Central Maine Power on Monday named three companies that will lead the work on the $1.4 billion upgrade of the company’s electrical grid.
CMP said the contracts were worth a total of $524 million, and went to the MYR Group Inc. of Illinois, Irby Construction Co. of Mississippi and Hawkeye LLC of New York.
“We’re building a stronger, smarter grid for Maine,” said CMP President Sara Burns in a release Monday. “Nearly 1,000 people have worked on this project to date, and we expect as many as 1,000 jobs will be added in this next phase of construction.”
CMP spokesman John Carroll said most of the work is being done in existing power line corridors in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Oxford, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Waldo, Somerset, Knox and Penobscot counties.
Some of the work has begun, he said, with about 120 Maine companies working on the project, including Cianbro Corp., Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Eagle Veteran Construction Services, R.J. Grondin and Sons, Sargent Corp. and Shaw Bros. Construction.
Cianbro has a joint venture agreement with Irby for the project, company Chairman Peter Vigue said. The joint venture has secured better than 50 percent of the $524 million in contracts, Vigue said.
“It’s a significant project for our company,” said Vigue. “We’ll be using Maine people to build this over a period of 4½ years.”
Vigue said Cianbro also has been awarded contracts to build five new CMP substations, though he declined to put a dollar value on that work. Cianbro has just completed a 54-mile power line project in Vermont, Vigue said.
Carroll said the three out-of-state firms named Monday were chosen because of the scale of the project and the expertise needed.
“They will certainly need many different services, employees, subcontractors, suppliers,” said Carroll. “They’ll bring in certain levels of crews, but they will augment it in Maine — that’s our expectation.”
According to the Monday release, CMP expects the new contractors to begin with an effort to find local subcontractors and employees to fill out their work force. To aid in that process, CMP has scheduled a daylong job fair to be held at the Augusta Civic Center on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Rob Sorrell, vice president of the transmission group at Hawkeye LLC, said his firm likely would have about 100 workers on the job in Maine. Hawkeye is a union contractor, he said, so the company will be hiring out of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104, which has an office in Maine. He said he expected most of the workers would be Maine residents, though “we’ll get some travelers,” Sorrell said.
Elaine Hughes, vice president of business development at MYR Group, said the company anticipated a majority of the craft and administration employees on the project would come from Maine.
“We’ll be hiring the craft labor through the local union, 104, and we’ll certainly encourage our subcontractors to use Maine residents whenever possible,” said Hughes.
Some of the senior management personnel likely will be brought in from other areas of the country, she said.
Hughes also noted that there would be an additional economic impact for the hotels and restaurants where workers will stay and eat, and for suppliers of material such as concrete.
A 2009 study of the economic impacts of the project by the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine estimated that direct employment on the project could spur as many as 800 more jobs in indirect employment.
Initial work will include clearing of trees from the corridors, Carroll said, and then the stabilization of the ground in the corridors through seeding, mulching and other methods.
Construction equipment will set poles and other equipment, and then the wire will be strung, he said.
“It’s not unlike the work people see in the corridors on a daily basis,” he said. “The only difference will be the number of places we’ll be working.”
Carroll said the work was being done for several reasons. After regional power failures in 2003 that affected southern New England, CMP audited the electrical grid and found it lacking, having been designed after the last big power failure of the mid-1960s. CMP put forth a grid plan to ISO New England, the not-for-profit organization that oversees and manages the regional power grid, and got approval from regulators to move ahead on the upgrade.
Maine ratepayers will shoulder about 8 percent of the upgrade costs, and the ratepayers in the other ISO New England states will handle 92 percent. For Maine ratepayers, that will work out to about an extra 21 cents a month, on an average usage electric bill, starting in 2013, Carroll said.
The project also will allow CMP to more easily connect with alternative energy projects, and generally to transmit power more efficiently, Carroll said.