The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) announced on Tuesday that they had recently made the “final cut” for the transmission cables at the ends of the old Bonner Bridge, which means that power for the islands was completely switched from the cables at the old bridge to the new structure.
“We’ve always had transmission cables on the Bonner Bridge since it was built in 1963, and the last time we replaced those was in 1995,” said Laura Ertle, Director of Marketing & Public Relations for CHEC. “Those are the cables that they detached yesterday, so they have clearly served us well.”
CHEC crews starting making the power switch from the old bridge to the new bridge in November of 2018 as one of the final steps in the construction process.
The new cables that provide electricity for both islands were placed underneath the new bridge via a hanging conduit system, which was installed by PCL Construction. At the old Bonner Bridge site, the cables were visibly attached to the side of the bridge, and their new locale makes them more protected in the event of storms, hurricanes, and other inclement weather situations.
Two weeks ago, CHEC transferred much of the load to the new cables, while keeping the Bonner Bridge lines active in case there were any issues or complications along the way. “We let the lines on the new bridge sit for two weeks just to be sure [they were working properly] before we made the final cut,” said Ertle.
After two weeks of testing, CHEC made the final transition on Monday, which required scheduled power outages and the temporary use of generator power for both islands to successfully make the move. During this work on Monday, the islands remained on generator power for the duration of the day until roughly 9:05 p.m. when the work was complete.
Now that the old cables have been removed, demolition on the old Bonner Bridge is a step closer to starting. Expected to take 10 months once demolition begins, approximately 1,000 feet of the original bridge will be left standing on the southern end to serve as a fishing pier and walkway.
For Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative’s part, their work at either bridge site is primarily done. At some point in the future, CHEC will remove the temporary power lines that were installed after the 2017 transmission outage, but as they are currently being utilized by PCL as they start the demolition process, this project won’t be tackled until PCL is completely finished.
In the meantime, although there are no obvious signs of a switch, this recent work quietly marks the first time that Hatteras and Ocracoke islands have had a new power connection in nearly six decades, when the power was first turned on at the Bonner Bridge.
“Everything went really smoothly with the new bridge, and we are very happy to be attached and energized,” said Ertle. “It means a lot of reliability for the future of [powering] Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.”