PUD may not replace some storm-damaged fiber at Lake Wenatchee
Monday, January 7, 2013
WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD may turn to a slower but far less expensive wireless Internet technology to replace the five miles of fiber-optic cable that have been irreparably damaged in recent weeks under snow-laden falling trees along Lake Wenatchee’s south shore.
For the shore’s approximately seven full-time residents and 57 vacation-home owners, the switch to wireless would see Internet speeds reduced from the 25-or-greater megabits per second to the 12-to15-mebabits per second possible over wireless, commissioners learned Monday.
PUD officials will likely decide by the Friday if they’ll replace the fiber or switch it out for wireless, said Mike Coleman, the PUD’s managing director of fiber and telecommunications.
The fiber along the lake’s North Shore and in the Plain area was less severely damaged and should be fixed within two weeks, he said.
The south shore network originally cost about $350,000 to install, Coleman said. But its replacement cost could approach $750,000, given the current snowy work conditions in the area.
Wireless, by comparison, would cost an estimated $175,000 to $225,000 to install and would be far less vulnerable to harsh winter conditions in the heavily forested area, he said.
Placing new fiber cable underground would increase its installation cost six to 10-fold, Coleman said.
PUD officials will factor network performance, customer needs and cost in their decision, Coleman said.
The Plain and Lake Wenatchee areas were hit hardest by a mid-December storm that blanketed evergreens with wet, heavy snow, sending them toppling into power and fiber lines.
Trees have been falling in the area for the past three weeks, downing powerlines and causing a series of power outages, some lasting for days.
The latest outage came Monday, as crews used snow cats and some of the PUD line workers’ own snowmobiles to transport materials to otherwise inaccessible sites, according to John Stoll, director of customer service.
Many cabins along the lake’s south shore and in the Plain area have also been damaged by falling trees. Four vehicles have been totally or partially crushed by falling trees since the storm began — including two traveling on Highway 2. A husband and wife died in one of the highway incidents.
The State Patrol closed Highway 2 from Dec. 22 to 26 between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass. Both the PUD and Chelan County have declared emergencies.
More outages are expected as trees continue to fall on newly completed repairs, especially in a rugged and “extremely difficult” 6-mile stretch of PUD transmission line through Dead Horse, Sunitsch and Anderson canyons, off Highway 2.
Storm damage is estimated at about $3 million.
“The trees keep falling,” Stoll said. “From a magnitude, duration and cost perspective it’s a significant event. This is pretty unprecedented.”
Christine Pratt: 665-1173
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