American Electric Power (AEP) is replacing its 95-year-old power grid transmission lines running from Albion all the way to Goshen.
The project started about two years ago, but the work in Goshen only began in late summer, with plans for the new towers in Goshen to be up and be feeding electricity to the city by December.
As owners of the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, AEP delivers electricity to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 different states. AEP’s utility units in Indiana operate as Indiana Michigan Power (I&M).
The current power line was created in 1925. To ensure power reliability, resilience, dependability and economic growth capacity, as well as access to affordable electricity, I&M said it is replacing the old power grids.
With help from Haverfield Aviation Inc., a company providing aerial transmission inspection, maintenance, and other services, I&M is replacing the old towers with new poles, stronger and capable of carrying more capacity.
These new poles are up to 150 feet high and 6 feet wide and are rooted more that 20 feet deep in the ground with concrete.
According to AEP, the new transmission line will be 55% more efficient and 47% of all transmission outages will be solved.
While Goshen College receives electric services from NIPSCO, this transmission line owned by AEP crosses Goshen College’s property with two towers: one behind the Newcomer building and one between the softball and soccer fields.
I&M is redistributing the placements of these towers as they are replacing the old towers with new ones. As it happens, the company first intended to put the new tower on the athletic fields right in the middle of the soccer pitch.
Glenn Gilbert, director of facilities in Physical Plant, persuaded the company to keep the pole on the South of the East soccer field.
Goshen College is not the only property owner in the neighborhood affected by the power line upgrade.
Two households nearby are also experiencing construction in their backyards.
John Nafziger and his family have lived on Mayflower Place for almost 20 years. Nafziger said ever since they have moved to this house from Eastern Pennsylvania, the electric power tower has “kind of sat there,” in their backyard, a convenient place to put the compost pile.
Because of the construction, the family lost half of their garden and have to move their shed and chicken coop.
“It’s all bothersome but... could be worse,” said Nafziger. He mentioned how the electric company, AEP, has “treated them well” by being very cooperative and paying all the expenses for the construction and changes.
The new pole will take less space as opposed to the old four-corner tower. “It’ll be nicer for us!” said Nafziger. “We just have to live with it.”
Marshall King, journalist and adjunct professor in Goshen College’s communication department, and his wife, Bethany Swope, will have to adapt to having an electric pole in their backyard for the first time.
The transmission line crosses the Millrace Canal and the Elkhart River, one tower now placed between the bodies of water. Because of the construction and access difficulties of that land, the new tower is being installed in their backyard, beside the Millrace Canal.
“We were not excited about it and it was difficult,” said King.
While the construction process in the Goshen area started a couple of months ago, King said the construction on their property had to be moved back to the beginning of October because of environmental reasons.
It has been hard for the King family and neighbors to adjust to the idea of having a “giant structure” in their backyard.
As a federal infrastructure project, property owners did not have any choice in the matter.
“It has been difficult to see your yard as a construction zone, with heavy equipment and giant poles…,” said King, “but the contractors have been professional… we are persevering.”
The Kings lost part of their garden and some plants, and a portion of their fence has been moved. But they have been told that the fence will be put back, and they intend to re-landscape their garden and yard.
The new pole towers are going to be up by next week after the wires are replaced with ropes.
Using helicopters provided by Haverfield, workers will remove existing cables, one at a time, between Friday and Sunday this weekend. Seven cables will take about five minutes each, spaced out during the day.
During the three days, parking will be restricted in the lot south of College Mennonite Church. Additional restrictions to traffic will be in place during the seven five-minute periods.
“It would be fun to watch (helicopters at work), and I would encourage people to watch it as long as they are safe!” Gilbert said.