Commission Meeting recap 8-14-2018

Grant PUD staff proposes phase-in of Evolving Industry rate

Grant PUD staff proposes to phase in the new Evolving Industry Rate 17 over three years in graduated increments of 15 percent the first year, 35 percent the second year and 50 percent the third year. If approved, the first increase would begin April 1, 2019, commissioners heard Tuesday. (1:16 on the recording, pages 302 to 305 in commission packet)

Each annual percent increase will be calculated on the difference between what the evolving-industry customer is paying now (per kilowatt hour) and the higher, target rate.

For a customer who would otherwise be considered residential, with monthly energy use that averages 5,000 kWh, Rate 17 would increase the energy charge from an all-in rate of 4.9 cents per kWh to 13.7 cents per kWh.

For a larger customer, whose billing demand is 2 MW and a load factor of 92.5 percent, Rate 17 would increase the customer’s all-in rate from 2.6 cents per kWh to 7.9 cents per kWh.

These rates factor in direct costs to serve these high-energy-use customers and the extra business risk they pose. Evolving industry customers are vulnerable to wide swings in the value of their products and the potential for state and federal regulation. They have an unproven ability to pay rates long term.

Rate 17 also ensures that these evolving industry businesses pay extra to help subsidize sustained, below-cost rates for “core customers” — residential, irrigation and small and medium business.

On top of the higher energy price, evolving-industry customers must pay up-front the cost of any extra lines, poles, transformers and other equipment needed to get them hooked up.

The phase-in proposal would include an annual rate re-analysis to maintain an accurate read on cost of service. Based on the analysis, which would include load growth within the evolving industry, the proposed rates could fluctuate over time.

Grant PUD Financial Analyst Jeremy Nolan told commissioners that staff prefers the three-year, graduated phase in over other options, because it limits rate shock for established crypto mining firms, while giving Grant PUD staff time to see how prospective evolving-industry customers respond to the new rate schedule.

If the new rate significantly reduced the demand for evolving-industry-service, risk to Grant PUD would also be significantly reduced, Nolan said.

Three owners or representatives of cryptocurrency mining firms Tuesday proposed alternative payment systems for commissioners to consider. Representatives from the Grant County Economic Development Council, the Port of Moses Lake and two members of the public expressed support for Rate 17, as proposed.

In other business, commissioners:

Reviewed proposed changes to Grant PUD’s rate policy for wholesale fiber-optic customers. These changes will not impact homes and businesses that subscribe to basic fiber service. The changes include higher minimum monthly fees for service providers and a higher set-up fee for new service providers. (1:09 on the recording)

  • Minimum monthly fees: Service providers pay no minimum monthly charge for their first six months in business. They pay $1,000/month for months seven to 18 (up from $500), and $1,500/month for months 18 and over. These minimums will affect only two of Grant County’s 17 service providers. All the others already pay well over these minimums.
  • Set-up fees increase from $500 to $2,000 with a security deposit of $2,500. This is a one-time payment for new service providers.

“We’re sending a message that if you want to be a service provider on our network, we want you to be growing your business,” Fiber Co-Manager Tom Stredwick said before the commission meeting.

The policy includes a new ELAN (emulated local area network) service. ELAN is an industry-standard product, sought-after by larger customers, such as cellular companies.  See policy changes and pricing here, pages 2 through 10.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the changes at their Aug. 28 meeting at Grant PUD’s Ephrata Headquarters.

Viewed the latest second-quarter spending and year-end budget spending forecast. Grant PUD is on target to come in $7.9 million under budget this year, despite $46.9 million in operations-and-maintenance expenses forecast to end the year 3 percent ($1.43 million) over budget. (1:50 on the recording)

Underspending in labor and capital should to be enough to keep the budget in the black, PUD Financial Planner Baxter Gillette showed commissioners. Direct labor costs of $68.5 million are forecast to end the year $111,266 under budget. Direct capital costs of $100.3 million are forecast to come in under budget by $9.2 million due mainly to seasonal rescheduling of work.

Grant PUD has a pattern of coming in near budget on labor, underspending on capital and overspending on operations and maintenance, PUD Financial Planner Baxter Gillette told commissioners. Grant PUD financial analysts will focus improving the accuracy of these forecasts during the upcoming 2019 budget cycle. Click here more detail and Q2 results, pages 11-25.

Commissioners will get their first look at a refined 2019 budget forecast in late September. Two public budget hearings will happen in October, with a final vote on the budget slated for Nov. 13.

-Approved the 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)

Every two years Grant PUD prepares an Integrated Resource Plan, which helps to provide a roadmap for how the utility will continue to provide reliable and low-cost electrical service to its customers over the course of the next 10-years. The plan also looks at substantial risks and uncertainties inherent to an electric utility.

After months of work by Grant PUD energy and financial analysts, the commission approved the proposed plan. The commissioners held a public hearing regarding the plan as well as a workshop. See pages 13-214 of Tuesday’s commission packet and listen to commission audio which starts at 3:25:55 from Tuesday’s meeting.

-Approved changes to the Customer Service Policy

Changes to the Customer service policy include clarifications and changes to correspond with Grant PUD’s business processes. A list of changes can be seen on pages 216 to 301 of the commission packet. Audio begins at 3:28:15 from Tuesday’s meeting

-Received reports about the following topics:

Next commission meeting: August 21, Ephrata Headquarters

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Staff proposes phase-in of Evolving Industry rate

Commissioners to consider options as discussion continues

On July 31, Grant PUD staff members presented a recommendation to commissioners for a multi-year phase-in of new rates for customers in the proposed Evolving Industry rate class. See the staff presentation here.

The recommendation was given to the commissioners during a special workshop in the Ephrata Commission Room to discuss how the new Evolving Industry Rate Class 17 would be implemented to address the growing cryptocurrency mining industry in Grant County.

For the past eight months, staff and commissioners have worked to develop a new rate schedule and pricing structure that would appropriately address the costs and risks that cryptocurrency miners have on the rest of Grant PUD’s customers.

The new rates, which would be 13.7 cents per kilowatt hour for customers needing less than 200 kilowatts of demand service, and 7.9 cents per kilowatt hour for customers needing more than 200 kilowatts of demand service, were proposed after looking at the costs and risks associated with providing power to customers who fit within Rate Class 17.

