CANNON BEACH — Tangled and downed power lines could lead to blocked roads and chaos during an emergency.
The city is in the midst of an effort to get those lines underground, lessening the impact from outages and removing ugly poles from the streets.
The Cannon Beach City Council has discussed the possibility of eventually converting downtown businesses to underground services.
This would mean power lines would be placed underground and overhead poles and wiring would be removed.
The council primarily wants to move power lines underground to improve downtown aesthetics and scenery, Public Works Director Dan Grassick said, but safety is another reason.
“When we have an earthquake, the biggest obstacle that occurs to evacuation routes is downed power lines,” Grassick said.
When lines shake loose and come down, they will pull adjacent lines down as well, blocking roadways and escape routes.
“The best thing that coastal communities can do is put power lines underground,” Grassick said. “It’s better to have the power system come undone underground than above ground.”
If the city chooses to move forward with the project, it would take several years to complete because of its large scope, which may include new street lights and sidewalks.
A 2010 Cannon Beach tsunami evacuation meeting pointed to the need for underground utilities to prevent emergency evacuation routes from being blocked by downed power lines in the aftermath of a quake or tsunami.
Last fall, at an emergency management meeting, Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn said while trees and telephone poles are concerns for Cannon Beach officials, downed power lines are greater risks.
A 2015 Oregon Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan describes similar projects in Linn County, Benton County and elsewhere as ways to “enhance safety and reduce losses” during storms and other emergencies.
It is still unclear what putting power lines underground would cost Cannon Beach or downtown businesses.
“Because this is a beautification measure, all costs would be borne by the city,” Pacific Power regional business manager Alisa Dunlap said.
Pacific Power will soon report to the council the cost of a project estimate.