UPDATE 11/30/18 1:45 pm
Reliable power is making it’s way to Washington Island soon. A barge with two large reels of cable were seen being carried through Sturgeon Bay this afternoon under the Oregon Street bridge.
Residents of Washington Island are accustom to occasional power outages, but a weeks-long outage in June left locals worried about the future.
“A t-storm will come by and the power will go out for a few hours,” said Daniel Gregg, a 10-year resident of the island. “Or it’ll go out for a day and you’ll have to deal without power for a day.”
Over this past winter, the island’s only outside source of power, an underwater power line, was damaged by ice.
Back in June, that damage caused the island to go dark.
The line has since been patched up, but experts say the fix is temporary.
“The potential for future interruptions is always there for another fault to occur,” Hoyt Purinton, a board member of the Washington Island Electric Cooperative said. “It might be five minutes from now, it might be five weeks, might be five months.”
To end the uncertainty that hangs over the island, the submarine power line needs to be replaced, but that comes with a hefty price tag for the Co-Op to cover.
“We’re thinking it’s probably going to be two and a half to three million, in that area, and we spent, we haven’t paid all the bills yet, but to get the cable repaired was $650,000, so it’s a big expense for 1,100 members of the co-op,” Orion Mann, President of the Washington Island Electric Cooperative said.
As another Wisconsin winter approaches, the co-op is under pressure to replace the line before ice once again covers Lake Michigan, because if the cable were to break during the winter, islanders would be forced to use power generators until the lake thaws enough for the repair.
Mann says that’s not a viable option for the island.
“Where we sell a kilowatt for 13 cents,” he explained, “it costs us over 40 cents to generate it, so that’s a losing proposition.
Governor Scott Walker has declared a “State of Emergency” on the island to help open avenues for potential state and federal funding.