SaskPower crews are gearing up to inspect nearly 105,000 wood power poles as part of their Wood Pole Maintenance Program, which will cost an estimated $5.4 million this year.

“There are about as many power poles as there are people in Saskatchewan," said Scott McGregor, a spokesperson for SaskPower. "So making sure that this significant piece of infrastructure is not subject to any sort of damage or decay, and we can identify that early enough that we can repair or in some cases replace that infrastructure to make sure that can continue providing power.”

During the initiative, crews will look for signs of damage, decay, and carpenter ant infestation. They will perform maintenance activities to prolong the lifespan of wood power poles and repair or reinforce damaged poles whenever possible. Poles deemed too damaged for safe repair will be marked for replacement.

“Our crews will be going out to the different areas around the province that have been flagged for this year’s inspection program,” said McGregor. “They’ll take a look from the ground, and they’ll often dig down around the pole about a foot or so to check for issues not visible to the naked eye.”

Additionally, nearly 10,000 overhead transformers in rural Saskatchewan will undergo testing, including those near Estevan. “So, what that does is make sure that they are situated firmly, that there are no signs of damage high up, and to ensure that the infrastructure attached to the wooden power poles is also in good condition,” explained McGregor.

In high-risk areas of the northern part of the province, crews will focus on installing wildfire protection equipment on 1,000 poles. “One type of protection we can deploy on our wooden power poles is a fire-retardant sleeve that goes around the pole, to make sure that, if possible, our electricity doesn’t go out when there is a fire in the area." He noted that while wildfires are only prevalent in certain areas, this is an important step to take.

McGregor added that crews will prioritize staying within utility rights-of-way, although access to private land may be necessary in some cases. “There will be instances where we will have to go onto someone’s land to get to some of the power poles. In all instances, we will do our best to contact the landowner ahead of time, just to make them aware of what we’re doing, when we plan on heading out there, and why,” he said.

Since most of the work can be done from the ground, no power outages are expected during this maintenance work.