Jeremy Nolan, Grant PUD financial analyst, explained during the workshop that Rate 17 would apply to businesses that form a concentration of like customers totaling more than 5 percent of the utility’s total average load, and meet at least one of the following risk criteria:

1.    Regulatory Risk – risk of detrimental regulation that could threaten the viability of the industry.

2.    Business Risk – potential of businesses shutting down or significantly reducing operations because the industry and the value of its output is evolving or unproven.
After finishing a presentation that explained how cryptocurrency mining in Grant County presently fits into the proposed Rate Class 17, and how it would not be suitable for other established rate classes, Nolan presented the staff recommendation, which would be for the board to consider a three-to-four-year ramp-in period for all customers in the Evolving Industry rate schedule.

He said the ramp-in approach helps to address some issues including hitting existing cryptocurrency miners with rate shock while ensuring risk costs are not shifted to other customers. It would also allow Grant PUD staff to evaluate risk costs each year so new information and experience can be easily incorporated into future rate schedule changes with minimal impact.

“With the phased-in approach, we can look at the risk costs each year and the overall cost-of-service analysis study for all rate classes,” said General Manager Kevin Nordt. “We can look at how the industry is evolving and how the queue for new applications changes. It also allows us to make sure the costs are not being born by other customers.”

“We want to be fair and equitable and not have adverse impacts on our current customers,” Nordt added, stating that the ideas behind implementing an Evolving Industry rate would be better than one specific to cryptocurrency mining because it is an industry that may eventually become less risky.

“We thought this would be better than a specific cryptocurrency rate because this would give us time to evaluate it and maybe even eventually sunset (cryptocurrency mining) out of it,” he said.

Nordt said that the staff will soon bring to commissioners for their evaluation a presentation regarding how a phased-in Rate Class 17 would be implemented.

Customers are invited to comment about the Evolving Technology rate during the public comment period of the Aug. 14 board meeting at 30 C Street SW, Ephrata WA at 1 p.m. or by e-mailing commissioners@gcpud.org.

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Commission meeting recap for July 24, 2018

Warmer, wetter spring causes dip in revenue expectations through June

A warmer, wetter early spring contributed to Grant PUD’s year-to-date revenue from electric rates to come in 2.3 percent below budget. See detailed summary here, pages 8-12. Listen to the commission recording beginning at 1:32:05.

Financial Analyst Jeremy Nolan told commissioners that five of the utility’s nine major rate classes produced below-budget revenues through June. These rate classes are residential, which came in 3.6 percent below budget; commercial, 1.3 percent below budget; irrigation, 38.2 percent below budget; industrial, 11.3 percent below budget and ag food processing, 13.8 percent below budget.

Low temps in April and May ranged from 6 percent to 18 percent above average, Nolan said, meaning customers needed less electricity to heat their homes. Heating and cooling are big drivers of energy costs.

The Irrigation season in the Columbia Basin begins in March, but April rainfall was nearly 3 times its average and May rainfall nearly twice its average. That reduced irrigators’ need for electricity to pump water to their crops.

In the Industrial rate class, several data centers used less energy than forecast. The forecast variances for the other industrials, as well as the variances in the Large Industrial and Ag Processor rate classes were within the normal budgeting variance of plus or minus one megawatt, Nolan said.

Rate 7 for large general business was the only one to show substantial growth of 73 percent through June, driven by the arrival of cryptocurrency mining firms, Nolan said. These firms currently use about 22 of a potential 30 megawatts in Grant County. Many more have inquired about power.

Commissioners, staff, and the community are discussing a proposed new rate class, Rate 17, for the cryptos and other higher-risk “evolving industry” customers. The proposed rate class charges evolving industry customers more to cover both the cost to provide their electricity and the higher risk these highly mobile, big energy users pose Grant PUD and its customers.

A change in retail revenue, year to date through June was $2.23 million below budget. This was offset a bit by corresponding increase of $1.2 million in revenue from wholesale power sales. The budgeted energy and revenue forecasts were developed from 2016 figures. Nolan said efforts are underway to improve forecast calculations.

Fiber-optic network expansion parameters and sequence reviewed

Approximately 12,000 customers within the county still await access to Grant PUD’s high-speed fiber optic network. The parameters and timing for reaching the remaining 30 percent was a discussion point of the Wholesale Fiber quarterly report on Tuesday.

This year commissioners allocated an additional $7 million from financial reserves toward the wholesale fiber-optic program in late 2017. With this funding crews continue working to extend fiber availability to a large area north of Moses Lake and within the city of George.

It is anticipated that first group of customers within the Moses Lake expansion area will see service as early as September. The plan is to have the entire expansion to this area and to George completed by the end of the year.

Pre-sold subscriptions by internet service providers to new expansion area north of Moses Lake are currently at more than 50 percent.

Overall, those subscribing to the network have steadily been growing during the past few years. The current “take rate,” or the percentage of those subscribed to the network who have access, is 52.04 percent. This includes 998 new customers who have signed up so far in 2018.

Following the completion of these projects continued expansion of the network will depend on the financial health of the district and the financial health of the fiber-optic network.

During the presentation Senior Manager of Wholesale Fiber Russ Brethower discussed the buildout sequence to the remaining areas of the county without access. Expansion to new parts of the county have been prioritized based upon various factors including general return on investment, take-rate assurance and socio-economic considerations.

Forty geographic areas for future expansion have been identified, each with estimates of build-out costs and potential customers served. No associated timeframes have been established for future expansion.

When future funding is available, the first proposed area to receive fiber-optic service would be the Trinidad region and off island at Crescent Bar.

“There is no one person that deserves access to fiber sooner than anyone else,” said Brethower.

Brethower went on to stress that the intent is to use a data driven approach to make it equitable and provide certainty to the people of Grant County regarding the future of the network. See the entire proposed expansion sequence in the fiber group’s presentation here (pages 27-41) and hear the discussion beginning at 2:32:30 and continuing again at 4:15:35 of the commission audio.

In other business commissioners heard that:

-Grant PUD is poised for system growth

Crypto currency projects aren’t the only new growth facing Grant PUD, this according to the quarterly update from Power Delivery during Tuesday’s commission meeting. Beyond the influx of requests from those targeted for the evolving industries rate class, commissioners learned that Grant PUD has the potential for more than 200 MW in traditional load.

Last year Grant PUD’s average load was 590 aMW. These new expressions of interest from large general service and industrial customers could grow the system by more than a third.

Initially 28 potential projects have been identified. These projects would vary within their size and scope. Projects may involve expansion of the distribution system, refurbishing existing substations, building new substations or adding transmission reinforcement to the system.

Grant PUD staff have been working with the customers to gauge their power needs, but developing the final plan of service and exact approach for each project is yet to be defined. Customers still need to work through the application process.

