Whitefish Energy working on Puerto Rico power grid

An electrical crew attempts to repair power lines that were knocked over Hurricane Maria passed through on Sept.?27 in Corozal.

MISSOULA, Mont. - A contracting company based in Whitefish will be working to restore power in Puerto Rico after t he island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Andy Techmanski is the CEO of Whitefish Energy. He said 95 percent of the grid is on the ground in Puerto Rico and his company is organizing crews to slowly rebuild. "We're in it for the long hall," said Techmanski. "It should take 6 months or more."

Whitefish Energy is a contracting company based in Whitefish that works on substation and power line construction. Their next project is directly under Prepa, the Puerto Rican power authority.

Techmanski said they are sending over 400 employees to the island, some of them are from the Flathead but many of them are from utility companies all over. That's something Techmanski pointed out as unique. He said electrical utilities don't usually work under a contractor. Many of the workers they'll be coordinating work for Jacksonville Power and other utilities that belong to the American Public Power Association (APPA).

"Humanitarian aid is very important," said Techmanski when he pointed out that they're also taking doctors and over $20,000 worth of medicine that's at the cost of Whitefish Energy. In addition, North Valley Hospital has given several thousand dollars of medical aid to send with them.

Teams are mobilizing in Dallas and Orlando and they're flying out pieces of equipment every day. However, getting the crews and equipment to Puerto Rico has been difficult. Techmanski said planes are backed up at the airports so getting the personnel and equipment down there has hit a snag. He's been in touch with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to try to free up more resources.

"My staff has been working tirelessly, 24 hours a day. We're doing our part and will continue to do our part," said Techmanski.

Techmanski told NBC Montana he would be arriving in Puerto Rico Sunday, October 1, with a project management team to get things ready for the next wave of laborers. Their first project will be on a line that runs to a dam and is vital to the island's water supply.

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