Major underground wiring projects east of the Cooper should spark broader community interest in projects across the Lowcountry. Utility companies may not like the idea of generally retrofitting the system because of the expense, but there is a larger value in reliability and aesthetics.
Residents who want underground wiring, but are daunted at the prospect, should take particular notice of the underground wiring project on Mount Pleasant’s Mathis Ferry Road.
Residents along that tree-lined historic highway fought to limit the damage to the canopy when utility contractors applied a heavy hand to the periodic trimming there.
Residents’ vocal and persistent efforts certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the town of Mount Pleasant or SCE&G, which shared equally in the considerable expense of installing underground wiring along a two-mile stretch.
As a legislatively designated scenic highway, Mathis Ferry Road deserves special treatment.
And in the event of a storm, the likelihood of a service interruption will be far less than for residents on those streets still served by overhead utilities. Additionally, if service is interrupted, it is more likely to be quickly restored.
There hasn’t been a major hurricane here since 1989, but the memories of lengthy power outages after Hurricane Hugo painfully linger.
Certainly, utility companies recognize that underground wiring does a better job in maintaining service. According to SCE&G, the frequency of outages is 50 percent less for underground systems than for those strung overhead.
Service and aesthetics also will both be served when the major transmission line to the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and northern Mount Pleasant goes underground.
“It will just increase the reliability,” SCE&G spokeswoman Kim Asbill told our reporter. “Power to the Isle of Palms and portions of Sullivan’s Island as well as northern Mount Pleasant could be restored in minutes, instead of hours or days,”
Still, more than three-fourths of SCE&G’s wiring remains overhead, and most of the underground systems served by the utility are located in more recently constructed subdivisions, where they are required.
Even when a municipality is committed to help retrofit the existing system for underground service, it’s not an easy proposition.
The city of Charleston has been working with SCE&G for years to increase underground wiring in older neighborhoods. Slowly, but surely, it has achieved success with the close cooperation of neighborhood associations in places like the Crescent. The expense of underground wiring is shared by the utility, the city and property owners.
But resources are limited, and the city is able to advance projects only gradually.
And the historic district can have problems just making room for an underground system in some instances. Nevertheless, narrow Orange Street, between Broad and Tradd, is soon expected to get underground wiring.
A major retrofitting success, such as that on Mathis Ferry Road, should encourage the public to look at solutions that can be achieved expeditiously. And it should encourage residents to let their elected representatives know that they want similar efforts on their behalf.