Timing to complete any finalized plan of service can also vary depending on the type of work that needs to be accomplished. More standard projects like distribution expansion may take 6 to 18 months, whereas projects involving transmission reinforcement may take up to 5 years or more.

These customers have been in the queue while Grant PUD looked to accommodate the large number of requests for service received during this past year. Now that the evolving industry rate class and new application process has been defined, staff will work to move these projects through the process. See pages 13-26 of the presentation materials for more details and 1:58:30 of the commission audio.

Grant PUD has energy resources to meet annual growth projections through 2028

Months of work by Grant PUD energy and financial analysts show that the utility has enough of its own energy resources — generation from its dams and its portion of contracted power and some wind energy — to meet its annual energy demands through 2028. See presentation here, pages 42-75. Listen to the commission recording beginning at 3:36:45.

Beyond that year, the utility will need additional energy via market purchases and power purchase agreements with other utilities to meet forecasted demand.

Those are the conclusions of Grant PUD’s draft “Integrated Resource Plan,” a complex report the state requires PUDs to develop every two years.

At Grant PUD, this plan is a road map for meeting the objective of providing reliable and least-cost electric service to all customers, while addressing the substantial risks and uncertainties inherent in the electric-utility business.

Types of risk contemplated in the plan include:

  • Load risk: Grant PUD has seen an above-industry-average annual growth rate in energy demand of 4 percent over the past decade. That rate is expected to diminish only slightly, to 3.4 percent annually in the coming decade. Most of that growth has come from few, existing large customers. That increases risk of quick load loss if any of them leave the county, Rich Flanigan, senior manager of Wholesale Marketing Supply, told commissioners.
  • Environmental risk: Proposed new laws to reduce carbon emissions statewide continue to work their way onto ballots. All have failed so far. A new one, Initiative 1631, will be on the November ballot. It would create a $15 fee per ton of carbon that increase through 2035. This and existing clean-energy standards have the potential to increase costs to Grant PUD and its customers.
  • Changing power-market risk: Industry efforts to become more efficient at integrating intermittent wind and solar power onto the regional energy grid could bring about changes in the way Grant PUD sells its surplus energy.

Workshop: Grant PUD staff will host a workshop on the proposed 2018 Integrated Resource Plan to into more detail about load-growth and risk scenarios. The workshop is Aug. 8, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Commission Room at Ephrata Headquarters, 30 C Street SW. The workshop is open to the public.

-Crescent Bar homeowners request more time to pay for sewer system

Gary Wirta and Tom Plampin of the Crescent Bar Island homeowners associations presented commissioners with a proposal to expand from 10 years to 25 years the payback period the homeowners agreed to reimburse Grant PUD for their portion of the island’s new sewer system. 3:04:25 of commission recording

The system’s $12.9 million cost is higher than the early predictions. Some homeowners would struggle to make the $2,000 annual payments, which increase over time, Plampin said. These homeowners, whose homes and condos are on PUD-owned land, could be forced to leave the island for inability to pay.

“The HOAs are not seeking preferential treatment or cost avoidance,” Plampin said, adding that a longer payback would also benefit the PUD in higher interest received on the debt.

The 10-year pay-back dates to 2015 agreement the island homeowners signed with Grant PUD that ended years of litigation. The homeowners got new long-term leases that allow them to remain on the island through at least 2047.

Commissioners agreed to review the proposal with staff and meet with the group in the future.

In other business commissioners

-Approved a new substation for Royal Slope

Commissioners unanimously authorized staff to move forward with construction of a new substation for Royal Slope and the associated transmission line. Commission President Terry Brewer was absent for the vote, away on PUD business. 3:29:25 of commission recording

The Red Rock Substation and transmission will add electric-system capacity and reliability in the vicinity of Royal City and the Port of Royal Slope industrial area.

The action responds to a commitment dating to 2004 to the Port of Royal Slope, which has sought the new substation to attract new companies and jobs to the area. Commissioners emphasized at their July 10 meeting that their decision is based on that longtime commitment and is not to be construed as precedent for future electric-system improvements.

Grant PUD staff will now develop a plan, timeline and cost projection for the substation and begin acquiring right-of-way for the transmission line.

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Spillway work at Priest Rapids Dam nearing completion

Drainage drilling is finished and monitoring devices are now being installed

EPHRATA —Drilling for drainage and inspection in the spillway monoliths at Priest Rapids Dam is complete, as around 230 core samples have been extracted from the dam’s grout gallery. The discovery of excess leakage due to a disbonded lift joint earlier this year, resulted in the need for the drilling.

Crews are now installing additional instrumentation that will help detect monolith movements within the spillway. Thirty-seven new instruments are scheduled to be installed. The devices are intended to measure vertical movements of the monoliths as well as any displacements across the disbonded joint or at the foundation of the structure.

Installation of these devices is anticipated to last until early September. The placement of the new equipment, coupled with the existing surveillance and monitoring instruments and activities, will allow for additional data collection across the spillway.

Following the installation of the monitoring equipment, Grant PUD will seek Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval to remove the lower operating-level restriction that is currently in place for the Priest Rapids reservoir.

The elevation of the reservoir was lowered by approximately three feet, still within the normal operating range, while inspection work took place. Priest Rapids Reservoir continues to be held at operating elevations between 484.5 to 481.5 feet above sea level. The maximum normal reservoir elevation is 488.0 feet.

Once FERC makes its decision, Grant PUD officials will determine what, if any, other remedies are needed beyond the drilling. Engineering staff will also examine factors that caused and led to the disbonded lift joint.

The drainage drilling reduced the pressure from the water inflow at the disbonded lift joint, while also allowing crews to determine the extent of leakage throughout the spillway monoliths.

In March, Grant PUD officials declared a non-failure emergency at the dam when inspection drilling revealed leaking in the spillway monoliths. The incident has never presented a safety risk to the public or Grant PUD employees. Priest Rapids Dam continues to generate electricity and operations continue as usual.

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Commission meeting recap for July 10, 2018

Commissioners call for options to ease rate burden on existing crypto firms
Weeks after learning that a rate proposal for “evolving industries” would approximately triple the electric-rate burden on Grant County’s cryptocurrency mining operations, some Grant PUD commissioners Tuesday asked staff for more options. (4:06:50 of commission audio)

“We’ve heard a lot of feedback today — the good, the bad and the ugly,” Commissioner Tom Flint told his fellow board members Tuesday. The board had just finished hearing of public comment, overwhelmingly from the crypto industry, on the proposed Rate Schedule 17 for evolving, higher-risk, industries.

