By Deanna Contreras
EUREKA — PG&E will conduct routine low-level helicopter patrols on Friday (Feb. 3) to inspect gas transmission lines for potential threats and future maintenance in parts of Humboldt County. A helicopter from Red Bluff will fly between 300-500 feet over Fortuna, Eureka and Arcata.
PG&E patrols remote gas lines, which are often located in rural areas, by helicopter as part of its continuing effort to ensure safety and reliability of its gas system. If issues are identified, it is possible helicopters may need to fly at a lower altitude for additional inspections.
An observer in the helicopter uses a GPS-enabled tablet with mapping data to navigate the pipelines and document excavation and construction activity, or other observations that warrant follow-up. Where appropriate, PG&E ground personnel are then sent to the identified areas to verify that safe practices are being followed. This includes confirming that 811 was called prior to excavating, so underground utility lines could be marked properly.
Damage from digging is a common cause of natural gas pipeline accidents. In 2016, there were more than 1,700 third-party accidental strikes in PG&E’s service territory. Twenty-five of them were in PG&E’s Humboldt Division. Accidental strikes cause damage to underground gas, electric and telecommunications infrastructure and are one of the most critical threats to public safety. Striking a gas line during excavation can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages to an entire neighborhood. It can be prevented with a free call to 811.
Weather permitting, flights will occur between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. The PG&E inspectors will fly in a contracted helicopter, most likely a Bell 206L3 Long Ranger that’s either blue and white or green and white.
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