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Electric cooperatives work to restore power and repair infrastructure

Electric cooperatives have been working diligently to restore power and repair electrical infrastructure damaged by a major storm that hit western and north central North Dakota April 22-24. The storm impacted 14 electric cooperatives, toppling more than 4,000 poles, downing distribution and high-voltage transmission lines and damaging substations, with the brunt of the damage sustained in the northwestern quadrant of the state.

Due to the outstanding work of electric cooperative employees and contractors, and support from state and local officials, snowplow operators and helpful members, much progress has been made. Most affected electric cooperatives are back online, and many cooperatives are sending line crews and resources to aid the few cooperatives still working to restore power. Nearly 100 lineworkers from North Dakota’s electric cooperatives have been dispatched to join the restoration and recovery effort, along with hundreds of contractors and local lineworkers already working in these harder hit areas. Neighboring states are also mobilizing line crews to offer additional help.

“North Dakota’s electric cooperatives are thankful for our dedicated electric cooperative employees, contractors and suppliers, who have been working around the clock, making progress every day. The value of our cooperative network — and cooperation among cooperatives — is on full display this week,” says Josh Kramer, general manager and executive vice president, North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC).

Current conditions on the ground are difficult. Several feet of snow block access to downed lines, and the wet conditions and mud make it difficult to set poles and get large, specialized trucks and equipment to remote areas. Every day, the number of outages declines, but it will take weeks until total restoration is complete.

NDAREC and electric cooperatives are working with contractors, emergency officials and community leaders to ensure a continuous supply of materials, and food and housing for line crews and those aiding in the recovery. Gov. Doug Burgum has made an emergency and disaster declaration, and there will be months of continued cooperation with state and federal agencies, including the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDEMS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We are thankful for the support of state and local officials. Earlier this week, Gov. Burgum and other state officials surveyed portions of the affected area, and our congressional delegation reached out to offer help to our members,” Kramer says. “Most importantly, we are thankful for the outpouring of kindness, patience and acts of generosity — the farmer who pulled a line crew out of the mud or ditch, the snowplow operator who opened a road and those who shared food with crews.”

NDAREC is the statewide trade association for 16 electric distribution cooperatives and five generation and transmission cooperatives operating in North Dakota. These distribution cooperatives provide electricity to more than 250,000 North Dakotans. NDAREC services include legislative advocacy, lineworker safety training, professional development and cooperative business development. The association also provides its members with a variety of communication services, including publication of the North Dakota Living magazine.