Davey Utility and the Davey Resource Group partner to provide Block Island Power with a one-stop shop for all its utility line clearing needs.
Incorporated in 1672 as the only town on the island of Block Island, New Shoreham is the smallest town in the smallest state in the U.S. Approximately 7 miles long and 3 miles wide, Block Island is shaped like a pork chop, covers 7,000 acres and sits just 12 miles from the Rhode Island coastline.
As a tourist destination, Block Island has as few as 1,000 people living there during the winter months but after April the population jumps to 15,000 to 20,000 daily. Giving this destination the power to thrive since 1925 is Block Island Power Co.
Once an investor-owned utility, Block Island Power recently transitioned to a municipal electric after the Town of New Shoreham purchased a two-thirds share of the company. Despite the petite size of New Shoreham, Block Island Power still has some big plans when it comes to taking care of its small-town clients who need reliable power.
The company had hand-drawn maps from the 1940s and 47 miles of utility lines that had not been trimmed or maintained in nearly 20 years except for occasional just-in-time trimming as a result of outages.
Jeffrey Wright of Block Island Power had worked with Davey in the past when they provided line clearing services for Vermont Electric Coop, at which he was employed at the time. So he reached out to them for help.
When it comes to vegetation management, the goal is to get the area to a point where they can be on a three- or four-year maintenance cycle. When vegetation management is considered the No. 1 cause of power outages, this kind of maintenance is crucial to keep customer service in check.
New Shoreham provides some unique challenges for this work. First of all, every piece of equipment necessary for the job has to be ferried over to the island, which takes coordination and planning for equipment like bucket trucks and chippers, as well as the employees necessary to do the work. When ferries aren’t operating as a result of weather, flying needs to be arranged.
Crews come in on Monday, stay the entire week and return to the mainland on Friday to ensure they complete their work.
For the mapping, getting all the information gathered so it can be tracked digitally and via GPS is a big initial undertaking. Davey professionals have to locate each pole, assess its condition and record its assets (telephone, electric, cable, etc.). Once this process is completed, digital tracking and mapping saves time and gives the company a more accurate account of their inventory. Davey has begun this process and it's moving along smoothly.
Since they lacked regular maintenance, rights-of-way in New Shoreham were described as very dense and almost jungle-like. Block Island Power’s budget for the first year of clearing (2017) covered approximately 10 to 20 miles. Davey provided the client with weekly reports, so the client would know where they were as work progressed.
When trees are trimmed every three years, local residents don’t see a huge change, but when trees haven’t been trimmed in more than 10 years, the results can be dramatic. Keeping clear lines of communication helped ease customers into this change, and Block Island Power was pleased with all the positive comments they were receiving from their clients who were happy the work was being done – and being done well. Every New England town has a tree warden who checks in on tree status and the New Shoreham tree warden was also pleased with the quality of trimming by Davey crews.
As a result, Block Island doubled its budget for the next year and encouraged Davey crews to finish the 10 to 20 miles of initial clearing planned for 2017. Work for 2018 is currently being planned and initiated.