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Verizon project could prevent future outages

Safety of desert tortoises a concern

BARSTOW •   Verizon has a plan that would prevent future communication outages similar to last week’s 911, phone and Internet interruptions, if the desert’s wildlife doesn’t get in the way of implementation.

On Thursday, a Verizon fiber optic cable on the 700 block of Main street was cut when a private contractor laying cables for street lights and traffic signals veered off route. The cut line caused all area 911 lines to go down, along with most local phone, cell and some Internet services.

Les Kumagai, Verizon spokesperson, said since 2008 — when a similar communication outage occurred — Verizon has been working on a project to redirect communication lines for the High Desert.

According to Kumagai the Barstow-based project would redirect traffic so that if another construction error ever occurs the traffic would instantaneously go to another fiber optic cable route.

“We are working with the United States Bureau of Land Management to obtain a permit and begin construction in the area,” Kumagai said.

Verizon wants to cooperate with the Bureau of Land Management and one of their concerns is working around the local wildlife, according to Kumagai.

“One environmental issue tied to this project is the desert tortoise. We are going to be doing a lot of trenching when we start this project,” Kumagai said. “The work might cause the turtles to fall into the trenches and we want to prevent things like that from happening.”

Until Verizon obtains the permit for this project other programs have been implemented.
“We have a preventative program called ‘Call Before you Dig,’” Kumagai said.

“Call Before you Dig” is a system that allows construction companies to call an 811 number and get information on the location of each Verizon cable.

According to Kumagai, last Thursday afternoon workers were at the scene using a backhoe to access the underground cables and the fiber optic line became wrapped around the construction crew’s equipment.
Curt Mitchell, Barstow city manager, said the problem was fixed late Thursday evening when the construction crew replaced the fiber optic cable and ran a new one underground.

Mitchell said, that they will continue to look into ways that could quickly help Barstow recover from these type of incidents.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or fcasella@desertdispatch.com


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