The new rate is the result of six months of Grant PUD analysis into how to handle an unprecedented 2,000 megawatts of inquiries for new power hookups. About 75 percent of those inquiries are from cryptocurrency and related businesses seeking to operate in Grant County. The proposed new rates run just over 13 cents or 7 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on amount of energy use. Other costs also apply. See more details about the proposed rates here.

Two thousand megawatts of power is nearly three times Grant PUD’s average county-wide load of 590 megawatts. It’s enough to power some 900,000 Grant County homes.

“We have said we’d work to prevent ‘rate shock.’ I’m not for grandfathering folks in, but for allowing an industry to adjust in a short period of time,” Flint said.

Commissioner Bob Bernd agreed. “I guess I think there should be some accommodation for folks that are already here,” he said, adding that any adjusted rate for existing cryptos should not be below their cost of service. “Three hundred percent is a huge increase. These people need to be able to operate their businesses with some assurance they won’t have to write off millions because we told them to leave.”

“None of the ones who are already here are causing harm to our system,” Bernd said, suggesting that they still be classified under the proposed Rate Schedule 17 but placed in a different category with a rate that reflects their reduced amount of risk.

Commissioner Dale Walker cautioned that rate differentiation among different types of crypto operations could bring legal challenges.

Commissioner Larry Schaapman said he need more time to think about the proposed new rate schedule, but agreed that cryptocurrency mining operations that have been operating in the county several years don’t present that same risk as the new, incoming cryptos who wouldn’t have proven an ability to pay rates longer-term.
Commission President Terry Brewer also called for options. “There’s nothing in the world I hate to see more than people losing jobs,” he said. “We’ve heard from some of the people who work at these businesses — they’re good jobs. “I think we need to find an accommodation and work with them.”
He agreed with Bernd that none of the cryptos, existing or prospective, should pay below the cost to provide their electricity.

Brewer called for staff to come back with options by early August.

Cryptocurrency companies use industrial amounts of electricity. Grant PUD’s rate policy says industrial customer groups will pay above-cost rates to help subsidize the below-cost of rates of “core” customer groups — residential, irrigation and small and medium-sized business.

Cryptocurrency firms are often highly mobile and agile enough to quickly relocate if they find cheaper electricity elsewhere or shut down altogether if the price of their cryptocurrency falls too low. This makes it riskier for utilities to invest in costly, higher capacity power lines and substations to serve them.

Public comment: The commission discussion followed a comment period in a boardroom packed with members of the public, many or most of them identified themselves as crypto miners, employees of mining firms or businesses that provide them data center space, equipment or services. (2:53:10 of commission audio)

Nineteen members of the public commented during the session. All but two spoke in favor of rates that would allow the firms to remain in business.

They called the proposed Rate Schedule 17 “disturbing,” “discriminatory,” and “predatory.” They insisted that “the blockchain” — the platform that crypto miners depend on — has a promising future to accurately track many types of transactions and records.

Several called for existing businesses to be grandfathered or be allowed to pay for their extra risk up front, by posting a bond or other payment in exchange for a rate low enough for them to remain in business.

Several acknowledged Grant PUD’s concern about not wanting to build out expensive system capacity — new or higher-capacity power lines and substations — for firms that may not be in business long term.

Some also agreed that a proposed new set of higher up-front connection costs presented to commissioners Tuesday are a way to separate financially stronger power applicants from weaker ones. But, they said, existing cryptos who have followed the rules and operated responsibly should not be forced out of business via a much higher rate.

Two longtime Grant County residents said they supported the proposed Rate 17. They said it addresses all of the risk presented by evolving-industry businesses like crypto mining. One called mining of bitcoin — the leading and most valuable form of cryptocurrency — “a parasite providing few jobs and a negligible tax base… that threatens all other rate classes… and has no incentive to conserve.”

Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the proposed new Rate Schedule 17 at their July 24 board meeting. That vote will be postponed until after PUD staffers come back with other options that would protect existing PUD customers but not force all cryptos out of business.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies exist only in digital form. Miners compete with each other, using specialized, high-speed computers that work around the clock to crack complicated math puzzles. Miners whose systems solve the puzzles are then able to process blocks of bitcoin transactions. They’re paid for their efforts in bitcoin.

To comment on the proposed Evolving Industry Rate Schedule 17 or the proposed new costs to connect for industrial energy users, attend the July 24 commission meeting at Grant PUD headquarters, 30 C Street S.W., Eprata, or email commissioners@gcpud.org.

Cost-to-connect proposal
would require more up-front payment

Prospective customers who require a large amount of electricity — half a megawatt or more — would pay a new application fee and the up-front costs of the engineering studies, substations, transmission lines and other electrical equipment needed to hook them up, Grant PUD commissioners learned Tuesday. (2:14:05 of commission audio)

A new customer who requests 5 megawatts of power in a 115-kilovolt substation in an industrial area, for example, would pay more than $2.6 million in up-front equipment costs plus an application fee of $6,500, Shane Lunderville, Grant PUD Business Development manager, told commissioners.

The new cost structure would replace and existing hook-up formula that Lunderville says doesn’t accurately assess costs for new projects nor compensate Grant PUD for engineering work, studies and infrastructure costs. See Lunderville’s presentation here.

Commissioners will discuss and potentially vote on the changes at their next meeting, July 24.

In other business commissioners:

– Learned that spillway work nearly finished at Priest Rapids Dam. Managing Director of Power Production Rich Wallen said the drilling for drainage in the spillway monolith at Priest Rapids Dam is complete. Around 230 core samples have been extracted from the dam’s grout gallery. This inspection drilling helped to reduce the pressure from the water inflow through a disbonded lift joint that saw excessive leakage early this year. The incident never presented a safety risk to the public or PUD employees.

Throughout the next month, crews hope to finish the project by installing additional instrumentation that will help detect any future monolith movements within the spillway. The hope is that after the additional monitoring equipment is installed, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will remove the lower operating level restriction that is currently in place for the Priest Rapids pool. (1:07:25 of commission audio and pages 0-18 staff reports)

– Tabled until July 24 a vote on a new substation for Royal Slope. Commissioners Tuesday requested the resolution be reworded to reflect the exceptional nature of this project due to past commitments. The area’s port district has been lobbying for the substation for years to attract new business to the area.

