what to expect

We've put together a project life cycle to help you better understand what steps to anticipate as

we move toward replacing aging underground power

cables with modern lines for affordable, reliable, safe service, for El Mar Estates members.


Why are you replacing the wire cables and above-ground equipment?

Right now, El Mar estates residents are experiencing several power outages per year due to underground cable failures as they reach the end of their useful life.

Each outage is unpredictable, stressful and results in an unknown amount of time for each outage. These outages are remedied with a short-term repair that ultimately adds to the cost that all Missoula Electric Cooperative members pay. In order to reduce the increasing costs incurred by members and reduce the ongoing and unpredictable power outages caused by the aging underground electric cables, the El Mar Power Upgrade project will:

  1. Replace aging underground electric cables throughout the El Mar Estates
  2. Reduce the need for open trenching by utilizing directional boring to install conduits between transformers. The new cables are then pulled through the conduits and connected to new transformers resulting in reliable, safe power
  3. Install new transformers above ground to improve access and safety for future maintenance
  4. No upgrade costs will be billed to the members in the El Mar Estates. These upgrades will be paid by MEC’s annual operations & maintenance budget.

Will I be able to get into and out of my home during construction?

Yes. The vast majority of lots in the El Mar Estates have their public utility easements running through their back yards.

Will there be an extra charge for this?

No upgrade costs will be billed to the members in the El Mar Estates. These upgrades will be paid by MEC’s annual operations & maintenance budget.

What is the first step in the project?

To begin this work, we’ll need an updated map of the area to make sure we our construction plan is as precise as possible. On the days we will be surveying in early May, we’ll send out a notice in the mail, an email alert and post a notice at neighborhood entrances, so you know that our drone survey equipment is in the air. In order to receive email updates, you’ll need to opt-in and update your preferences HERE.

Will this disturb my (fence, shed, landscaping)?

The construction process will include directional-boring to minimize above ground disturbance as we install the new electric cables. Some open-trench excavation and disturbance to yards will be required to complete the installation, most of which will occur near transformer locations. Open-trench excavations will be minimized by MEC and the Contractor, and the easements and yards will be restored at the end of the project.

Our crews will need access to each of the transformer locations with a mini-excavator, approximately 6-feet wide. We are also required by the National Electric Safety Code (NESC) to maintain safe clearances from each of our transformers. For vegetation, this includes 10-feet minimum of clear space in front of the transformer and 1-foot on the other three sides. All buildings should be a minimum of 10-feet from transformers in any direction.

We will reach out to you to learn more about your lot and what steps you’ll need to take to be prepared for construction. In the meantime, please go to your account and update your preferences if you would like to be contacted.

How can I stay updated on the project?

We will be sending information to residents through the El Mar Estates homeowners association, through letters, postcards and email as well as by keeping our project website up to date with relevant information: www.ElMarPowerUpgrade.com.

Please also let us know how you would be contacted by updating your account notification preferences HERE.

In the days before construction on your lot, our construction project manager will also be going door-to-door with information.

When will construction begin on my lot?

Please review the project construction map outlining Phases 1 – 3. Phase 1 construction will begin September 8, 2020.

How long will my power be out?

To safely complete this work, we will need to shut the power off when we disconnect the old cables and connect the new cable along with replacing above-ground transformers.

Outages could last up to 8 hours depending on the work involved. If you’re impacted by this work, we’ll let you know in advance. Power outages will be scheduled to happen during regular business hours (not overnight). You’ll either get a notice in your mailbox or receive a visit from the construction project management team.

What if I have questions?

We are committed to timely, consistent communications. We will be updating this website, along with sending informative email updates and mailers. Please take a moment to review our project map, project overview and to assess if your property has a pad-mounted transformer.

If you have general questions not addressed on this website, you may email info@elmarpowerupgrade.com or contact Missoula Electric Cooperative’s main office at (406) 541-4433; toll-free (800) 352-5200.

Can I opt out of this project?

Because all of the homes in the El Mar Estates are connected to the same grid we must replace all of the outdated cables, many of which have deteriorated significantly since initial installation approximately 40 years ago. In some cases, hundreds of homes may be depending on the buried lines running through your yard.

Underground power cables serving El Mar Estates residents were installed more than 40 years ago and are reaching the end of their useful life resulting in frequent, unpredictable power outages every year. In addition to the extreme inconvenience, these outages add to an increased cost of power for all members. In order to reduce costs and increase reliability, Missoula Electric Cooperative will be replacing the old, direct–bury electric cables and replacing them new electric cables inside conduits for reliable, safe power.

What is directional boring?

Underground boring is a technique for installing new power cable or replacing outdated electric cables by drilling underground. Directional boring minimizes the impact to residents, reduces the need for open-cut trenching and will ensure the El Mar Estates Power Upgrade can be completed to provide reliable, affordable service. The first step of construction will include directional boring, to retire outdated cables, and pull new cables to improve service. Learn more here.

Will neighborhood parks be open and usable through the construction project?

Yes, however we ask that members are mindful to avoid any project equipment that may be in the area.