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Utility builds flood walls for SC power substation

July 24, 2021 GMT

NICHOLS, S.C. (AP) — A utility is building walls around an electric substation to prevent them from being overrun by floodwaters in the first of its kind project in South Carolina.

Duke Energy is spending $1.6 million on the Nichols project to protect a substation that has flooded twice in the past five years, utility spokesperson Ryan Mosier told the Morning News of Florence.

The substation was flooded in 2016 in Hurricane Matthew and 2018 in Hurricane Florence. In 2018, the substation, which takes high voltage power from plants and converts it to lower voltage electricity for homes, was out for five weeks, Mosier said.

“We wanted to come up with a system that would prevent flood waters from the Lumber River from impacting this substation,” Mosier said.

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The substation is surrounded by reinforced fiberglass walls. Crews put up aluminum gates when flooding is threatened, which keep water out but allow crews access inside.

The walls are 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) high with access gates. The gates are installed when the company forecasts potential flooding. Crews can also quickly access the substation for maintenance.

Duke Energy has already installed the walls at facilities in Lumberton and Wallace in North Carolina and plan four more projects, Mosier said,

Other nearby substations to Nichols are on higher ground and didn’t need the walls, said Davy Gregg, a Duke Energy supervisor for the Marion County area.

“We’ve had a struggle the last few years with the flood waters getting into the substation but Duke Energy really stepped-up to the plate,” he said. “They put a big investment in the community and it really helps us out.”

Heavy rains from the decaying hurricanes in 2016 and 2018 caused devastating flooding in Nichols, which is just north of where the Lumbee River and the Little Pee Dee River meet.