Approved a motion for a change order of an existing contract with Graybar Electric to increase the contract by $559,872 and extend the length of the contract by one year. The change brings the contract’s new total to for a total contract of $1,119,744. Graybar has been the only bidder on the project the past three years and this change order will keep the fiber department in stock of gateway systems to meet operational and expansion needs for the upcoming year. (4:01:00 of commission audio and pages 8-12 of the commission packet)

-Heard that PUD recreation areas got more staff, new picnic shelters, one new boat launch. Lands and Recreation Manager Shannon Lowry said the focus throughout the quarter was preparing for the summer recreation season as they hired seasonal crew members and completed the Crescent Bar Riverbend Boat Launch and Parking Area. Grant PUD’s recreation sites also received 17 new picnic shelters to help visitors find additional shade during the warm summer days.

– Recognized Lands and Rec staff for Crescent Bar renovation work. With the majority of the work at the Crescent Bar Recreation Area completed Senior Manager of Environmental Affairs Jeff Grizzel recognized the efforts of staff who have been instrumental in the project. Grizzel pointed out that not only have their efforts resulted in the construction of a top-class recreation site, but staff have also done much to improve the relationships between Grant PUD and those living at Crescent Bar.

Commissioner Dale Walker complimented the group saying he, “was truly impressed with how they (Lands and Recreation) handled the pressures of Crescent Bar.”

– Learned Crescent Bar improvements are paying off. Grant PUD Campgrounds have brought in more than $43,000 through campsite fees for 2018, while the Crescent Bar golf course has earned just over $34,000. In the upcoming weeks staff will be reviewing proposals they received from contractors to provide operation and maintenance support for the Crescent Bar Recreation Area. (1:28:20 of commission audio and pages 20-30 staff reports)

– Received reports regarding the following topics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grant PUD commissioners seek public input on proposed new rate schedule

Rate Schedule 17 would impact Evolving Industries which applies to cryptocurrency mining

EPHRATA — Grant PUD commissioners are asking for public input as they look to finalize the new customer rate class, Schedule 17 – Evolving Industries.

Anyone who would like to provide comment regarding the proposed rates class is invited to the July 10 commission meeting.  The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. in the commission room located at the Grant PUD headquarters building, 30 C Street S.W. in Ephrata.  Comments can also be made via e-mail at commissioners@gcpud.org. Commissioners could take action on the new rate class as early as July 24.

The proposed Evolving Industry rate schedule would have two components, those retail customers with service totaling less than 200KW billing demand and those customers using 200KW billing demand or more. The proposal would apply to both new and established evolving-industry businesses.

Proposed Rates:

Rate Schedule 17-A / Less than 200 KW Billing Demand

Basic Charge: $1.04 per day

Energy Charge: 13.137 cents per kWh

Rate Schedule 17-B / 200 KW or greater Billing Demand

Basic Charge: $1,000 per month

Energy Charge: 7.097 cents per kWh

Demand Charge: $6.00 per kW of Billing Period

In May, commissioners adopted policy for the creation of Rate Schedule 17 to provide certainty for customers involved in cryptocurrency mining, while also protecting the interest of Grant PUD’s existing customers.

Over the past year, Grant PUD has experienced an unprecedented number of requests for power — primarily from cryptocurrency miners — that that would more than triple its existing average load.

The utility has spent several months studying how to prioritize the requests for new power service and also protect existing customers from the risks inherent to the cryptocurrency industry and supporting this activity with potentially expensive new power system development. Customers within the Evolving Industry class would pay a rate that covers both Grant PUD’s cost to provide their electricity and any additional component risks their service could impose on the utility’s other customers, including extra costs should Grant PUD have to bring additional power resources into the county to serve their load..

Similar to the pricing for current large industrial customers, the new policy also requires those in the Evolving Industry category to pay more than the costs to serve them, so core residential, irrigation and commercial customers can continue to pay below-cost rates.

Established by local residents over 75 years ago, Grant PUD generates and delivers energy to millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest. What began as a grassroots movement of public power has evolved into one of the premiere providers of renewable energy at some of the most affordable rates in the nation. For more information visit www.grantpud.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Commission meeting recap for June 26, 2018

Proposed new Rate 17 could mean big increase for crypto miners (1:59:20 on Commission Audio)

Cryptocurrency mining companies and other businesses that fit Grant PUD’s new “Evolving Industry” rate classification would see their monthly power bills more than double under a staff proposal presented to commissioners Tuesday.

The Evolving Industry rate classification would currently apply to cryptocurrency miners, but could apply to other businesses that fit the same risk profile.

Under the proposal, companies or individuals that operate their evolving-industry businesses under Residential Rate Class 1 — currently billed for service of less than 200 kilowatts — would be moved to the new Rate Schedule 17A. They’d then see their energy rate increase to just over 13 cents per kilowatt hour from the current 4.5 cents, and their basic monthly charge increase to $1.04 per day from the current 55 cents per day.

Larger evolving-industry businesses currently operating under Rate Schedule 7 (large commercial customers) would be moved to new Rate Schedule 17b. They’d then see their energy rate increase to 7.1 cents per kilowatt hour from the current approximately 2 cents per kilowatt hour. The basic charge would increase to $1,000 per month from the current $148.32 per month. Their demand charge would increase to $6 per kilowatt from the current $4.96.

The proposal would apply to both new and established evolving-industry businesses.

The proposal for the new Rate 17 is the result of seven months of Grant PUD staff analysis into how to provide service to these higher-risk customers while protecting the investments and safety of new and existing traditional customers.

Evolving industry businesses meet the following criteria:

  • They are vulnerable to changes in regulation that could render their industry unviable for the foreseeable future.
  • They lack a proven ability to pay power rates long term due to the price volatility of their main product.
  • They are part of a large concentration of like businesses whose collective requested demand for electricity exceeds 5 percent of Grant PUD’s total average load (energy demand) countywide. Total average load in Grant Count is currently just under 600 megawatts.

The proposed rate is consistent with Grant PUD’s rate-setting policy approved by commissioners as Resolution 8768. The policy requires rates to be set based on the cost to serve each customer class. The policy sets a target that by 2023 no rate class will pay less than 20 percent below its cost of service nor 15 percent above its cost.

The Evolving Industry Rate 17 also takes into account an added cost to compensate Grant PUD and its customers for the high cost of the high-capacity power lines, poles and transformers that would be left without users if these evolving-industry companies stopped operating here.

And, like Grant PUD’s industrial customers, who also use large amounts of electricity, the rate paid by the evolving industry companies would be set at a rate above the cost to supply them with power. This above-cost rate helps subsidize continued below-cost rates for Grant PUD’s “core” customers — residential, irrigators and small and medium-sized businesses.

