County officials and Rutland Township residents were invited to witness a helicopter installing ropes that will guide cable wires to the new poles.
Five utility poles covering a mile were replaced to meet Minnesota Department of Natural Resources standards for electric transmission lines.
"We're fairly new to the area," said ITC area manager Lori Broghammer. "Our first project last year was at Fox Lake. So you haven't seen us much, but you will be seeing more of us in the future."
NO?EASY?CHORE?— A helicopter carries an instrument referred to as “the needle” as it prepares to string rope through the center section of new utility poles by Charlotte Lake in Martin County.
ITC Midwest, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, acquired Alliant Energy in 2007.
Because much of the infrastructure is in need of updating, projects such as Monday's will become more common. However, threading new wires onto the poles is still rare, as it is done by helicopter and there are only four companies in the country that do the work.
"This company, the Air 2, is out of Maryland," Broghammer said.
Field supervisor Bill Broghammer, Lori's husband, described the process: "We start with ropes, because they're the most flexible."
The rope is attached to a reel along the line route. The rope is "captured" by a hooked sheave attached to the structure. After the rope is inserted in all the sheaves, the rope then gets connected to the conductor to be pulled into place. For the middle line, an instrument called "the needle" is used.
For the Charlotte Lake project, the lines only go a mile to a substation.
"After the ropes, there are shield wires to protect against lightning," Bill Broghammer said.
The next step is to use the ropes to pull cables back onto the heavy wire. While Monday's spectators only saw the ropes being threaded through, ITC officials said they expect the project not to be complete until later this week.
"The line was taken out of service in May," Lori Broghammer said. "The structures were replaced in May and June, and we hope the lines will be in service by mid-July ... We've been working with all the residents and landowners out here, and the county, and we are grateful for their patience and their cooperation. They've been wonderful to work with."
As part of the appreciation, Monday's task was scheduled with spectators in mind.
"It's only a mile as opposed to several miles, which we usually do," Lori Broghammer said. "We also told them they could take their time, otherwise they just zip through."
Spectators included Martin County commissioners Jack Potter, Elliot Belgard and Steve Pierce, along with several other county officials. A tent was set up on a hill overlooking the helicopter landing area and a beautiful view of Charlotte Lake, where lunch was served after the helicopter runs were complete for the morning.
"It's appreciated that they want to keep people in the know about what they're doing," Belgard said of ITC. "They don't have to get permission or keep us informed, but they are being considerate to everyone involved."