Security Upgrade at MA Reservoir

Monday, February 15, 2016 @ 10:02 AM gHale

Security is the name of the game for the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, MA, as the state Water Resources Authority (MWRA) will spend $3.2 million over the next 14 months to upgrade electrical and security equipment.

The project includes replacing existing power lines, enhanced communications, and security measures at Winsor Dam, Quabbin Tower and the Shaft 12 intake works.

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Replacing the power lines from the hydropower station at the base of Winsor Dam to Quabbin Tower has been on William E. Pula’s wish list since he took the regional director of the Quabbin and Ware River watersheds job in 1992.

“The poles and the bare copper wires are the ones first installed in 1938. Every time we have an ice storm, or the wind takes down a limb and shorts out the circuit, we have to call in a repair crew,” Pula said.

It also means less reliance on backup generators at Quabbin Tower, a key link in Department of Conservation and Recreation and MWRA communications, Mr. Pula explained.
He said the contractor, Ewing Electrical of Deerfield, New Hampshire, will bring electricity and communication lines from Greenwich Road in Hardwick via Gate 44 to the intake works at Shaft 12.

“Until now, opening the shaft to send water through the aqueduct from Quabbin to Wachusett had to be done manually. The upgrade replaces an on-site generator and will allow MWRA to operate the intake works remotely,” Pula said.

Security upgrades include 19 cameras, of which 14 are at key sites from Winsor Dam to Shaft 12, workers can monitor from the Massachusetts State Police barracks in Belchertown at the Quabbin administration building, the MWRA in Chelsea and the DCR at Quabbin.

Pula said a spur electrical line will run from Quabbin Tower to the cove where DCR and state police boats sit docked and ready for patrol.

“Right now there is a generator that provides light for the nighttime boats going out on gull patrol. With electricity at the dock we’ll be able to run heaters in the boats, bubblers in the water to keep it from freezing, and the overhead lights,” he said.

Historically the reservoir freezes over sometime in February, ending the need for nighttime gull patrols, but Pula said it was very likely this would be a winter when the southern end of the reservoir remained ice-free.

Fred Laskey, executive director of the MWRA, called the project an essential upgrade for the benefit of both agencies that provide drinking water to 2.5 million residents in Eastern Massachusetts, Chicopee, South Hadley and Wilbraham.

“This is a good investment for our ratepayers as well,” he said.

Of the $3.2 million, MWRA received a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant of $452,097 for engineering and construction of the new power lines.

“For the very first time we’ll have eyes on the critical infrastructure at Quabbin. At Shaft 12 we’ll have cameras and alarms and the ability to assess any situation that requires someone to go out to the site,” Laskey said.

The MWRA director said for safety and logistical reasons, DCR and the state police were happy to have a permanent power supply at the boat cove.

“Long-term use of generators simply wasn’t practical,” he said.

Laskey said the existing electrical lines and poles had “seen better days” and their replacement represented a critical improvement eliminating what had been a serious vulnerability.

He said planning and engineering work already started, along with some site preparation at the reservoir, and construction would begin in the spring.

The Winsor hydropower station has been inactive for 25 years.

Hydroelectric power first started up at Quabbin in 1946, producing 1,100 kilowatts for five to seven hours a day.