Grant PUD Financial Analyst Jeremy Nolan said after Tuesday’s commission meeting that cryptocurrency miners who now pay a residential or small-business rate and use 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy monthly would see their monthly power bills increase to approximately $1,370 from their current $563.

Larger cryptocurrency operations that use 1 million kilowatt hours of energy monthly would see their bills increase to approximately $80,000 per month from the current $32,000.

These rates would be on top of new cost-to-connect fees currently under development that would cover costs to the PUD for engineering studies and upgrades to power lines, poles and transformers needed to serve these high-energy-use, evolving-industry customers. Grant PUD staff plans to discuss proposed cost-to-connect fees at the July 10 and 24 commission meetings.

Cryptocurrency miners and a consultant to the crypto industry told commissioners the proposed rates would put them out of business. They called the proposed increase “catastrophic,” “short-sighted” and an effort to “punish” those cryptominers who have been operating legally in Grant County, investing millions of dollars and creating jobs.

“This rate schedule does not seem to be a good idea to me,” said Jonathan Tommim, owner of a bitcoin mining operation in Moses Lake. He suggested a contract or other arrangement that would allow evolving-industry business to cover the added risk via a one-time payment, up-front, rather than elevated, ongoing monthly costs.

After hearing these comments, several commissioners asked staff for more discussion time and options.

Commissioner Bob Bernd asked for more information about Tommim’s suggestion of an up-front payment to lower monthly costs.

Commissioner Dale Walker added, “I feel with what we’ve seen so far, we need a better understanding of the charge up-front. It behooves us to take the time.”

Commission President Terry Brewer also supported more discussion, but emphasized that the volume of power requests Grant PUD has received from cryptocurrency operators caused enough concern for commissioners to agree to give PUD staff for analysis and solutions.

“We have to take into account the additional risk and what it means to the District,” Brewer said. “The most important thing we do here is protect our existing customer base.”

Grant PUD is accepting public comment on the new Rate 17 for evolving industry at commissioners@gcpud.org. Commissioners will take public comment on the proposed new rate during the afternoon session of the July 10 board meeting at Grant PUD headquarters in Ephrata.

Since summer 2017, Grant PUD has received an unprecedented 125 new service requests that total above 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This is more than three times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, farms, businesses and industry. Approximately 75 percent of these requests are from cryptocurrency firms. (See presentation pages 40-51 of staff reports)

During Tuesday’s business meeting commissioners:

Approved a motion to reset the delegated authority level to a contract with Winterbauer & Diamond for legal services related to employment matters.  The original contract was awarded in February 2005 and the firm provides a familiarity with Grant PUD’s policies and procedures to help Grant PUD manage employment matters and defending claims. (3:15:10 of commission audio and pages 11-14 of the commission packet)

Approved a motion for a change order to a contract with Hatch Associates Consultants, Inc. increasing the not-to-exceed price of the contract by $458,000 to a new contract total of $1,998,000.  Hatch is a consultant used by Grant PUD to help evaluate the spillway at Priest Rapids Dam perform multiple roles including onsite engineering support for the most recent investigation of the internal lift joints throughout the Priest Rapids spillway.  (3:16:25 of commission audio and pages 14-19 of the commission packet)

Approved a motion for change order to a contract with Cornforth Consultants, increasing the not-to-exceed price of the contract by $500,000 to a new total of $800,000.  Grant PUD awarded a dam safety consultant contract in November 2017 with Cornforth. The contract allowed the company to provide geotechnical related engineering assistance and support seismic analysis for the embankment sections of Wanapum Dam.  Grant PUD has asked them to expand their work within the district and the approval of the change order will allow Cornforth to provide on-going dam safety and engineering support.  (3:17:30 of commission audio and pages 20-24 of the commission packet)

The commission also:

-Heard from Security Manager, Nick Weber, as he provided the quarterly update from Grant PUD’s Security Department. The security group monitors the District 24/7. To date their group has performed more than 7,000 patrol actions of Grant PUD facilities and structures. Weber highlighted a number of their key projects and showed commissioners the new electronic keys that will be used at substations and other perimeter access points across Grant PUD.  The electronic cores fit into Grant PUD’s existing padlocks and doors it also provides the ability to electronically turn off access to individual keys. It also provides insight into who is accessing the various location sites.

He also showcased a doorstop device that can be jammed into the bottom of a door and securing itself to the floor so that it makes it nearly it impossible for someone to force the door open from the outside.  The device helps to make any room a safe room in the case of an active assailant and will be used throughout the district.   (1:46:10 of commission audio and pages 25-39 staff reports)

-Heard Gary Varney of the Desert Aire Home Owners Association describe how burglaries in the Columbia River-side subdivision, near Mattawa, are on the rise. Residents suspect the burglars are accessing their private properties from the Priest Rapids Recreation Area, a nearby campground, pedestrian trail and natural area owned and managed by Grant PUD. Varney also described suspected drug deals, loitering and unlawful mischief happening after hours at the Recreation Area and how Desert Aire residents have not had good response from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, nor from Grant PUD’s contracted security company. Varney said Desert Aire residents have hired their own security company and suggested Grant PUD use or coordinate with that same company for better security. Commissioners expressed interest in learning more. (3:03:30 of commission audio)

Received reports regarding the following topics:

  • Monthly Safety Report and quarterly update from Safety and Industrial Training report by Craig Bressan (1:01:45 commission audio and pages 1-24 staff reports)
  • An update regarding the status of the Enterprise Technology Roadmap Project by Derin Bluhm (3:36:40) commission audio and pages 52-62 staff reports)

Next commission meeting: July 10, Ephrata Headquarters

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Local libraries to host Grant PUD as part of their summer reading program

Grant PUD to present “It’s not magic, it’s water” throughout the summer

EPHRATA — Grant PUD will participate in the North Central Regional Library’s summer reading program as they share an interactive presentation about how the naturally-occurring water cycle allows Grant PUD to generate electricity for its customers and our region. In addition, attendees will learn how electricity is delivered to homes and businesses.

The program provides plenty of hands on activities for children to get involved with. Participants will have the opportunity to act out the “Water Cycle” play, create a human-conducting electrical circuit and even generate their own power. The presentation also provides important information about electrical safety to help keep them out of harm’s way.

