MYR Group subsidiary, Sturgeon Electric, recently constructed the 60-mile Harry Allen-Eldorado triple-bundle 500kV transmission line. The new line traverses through Nevada’s desert terrain connecting the Eldorado substation in Clark County, NV to the Harry Allen substation just north of Las Vegas.
Sturgeon Electric was commissioned by DesertLink, LLC, an LS Power Company, to construct the line to provide a new link from Nevada’s transmission network to California’s energy grid. This new line runs along a very crowded corridor adjacent to Las Vegas and presented several challenges for Sturgeon Electric to overcome.
In addition to assembling, erecting and setting 39 self-supporting lattice towers, 19 self-supporting tubular structures, and 115 Lattice Guyed Vee Tangent structures, Sturgeon Electric crews were responsible for constructing all roadways, pads, and landings leading to the structures and worksites.
“These guys have done an amazing job. It’s an extremely difficult project. It’s everything from the 115-degree summer days, the dirt, the dust, the wind, our towers are big – they’re heavy,” stated Alex Phillips, construction manager at Sturgeon Electric. “It’s one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever been a part of.”
The Mars-like landscape was one challenge encountered during the project. In areas of steep terrain, Sturgeon Electric relied on helicopters to help advance the project by completing tasks such as hanging travelers or installing spacers. Sturgeon Electric also used implosive splicing, a method of fusing longer sections of conductor together to reduce the number of access points and heavy equipment needed.
Induction, the electric effect that can cause an otherwise de-energized conductor to build up a dangerous charge due to its close proximity to other live lines, was also a primary concern for those working on the project. Phillips noted that special precautions and procedures were included in the project’s site-specific safety and grounding plans to protect the team members and establish proper techniques while working in the somewhat unpredictable environment.
The majority of the project alignment is on public lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – Southern Nevada District Office, and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) – Lower Colorado Region. This area is home to an array of desert flora and fauna such as, desert tortoises, pygmy rabbits, prickly pear cacti and other desert plant species. This habitat requires specific environmental protections in order to operate.
Protecting tortoises, the state reptile, was a top priority. 60 environmental monitors were on site to escort crews and equipment on and off the right of way and to conduct foot patrols around the construction zone. Sturgeon Electric also hired an environmental subcontractor and distributed rewards to any worker who spotted and reported these critters.
“It’s a great incentive program. Sturgeon Electric has paid out over five thousand dollars on this program, so that means a lot of people are looking, and that was our goal at the start,” stated Jeff Montgomery, Project Manager at K2 Environmental.
These additional efforts led to 533 recorded observations and the relocation of 73 animals to safe areas. Sturgeon Electric’s stewardship of the land also included protecting certain plant species. Prickly pear cacti and other desert flora were relocated to several nurseries for safekeeping until they were replanted during the restoration phase of the project.
Sturgeon Electric worked closely with the BLM, the Bureau of Reclamation and DesertLink, LLC to properly protect and restore the project area to its natural state. Open lines of communication played an important role throughout this project.
“Because of our successful history and relationship with LS Power, we were able to use an open-book process to be very visible with our costs, expenses and man hours on the job,” stated Mindie McIff, regional vice president at Sturgeon Electric.
In recent years, the push to upgrade California’s electrical infrastructure has reduced the pool of experienced line workers available for work in other states. As a result, Sturgeon Electric had a higher number of apprentices on this project, and worked diligently to train and bring them up to speed on all scope tasks and considerations.
“It’s a very difficult, complex project, and I’m really impressed with how our supervision and management were able to bring these new people together and get this project done successfully with very limited safety issues,” noted McIff.
The Harry Allen-Eldorado project was successfully completed in March 2020 and is an excellent example of Sturgeon Electric’s capabilities.