Electrical cables could go on Confederation Bridge, says general manager

While options have been discussed on where two new electrical cables to the mainland should be located, another new idea has been added to the list.

General manager Michel Lechasseur says option could save millions for taxpayers

While options have been discussed on where two new electrical cables to the mainland should be located, another new idea has been added to the list.

The Prince Edward Island government is replacing the two undersea electrical cables under the Northumberland Strait. It will cost $100 million to complete the work.

The government's preferred option is to run the new electricity cables along the seabed. 

But Strait Crossing, the company that owns Confederation Bridge, has suggested a different option.

Strait Crossing General Manager Michel Lechasseur suggests putting the two new electrical cables from P.E.I. to the mainland on the outside of the Confederation Bridge. (CBC)
General manger Michel Lechasseur says millions of dollars could be saved if the electrical cables were attached to the outside of the bridge.

"It's apparently much cheaper than the marine solution in terms of the capital cost. Good news for taxpayers. Good news for Maritime Electric because you can access this cable year-round for maintenance," said Lechasseur.

Strait Crossing currently owns the Confederation Bridge but it becomes the property of the federal government in 2032. It will be the government's decision if the cables can go on the bridge or not.

The premier recently said in the P.E.I. Legislature the federal government won't allow the cables to run inside or outside the Confederation Bridge.

"They expressed serious reservations based on their assessment of engineering risks that would come with attaching the cables to the bridge," MacLauchlan said July 9.

A letter from Transport Canada to Strait Crossing says an independent engineering study found no feasibility concerns with the idea of putting the cables outside the bridge.

Borden–Kinkora Progressive Conservative MLA Jamie Fox says there are environmental advantages to putting the cables on the bridge rather than burying them in the seabed.

"We know the lobster industry and the scallops that will be impacted so we don't need to do any more damage to that area," said Fox.

"We know in the past with the cables that are underneath the water we've had leaks, and they've had to wait to a very small window in the summer to actually repair them. This will alleviate all that."

But the premier's office confirmed in a statement to CBC Thursday that the process is already underway to build two new submarine cables remains the preferred option for the provincial and federal governments.

The two new cables will have a total capacity of 360 MW, replacing the two 100 MW lines currently running under the Northumberland Strait. 

The current cables are 38 years old and have a maximum life expectancy of 50 years. Maritime Electric has said it considers every year past 40 a risk.

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