The schedule for the summer programs at the local libraries are as follows:

  • Coulee City: June 27, 3 p.m.
  • Moses Lake: June 28, 11:00 a.m.
  • Ephrata: July 12, 10 a.m.
  • George: July 12, 4 p.m.
  • Grand Coulee, July 17, 1 p.m.
  • Soap Lake, July 18, 10 a.m.
  • Mattawa, July 19, 10 a.m.
  • Royal City, July 26, 11 a.m.
  • Warden, Aug. 2, 4 p.m.
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Commissioners discuss changes for resolution driving current rate policy

Grant PUD commissioners discussed possible changes to the rate-setting policy outlined in Resolution No. 8768 during their board meeting June 12 (10:00 in the recording).

Resolution 8768, which was passed May 12, 2015, outlines which customer class would receive “core” or preferential status when it comes to being first in line for the benefits of Priest Rapids Project power and also the eventual bands of how much each customer class would pay above and below their cost of service.

Under the resolution, core customer groups first in line for Priest Rapids Project power benefits include residential, general service, irrigation and large general service.

Industrial customers with loads greater than a yearly average of 10 megawatts would have to pay any extra costs if Grant PUD has to rely on additional power resources to serve its Grant County customers. The resolution also states that by 2024, no customer class would pay more than 15 percent above Grant PUD’s cost to serve nor less than 20 percent below the cost of service.

Resolution 8768 calls for residential and irrigation customers to receive the largest subsidy at 20 percent below cost by 2024, with general service customers receiving any remaining subsidy. Large industrial and other customer groups would pay no more than 15 percent above their cost-of-service by 2024.

Residential customers’ rates are currently at 27 percent below their cost to serve. Irrigation customers pay 35 percent below their cost to serve. The current policy means rates for these groups will continue be adjusted each year until they reach the 20-percent-below-cost threshold in 2024.

Commissioners Terry Brewer and Bob Bernd both stated that they didn’t think the resolution perpetually locked in the percentages that customer groups would pay above or below costs to the 2024 targets.

Brewer said he would like to see if it is possible to bring the groups paying above cost of service to move closer to costs rather than always stay at 15 percent above.

“With the boundaries being what they were intended to be at the end of the 10-year window … with the main emphasis on the (rate) schedules 1 and 3 getting the major benefit as the core customer group,” Brewer said. “I didn’t ever understand that we intended to push the industrials to the max 15-percent above costs. It bears the discussion.”

He later added that he would like to see the residential and irrigation customers always stay at the 20 percent subsidy but he wasn’t sure that would be realistic, while at the same time keeping industrial customers at the 15-percent-above-cost threshold if rates have to be increased overall annually.
“That was intended to be the maximum below and above and to get everybody within that bandwidth,” Bernd said, adding that the subsidy may have to be adjusted at some point to less than 20 percent below costs after 2024.
Commissioner Flint said he would like to see the “birthright” preference for residential and irrigation customers be greater than 20 percent below cost.

Many agriculture activities are in the general service category, Flint said, and Larry Schaapman agreed. They said commissioners and staff should consider creating an additional customer class for those activities so they can receive a benefit similar to the irrigation customer class. Brewer said he believed that’s something the board should look into doing.

General Manager Kevin Nordt said staff is planning to update the cost of service analysis and present it to the board for future rate policy considerations.

Brewer appointed an ad-hoc committee of Schaapman and Commissioner Dale Walker to be involved with staff as they participate in the process to evaluate request for proposals and in the selection of a rate design consultant.

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Commission Meeting Recap for June 12, 2018

DURING TUESDAY’S MEETING GRANT PUD COMMISSIONERS

– Heard from the Port of Royal Slope. A presentation recounting communications between the port and Grant PUD dating back to 2003, was given on behalf of the port by Kevin Richards who is President of Western Pacific Engineering and Survey.  During the presentation Richards focused on previous discussions between both groups regarding the potential addition of new electrical infrastructure, including a substation, within the port’s industrial park.

To date, any growth and the need for power to the port’s property has been met through existing substations and other infrastructure within the greater Royal Slope area.  Presently an agricultural based company, that could provide up to 400 local jobs,  is looking to build a new facility at the port and open for business as soon as next fall.  Although, adding supplementary distribution capabilities from an existing substation could meet the customer’s initial power needs, there may be limits on this approach if the company were to expand without the construction of additional electrical infrastructure.

This scenario, combined with the potential for other companies expressing “real” interest of locating at the port led to their request for building the new “Red Rock” substation.  Something that has been discussed since those early conversations between the utility and the port.

Richards said the struggle is that the Port of Royal slope has the land, the water system, water rights and roads to help facilitate growth but they don’t have the electrical infrastructure in place to allow for immediate construction.

Commissioner Terry Brewer assured the port that our policies are “pretty fair and liberal” to allow for growth. However, he pointed to the potential risk of increased rates from building out infrastructure that may not be immediately used or needed.

For a number of years, Grant PUD has required larger customers provide a financial contribution in new infrastructure costs as projects are developed.  The situation facing future companies looking to build at the port would be the same.  Also, timing for building new infrastructure takes time and can depend on a variety of issues, such as land use rights, equipment availability from vendors and more.

The port and Grant PUD staff agreed to make a goal to meet regularly to ensure needs of future customers can be met in a timely manner and the best approach can be utilized for all. (1:57:55)

During Tuesday’s business meeting commissioners:

Approved a motion for a change order to a contract with Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., increasing the not-to-exceed price of the contract by $100,000 to a new total of $2,050,000 for their work in assisting with various engineering projects. To date, the group has supported 23 engineering projects for Grant PUD.  Some of these projects include repairs on the Wanapum Dam spillway apron and replacements of Priest Rapids Dam turbines.  The increased funding will provide for current and future project work throughout the three year contract extension period.  (3:08:30)

Approved a motion for a change order to a contract with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WFDW) increasing the not-to-exceed price of the contract by $995,192 to a new contract total of $7,434,379.67.  As part of its operating license Grant PUD is required to produce and release 5.6 million fall Chinook salmon. The contract allows WFDW to perform all aspects of this requirement while allowing Grant PUD to achieve its federal requirements for the species. (3:12:00)

Approved a motion for change order to a contract with Nicholson Construction Company, increasing the not-to-exceed price of the contract by $579,580 to a new total of $1,250,000 and extending the contract completion to July 31, 2018.  The contract was originally awarded to Nicholson in February to perform field investigation within the Priest Rapids Grout Gallery. The change order increases the contract value needed to perform the additional portions of the FERC mandated drilling when the disbonded lift joint was discovered. (3:14:45)

Approved a motion to settle a liability claim for property damages and personal injury stemming from an October incident where a Grant PUD employee was responsible for an auto accident.

