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To help prevent wildfires, Rocky Mountain Power is burying lines in Big Cottonwood Canyon

Posted at 2:46 PM, Jul 03, 2024

BRIGHTON, Utah — At the famous Silver Fork Lodge, people are popping in for a bite of lunch and to enjoy the beautiful scenery in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Dan Knoop is happy to see them. A big construction project just wrapped up outside his restaurant.

"It’s been hell on my business because we’ve had half-mile closures with an automated traffic lights all the way up the canyon for the last two years," he said. "That work’s all done."

Knoop, who is also the mayor of Brighton, is fine with the result. It will help protect his community of roughly 450 people from wildfires.

"They’re going to put all those underground which really does a great job of hardening our power infrastructure," he said, pointing to some nearby power lines. "That’s what they’re working on this summer."

Rocky Mountain Power has been burying lines to help prevent wildfires as part of a $2.5 billion mitigation project across the six states in which it operates. In Big Cottonwood Canyon, there will be about 35 miles of lines that will be relocated underground, said RMP spokesperson Tiffany Erickson.

"We’ve done some in Park City, we’re doing some in Millcreek and other parts of our system," she said.

The project has been under way for some time, but the next phase will begin in Big Cottonwood Canyon next week. In other instances, RMP intends to put protective coating on some lines with a protective coating to prevent a spark.

"We also have 480 weather stations across our system, so it’s 24-7 monitoring and we can take that data and do risk modeling," Erickson said.

Knoop said his community has been largely supportive of the project, even though it has been stressful. Wildfire mitigation is a big need. He pointed out the project will have benefits in the winter, too.

"Just for better infrastructure. We have power outages usually in the winter up here. A tree falls, hits a power line and we’re out of power for half a day," he said.