Laying Of Martha's Vineyard Electric Cable Complete

Tow barges work on the laying of cable between Falmouth and Martha's Vineyard
ELIZABETH W. SAITO/ENTERPRISE - Tow barges work on the laying of cable between Falmouth and Martha's Vineyard

Since last November crews have been working at the end of Mill Road and out in large boats in Vineyard Sound laying a new electric and telecommunications cable to Martha’s Vineyard.

The job was completed at 9:30 PM on Easter Sunday when workers pulled the electric cable up into the Mill Road work site, according to NStar project manager Coleman P. Geary.

The master cable, which contains two fiber optic cables and three electrical conductors, is over four miles long.

During the first phase of the operation, a tunnel was drilled out under Surf Drive that broke up through the ocean floor 2,700 feet into the Sound. A similar tunnel was drilled out from West Chop on Martha’s Vineyard, and a 12-inch diameter plastic pipe was slide into each.

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Then, the cable arrived. One end was pulled through the pipe into West Chop. And the large middle section of  the cable was plowed under the surface of the seafloor.

“It went surprisingly smoothly,” said Mr. Geary. The cable was plowed in at a rate of 25 feet per minute, he said. And after three days, the boats reached the Falmouth shoreline, where they waited for the right combination of weather and tides to thread the cable into the Falmouth pipe and winched it to shore.

The cable laying barge had a large arched structure that was “the device used to spool the cable,” Mr. Geary said.

Floats were attached to the cable and it was paid out off the ship and lay floating on the surface of the water.

Divers, wearing heated suits, guided the cable into the pipeline. The floats were removed “one by one” as the cable was pulled down and through the pipe, Mr. Geary said.

Over the next couple of weeks, workers will connect the cable into the existing grid, and clean up the Surf Drive Beach parking lot, which has been fenced off and full of construction equipment for most of the winter.

The parking lot will be restored to its former capacity, and the only visible structures left behind will be six manholes flush with the ground, Mr. Geary said.

The project is a joint venture between Comcast and NStar.

In exchange for Falmouth granting the companies an easement for the work, Comcast and NStar agreed to execute roughly $300,000 worth of improvements to the town’s infrastructure. The package includes integrated traffic lights at eight intersections in town; equipment allowing for live broadcast at the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room at the Falmouth Public Library; the conversion of 40 streetlights to energy-efficient LED ones; and repairs to 1,000 feet of Surf Drive to improve drainage and reduce flooding near the intersection of Mill Road.

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