bore two tunnels 30 to 50 feet under the deep Patuxent River, starting at a location at North Patuxent Beach Road in California, across 4,700 feet, and coming up at the Navy Recreation Center in Solomons. That work is scheduled to begin Sept. 9, and it is expected to last for four months, said Kenneth Capps, vice president and chief operating officer of SMECO.

During most of that time the drilling operation will go on six days a week for 12 hours a day, he said. Plywood sound barriers will go up around diesel generators, and a fence will be erected with acoustic buffers around the drilling site.

Operations are scheduled to run for 24 hours a day on Oct. 23 and 24 and again on Dec. 14 and 14, Capps said, as the pipe is assembled through the two tunnels. The pressure of drilling fluid will keep the bore hole from collapsing, he said.

SMECO has started informing neighboring residents, said Austin J. Slater Jr., president and chief executive officer of SMECO.

“We’ve taken a lot of measures to mitigate the impact on the community ... and it’s temporary,” Dennison said.

The new power poles will be installed starting in January 2014 along SMECO’s 100-foot-wide right of way from its station at Buck Hewitt Road, through the San Souci neighborhood north toward Walmart and South Plaza and across Route 235 over the Park Place development, along Shady Mile Drive and then down Route 4 toward the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge.

A small helicopter will install conductors along the new towers, which may catch the attention of drivers along Route 235, Capps said.

Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) was told the new lines won’t infringe on state plans to expand Route 4 or the Thomas Johnson bridge. “There’s been dialogue back and forth between the parties on bridge considerations,” Capps said.

The overhead power lines should be complete by July 2014, with the entire project done by the end of that year, Dennison said. See www.smeco.coop under the Southern Maryland Reliability Project link for more details on the work.

jbabcock@somdnews.com