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Pacific Power will shift underwater power cable from mud to concrete tube in 2022

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN VILLAGOMEZ - The Willamette River where Pacific Power will build a tunnel under the Broadway Bridge to carry electrical power cable. In 2022, two cables under the Fremont Bridge will have to be removed from the river bed when the Willamette is dredged of toxic mud for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) long planned cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

Pacific Power is moving its electric cable from the riverbed of the Willamette and building a tunnel for it because of Portland's superfund cleanup.

The electric utility is calling it the Willamette River Crossing Project.

It says the move is to "accommodate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) long-planned cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site."

The existing power supply cables are sunk in the sediment of the Willamette River in Portland between the Broadway and Fremont bridges. The site is called the Centennial Mills Cable Crossing, for the former flour mill on the river's west bank. The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers intend to eventually scour the toxic mud from the riverbed and transport it elsewhere, cleaning up one-and-a-half centuries of industrial pollution.

Either way, Pacific Power's cables are in the way, so Pacific Power is building a 4-foot diameter concrete tunnel just north of the Broadway Bridge to house a bigger, safer version of the power supply.

Drilling will begin on the west bank in early 2022 and the new cable should be working by Spring 2023.

The new underground line will be approximately two miles long and the tunnel will be 3,000 feet long. The tunnel will start around Northwest 11th Avenue and Pettygrove Street in the Pearl District and the cable will pop up on the other side near the grain terminal. It will continue to the Albina Substation.

COURTESY GRAPHIC: PACIFIC POWER - A map of where the Willamette River Crossing Project will bring a new tunnel under the Willamette River. The orange line marks the tunnel. The old cables under the Fremont Bridge will be removed so the EPA can clean up the river bed.  The new cable will link the Albina Substation with an interconnection in the Pearl Dictrict at Pettygrove Street.

The goal is to not interrupt the power supply.

"Pacific Power has identified the Willamette Crossing Project as the preferred alternative for providing uninterrupted electric service to the Albina network so that the Centennial Mills Cable Crossing can be removed from service," said the company.

Bob Gravely, Pacific Power's regional business manager for Portland, said the tunnel will be drilled over a period of months.

COURTESY GRAPHIC: PACIFIC POWER - Pacific Power's Willamette River Crossing Project will bring a new tunnel under the Willamette River. The orange line marks the new power cable.  Boring begins in 2022.

Much of the river mud contains polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. These man-made chemicals resist heat and pressure and were widely used in electrical equipment until they were banned in 1979. PCBs are neurotoxins and can be found in fish and in the water supply. The superfund cleanup is designed to stir them up as little as possible.

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