Clark Public Utilities aids Sandy recovery

Utility crews join effort to restore power in N.J.

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Clark Public Utilities workers on the East Coast are sending back video and photos of their mission.

Clark Public Utilities crews have arrived in New Jersey to help restore power on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, joining electric companies across the U.S. in the recovery effort.

Two crews and one superintendent -- a total of 11 employees -- have joined line workers from other regional utilities to assist FirstEnergy, an electric company serving 6 million customers in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, stretching from the Ohio-Indiana border to the New Jersey shore.

It's unclear what, exactly, Clark Public Utilities staff will work on as the crews it sent only recently arrived in New Jersey, and received a safety briefing and their initial assignments, Heather Allmain, communications services manager for the utility, said Friday.

"They're pretty focused right now," Allmain said. "They just got their assignments today. They just got settled."

Depending on how their work goes, the utility's crews, staying in a hotel in Edison, N.J., are expected to spend 10 to 14 days working on power restoration projects, Allmain said.

Allmain said the utility expects to have more information about its crews' East Coast efforts over the next several days as updates stream in.

This isn't the first time Clark Public Utilities has helped other agencies to restore power. "We've done it a number of times," Allmain said, noting that last winter the utility dispatched workers to Skamania County, and that the utility also has aided in similar efforts in Portland.

"We have mutual aid agreements with other utilities," Allmain added. "That comes our direction, too. When there's a big storm, you're trying to help each other."

Wayne Nelson, the utility's general manager, has said the utility has no concerns about the ability to respond to local emergencies while the crews it sent to New Jersey are busy assisting others.

Clark Public Utilities, which has a 349-member staff, is a customer-owned public utility providing electric service to more than 183,000 customers throughout the county. It also provides water service to about 30,000 homes and businesses.


Aaron Corvin: 360-735-4518; http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.