By Roger McKinney
GIRARD, Kan. — A $12 million federal grant will allow Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative to undertake what it is calling the biggest construction project in its history.
The $12 million grant has been awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a $16 million project to rebuild 374 miles of the electric utility’s backbone distribution system.
“It’s going to be a huge undertaking,” said Ron Graber, Heartland spokesman.
Work will include projects in eight counties: Cherokee, Crawford, Bourbon, Allen, Linn, Miami, Neosho and Wilson.
A news release announcing the grant award states that the 374 miles of overhead distribution lines will be rebuilt to a stronger construction standard and be better able to withstand severe weather. As a result, there will be fewer outages with shorter durations.
Graber said the improvements would include installing stronger utility poles, heavier anchoring, replacing the overhead line with better conductor, and reducing the distance between poles.
“All of these changes will make our system better able to withstand the ice and wind that are the primary causes of our outages,” Graber said.
The Heartland news release states that the grant will allow the cooperative to make the improvements with small increases to electric rates. Without the grant, such improvements could take 20 years to accomplish.
Graber said all the work will be done on existing lines and no additional property would be bought. He said the first step is to undertake engineering work on the project. He said an outside contractor would be hired to do the construction work.
The project will take three years.
Graber said the rural electric cooperative serves 11,800 meters, with some properties having more than one meter.
The grant is from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures.
Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative was incorporated in 1996, resulting from a consolidation of several rural electric cooperatives.