FortisAlberta's project of replacing cables in the Big Springs area in Airdrie is nearing completion. On Tuesday, FortisAlberta representatives, Sunny Parmar and Ralph Leriger briefed city council on the project status.

"The underground facilities in Big Springs are approximately 44 years old and aging. This pilot project involved FortisAlberta contractors accessing and replacing eight underground cables that power homes in Big Springs Green, Big Springs Hill and Big Springs Way. Big Springs was chosen due to the frequent service and maintenance calls. The cable replacement was necessary to ensure safe and reliable service to residents," said Parmar. "Before this pilot, FortisAlberta had been replacing cables when a customer called to report power issues."

Ultimately 56 homes were part of the project with construction beginning last summer, running till late October 2023.

"All cable replacement and initial remediation were completed in 2023, and originally as agreed upon, we offered to come back this year in the spring to finish seasonal remediation after settling and fixing deficiencies that are found. It was a lot of work. There are a lot of learnings, but [the] outcome is that this neighbourhood does have a completely new distribution network that will result in improved reliability and greater capacity."

Parmar underlined that though the project did create disruptions for residents, the key was ongoing communication and education of the public, particularly when it came to the issue of utility right of way.

"It's evident that residents do not know where their property line starts and what is the utility right of way. We had many conversations with residents and FortisAlberta will be working with all municipalities to provide utility right away of education. Ideally, [the] reminder [is] to not plant greenery in the utility right of way. Utility right of ways are required to be clear for all parties, including municipalities with their infrastructure as well."

Pumar said future education campaigns will focus on supporting municipal partners, while also making sure municipal partners also support that the utility right of ways are clear.

"It was clear when there's work, without municipal support here, the project would not have been successful. With the support and guidance provided by municipal staff, we took action together. It was beneficial to have municipal officials attending consultation meetings with residents." 

According to city documents, the project was initiated as a pilot project to address electrical infrastructure at the end of its useful life.

"Fortis has substantially completed the work, including primary and secondary cable replacement. The new cables are expected to have a service life of 60 to 80 years. As previously indicated, the upgrade by Fortis will accommodate the future needs of residents who require service for larger electrical loads i.e. smart houses, electric vehicles and hot tubs."

FortisAlberta will be completing the seasonal deficiencies this spring. However, no further future cable replacements by Fortis are slated in the future in Airdrie. 

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