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Crews hang from helicopter to install new power lines across Mississippi River

Ameren utilized aerial linemen to stretch cables from Missouri to Illinois.

LEMAY, Mo. — If you were in the Lemay area Monday, you may have seen men flying through the air tethered to a helicopter. It wasn't a stunt, it was power line construction.

Crewmembers alternated between tethering to the tower and tethering to the helicopter, and in between, they installed key elements to the new structure. 

"The crews you see doing the work, I think they get excited about it," Construction Supervisor Adam McAllister said. "It takes a special individual to do that, I mean you are hanging from a line, from a helicopter, 300 feet above the river."

Helicopters are the most efficient way of working on towers of this size. Choppers can lift the crew members up, eliminating tiring climbs. 

Aerial linemen have already removed the old cables spanning the Mississippi River from Dupo, Illinois, to Lemay, Missouri. Their next step is stabilizing the lines and placing visual markers on them (the red and orange balls you sometimes see on long spans).

Ameren Transmission Project Manager Suzanne Pohlman said the project is vital for customers. 

"Our infrastructure in this area was constructed back in the 1950s," she said, "so just like your highways, roads and bridges we need to maintain our structures as well."

Because the cables and towers are out in the sun, wind, rain, snow and ice, they get brittle over time. That can make them unreliable if left alone for too long.

When work wraps up in July, Pohlman said customers won't notice any changes, but they can rest easy knowing it will take a big storm to knock power out. 

"It will impact the community by increasing reliability for the customers in the area," she said.

The project will affect 100,000 homes and businesses in south St. Louis County. Work and supplies were funded by SB 564, a bill providing for Ameren's Smart Energy Plan.

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