RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Come the New Year, hundreds of electrical workers from the mainland United States will descend upon Puerto Rico to help with recovery efforts, including more than 80 from Dominion Energy.
Dominion announced Tuesday that it will send 82 workers and dozens of pieces of equipment as part of a national effort to rebuild the island’s devastated electric grid after Hurricane Maria.
The work itself will be familiar for the Dominion Crews, but the conditions will be like none they’ve ever seen.
Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris says Puerto Rico’s climate and terrain provide unique challenges.
“It’s gonna be a challenge for all of our workers, because this is off the mainland United States, and there was severe devastation to the grid there in Puerto Rico. There are some areas where the transmission lines go through that’s a mountainous area that has little or no road access.”
Harris says the mission will not affect customer bills because the funds are coming from FEMA. She says the contingent of 82 workers is a small fraction of the utility’s workforce, and plenty of local crews will be ready should winter weather interrupt power in Hampton Roads.
Dominion workers will be part of a 1,500 contingent from mainland electric companies working under the direction of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The support mission is expected to boost the island’s number of power restoration workers to more than 5,500 in total.
It’s an idea that was thought up right after Maria, but took time to implement.
“When the request for help came in, we immediately began making preparations,” said Ed Baine, Dominion’s senior vice president of distribution. “While the logistics of responding to this type of restoration are complex, we are eager to respond to the call for aid from those in need.”
The heavy machinery will get a head-start by boat, with 56 pieces of equipment and vehicles leaving by barge on Jan 2. On Jan. 10, an advance team of safety and logistics specialists, leadership members and other officials will head over on Jan. 10. 5 days later, linemen, groundmen and other support personnel will arrive to begin restoration efforts.
Dominion crews are expected to remain on the island for at least a month.
Many in Puerto are expected to be without power until at least February (some until May), but with extra support on the way, that timeline fortunately may get a little shorter.