FARMINGTON — Electric utility employees celebrated a major milestone in bringing reliable power to the Middle Mesa and Navajo Dam area Tuesday morning with the completion of a multi-million dollar project that started more than 20 years ago.

Farmington Electric Utility System officials watched as line crews electrified the $2.27 million Dwight Arthur Switching Station at 11:30 a.m.

The electrification of the switching station is the latest step in a roughly $8 million project aimed at bringing service to areas at the far eastern edge of the utility's service coverage area.

“From the utility's perspective, this project is a very long time coming,” said Mike Sims utility director.
A line crew is about to remove jumpers at the Dwight Arthur Switching Station on April 16.
A line crew is about to remove jumpers at the Dwight Arthur Switching Station on April 16. (Courtesy of Mauricio Aristizabal)
“It's a very big step forward for us for maintaining reliability. We're glad it finished. There was a lot of time and effort, especially in the last few years when we really got to sink our teeth in.”

The Pine River Project, as it is known, began about 22 years ago with the aim of serving natural gas wells and residential customers in the area by building a second electric cable crossing on the Pine River arm of Navajo Lake.

The Dwight Arthur Switching Station is a major component of the project, said John Armenta, the utility's transmission and distribution engineering supervisor.

“It provides reliability in terms of being able to switch power more effectively in the area,” Armenta said. “Over the years both the number of electrified gas wells and residential customers have grown at a slow rate in Middle Mesa, and just as a tree grows slowly over time, so too did the electric distribution circuit that served the area.”

The Dwight Arthur Switching Station takes bulk electrical power at 115,000 volts from power plants and transmits it to the substations, he said. The switching station allows that bulk power to be split into several directions, which also allows continued service if one section goes down.

The Pine River Project will affect more than 1,000 customers, Armenta said.

“Now if a portion of the line goes dark, we can still serve power to (San Juan Substation),” he said. “There are rarely outages, but they're a big deal when they happen.”

The project should provide enough capacity to serve the region for the next 10 years given the current rate of growth in the region, Armenta said.

Greg Yee may be reached at; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT.