Jeff Davis Electric Co-Op undergoing transmission system overhaul

The Jeff Davis Electric Co-Op is currently undergoing a transmission system overhaul that is scheduled to be completed by June 2025.

On January 26, the office of Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced two FEMA grants for the project: $4,037,364 to help fund the first phase of construction and $223, 298 for management costs. But with a total price tag of $378,000,000, this amount is just a drop in the bucket.

Ben Hetzel, director of safety and member services, JDEC, said that the project is extensive. There will be new substations and switching stations in Creole, Holly Beach and Hackberry. Additionally, previously existing stations will be “upgraded and hardened.”

The project was conceived after the landfall of Hurricane Laura. The need for a new high-voltage transmission line became apparent after many lines south of Lake Charles were damaged during the storm, and subsequent restoration efforts were halted by Hurricane Delta.

 

“After Hurricane Laura, we went back and we began building the wooden structures back. The Hurricane Delta came and it all went down again. So, that was the point where we took a step back to re-engineer and rebuild something different.”

A 230kV transmission line will replace JDEC’s previous two systems that fed electricity to the Southwestern Louisiana coast: a 69kV and a 138kV system.

“It was the simplicity of being able to replace two with one.”

There is currently no permanent feed connected to Cameron, he said. JDEC members along the coast have been provided power via generators since the storms, costing JDEC $4.5 million a month. These generators powering the area south of the intercoastal waterway have been approved through FEMA until June of 2025.

Hetzel said that JDEC members will not only benefit from a more resilient system upon project completion but also lower storm repairs, continuous electricity and less outages.

The project broke ground in November 2023 at substations in Grand Chenier, Cameron and Lake Charles.

The 230kV transmission line will begin in South Lake Charles and travel south to Creole. From Creole, the line will go east to Grand Chenier and west to the Louisiana state line in Johnson Bayou. The line will turn North from Holly Beach and follow the LA-27 corridor to Hackberry, “creating a continuous looped system,” he said.

The new line will be built fortified with solid steel poles, larger wires and heavy conductors. It will be designed to sustain 165-mile-per-hour winds and the substations will be elevated to the 500-year floodplain plus one foot.

“These methods will create a more resilient and hardened system to better withstand future storms and shorten the time and cost required to restore power after a storm.”

The project has been contracted out to Quanta Infrastructure Solutions Group, LLC for the construction of the overhead power line system and Ernest P. Breaux Utility Services, LLC for the construction of the substations. Hetzel said the two contractors will work simultaneously.

He said JDEC has applied for various grants through an engineering consulting firm.

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