Crane barge severs BC Hydro and Telus fibre-optic lines

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 28 2016

Every BC Hydro customer on Gabriola and Mudge islands is without power, and many are without phone lines, after a barge carrying a crane cut through the overhead cables which hang over Dodd Narrows. The incident took place at 8:43pm on Tuesday, September 27.

This included the main line supplying power to Gabriola and Mudge, as well as Telus' main fibre-optic line which provides the feed for internet, land lines, and the cell towers on Gabriola.

Ted Olynyk, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said due to the location of the break, power would likely be out for all of Wednesday. Best case, he said, power would be restored on Thursday, September 28, but could be out until Friday.

Gabriolans have experienced a job like this in recent years, in 2013 BC Hydro replaced the power poles and lines linking Mudge Island to Gabriola. As with that job, helicopters will be used to carry guide ropes across Dodd Narrows for crews to then winch over the new power lines. Without having the preperation and planning time that BC Hydro had in 2013, Olynyk said it will be difficult to be sure when repairs will be fully completed.

A helicopter flies over False Narrows between Mudge and Gabriola in 2013, pulling a guide rope that was then used by winch trucks to pull the power lines across the channel. A similar job will now be done to reconnect Mudge to the BC Hydro grid in Cedar. Sounder File Photo.

Telus is also working to restore service to about 400 internet, 1,200 voice customers, and many cellular/mobility customers on Gabriola.

According to the press release sent out this morning, Telus technicians are on the scene and will work around the clock to restore all services as soon as possible. The company said that for safety reasons, the BC Hydro power cable needs to be fixed before Telus crews can begin to repair the equipment. 

Richard Gilhooley, media spokesperson for Telus said, “Our guys are on site, and we’re ready to start repair work, but until the hydro line is repaired, we can’t.” He updated the Sounder just after noon on Wednesday, saying, "the estimated time of repair will be into the weekend. This is down to the fact that we can’t begin to repair the equipment until Hydro has repaired its cable, and also the fact that the repair has to take place in a challenging marine environment (tidal patterns, etc.)."

Gilhooley said there will be a number of cell phone customers also without service, as the cell towers on Gabriola are fed by the fibre-optic cable which was cut.

The lack of phone and internet lines has also meant most, if not all, of the debit and credit machines on Gabriola are not working. Many stores are still open, but are limited to cash, cheques, or in the case of a few, are using their manual credit card machines.