The final payment will close the claim, which totals $15,592, for property damages, medical expenses and lost wages. (3:22:55)

The commission also:

-Heard from Brett Lenz as he provided the quarterly update from Cultural Resources. Lenz reported that one of their tasks has been to identify potential effects district projects may have on local environmental resources. During preparation work for the upcoming Priest Rapids right bank rebuild, they discovered a large archeological finding. As a result of the finding, the project plan has been modified so that any work will not impact this culturally sensitive area.  (1:22:20 and pages 13-22 staff reports)

Received reports regarding the following topics:

  • Fish and Wildlife Quarterly Business report by Tom Dresser (55:55 and pages 3-12 staff reports)
  • A review of Grant PUD’s strategic plan dashboard for 2017 and an update of 2018’s current status by Baxter Gillette (1:41:45 and pages 23-24 staff reports)
  • Grant PUD’s Community Engagement Activity report (03:29:15 and pages 25-44 staff reports)

Next commission meeting: June 26, Ephrata Headquarters

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Construction projects finish up at Crescent Bar

Ribbon cutting ceremony set for June 2 to celebrate

EPHRATA — Come join us in celebrating the transformation of Grant PUD’s most visited recreation site, Crescent Bar. To mark the completion of construction at the site, Grant PUD is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony and family friendly party for all to enjoy.  The free event will take place on June 2 beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Crescent Bar.

Come and enjoy Crescent Bar tours, free food samples, and a presentation from renowned geologist, Nick Zentner. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the celebration!

The final touches of the on-island Riverbend Park boat launch and parking area wrapped up the end of last week. Planning for the overhaul began in 2010 and work started in 2014. Finishing this project marked the end of the major construction overhaul at the recreation site.

Two final projects, the renovation of the on-island water system and wastewater-treatment plant, will conclude throughout the year. Completion of these projects will put the final stamp on the $35 million renovation of this popular recreation area. These costs are offset in part by monthly rent received from more than 400 leases to Grant PUD for island homes and condos. The island residents will also reimburse Grant PUD for the bulk of the costs associated with the new water and wastewater systems.

Ribbon Cutting Schedule:

11:30 a.m. – noon / Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Featuring special remarks from:

  • Terry Brewer – Grant PUD Commission President
  • Doug Picatti – Greater Crescent Bar Association President
  • Randy Hoefer – Representative of on-island HOA’s
  • Kevin Nordt – Grant PUD General Manager
  • Jeff Grizzel, Grant PUD Environmental Affairs

Noon – 1 p.m. / Taste of Crescent Bar
Refreshments and food samples by Crescent Bar restaurant vendors

1 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. / Rock Talk: Geology of the Crescent Bar area
CWU Professor Nick Zentner at Riverbend Park Picnic Shelter

1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. / Crescent Bar Recreation Area tours and boat rides
Free pontoon boat rides and walking tours

Grant PUD operates 20 recreation sites along its stretch of the river from a few miles below Rock Island Dam to the Hanford Reach. These recreation sites include five campgrounds, 10 free-to-use boat launches, multiple day-use areas and two different interactive learning centers. Each location is a short drive from anywhere within Grant County.

Since 2010, Grant PUD has invested more than $54 million to enhance Columbia River recreation.  These efforts not only allow Grant PUD to meet its federal requirements, they also support the county’s local communities. More than 345,000 people visit Grant PUD recreation sites each year. These visitors contribute more than $34 million annually to the local economy.

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New connection policy to protect core customers and provide certainty

“Evolving Industry” rate class will address deluge of cryptocurrency power requests

EPHRATA — Grant PUD commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to move forward to create a new customer rate class for cryptocurrency miners that would protect the interests of the utility’s existing customers.

By adopting this policy, the board also affirmed its position that core customer groups – residential, irrigation and commercial customers – will continue to be first in line for access to the benefits of low-cost energy generated at Grant PUD’s hydro facilities. The policy also creates a priority status for traditional commercial and industrial customers who are waiting for power service. The new “Evolving Industry” rate class provides more certainty of costs and waiting periods to the large number of cryptocurrency firms interested in service.

With the new plan, cryptocurrency firms would pay a rate — to be determined — that covers both Grant PUD’s cost to provide their electricity and any elevated risks they pose to the utility’s other customers.  Similar to the pricing for current large industrial customers, the new policy requires these emerging businesses to pay more, so core residential, irrigation and commercial customers can continue to pay below-cost rates. Evolving Industry customers would cover extra costs if Grant PUD has to pay more to bring additional power resources into the county to serve their load.

By July 1, Grant PUD plans to begin processing applications for traditional commercial and industrial customers, who have been waiting for electrical service since last fall while staff developed this new policy. The utility is expected to implement the new Evolving Industry rate class by Aug. 1.

“Electric service infrastructure is limited and lead times are long to build system capacity,” said Commission President Terry Brewer. “This new rate class and policy will ensure traditional industry gets the power it needs, and our core customers will continue to receive the economic benefits of our power generation going well into the future. It also keeps the door open for potentially promising new technologies.”

A product of six months of research and analysis, the new Evolving Industry rate would apply to businesses:

  • Whose primary revenue stream is evolving and unproven.
  • Whose ability to pay power rates long term is uncertain or at risk, compared to traditional customer classes.
  • Who are vulnerable to extreme value fluctuations of their primary output.
  • Who are at risk for detrimental changes in regulation.
  • Who could become part of a large concentration of power demand in Grant PUD’s service area.

Early on, cryptocurrency firms likely will be the only members of the Evolving Industry customer class, but the class will apply to all businesses that meet the same proposed risk criteria.

Evolving Industry customers would be placed in a secondary waiting queue for service and traditional commercial and industrial customers’ applications will be processed first. Evolving Industry customers would also pay an application fee and expenses to reimburse engineering costs, plus up-front costs to cover infrastructure upgrades needed to serve them.

Since summer 2017, Grant PUD has received an unprecedented 125 new service requests that total above 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This is more than three times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, farms, businesses and industry. One average megawatt of electricity provides enough energy to serve about 450 homes in Grant County. Approximately 75 percent of these requests are from cryptocurrency firms.

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Commission Meeting Recap May 8, 2018

DURING TUESDAY’S MEETING COMMISSIONERS

– Grant PUD commissioners unanimously agreed on May 8 to move forward to create a new customer rate class for cryptocurrency miners that would protect the interests of the utility’s existing customers. (Discussion and vote begins at the 3:07:43 on commission recording)

By adopting this policy, the board also affirmed its position that core irrigation, residential and commercial customer groups –– will continue to be first in line for access to the benefits of low-cost energy generated at Grant PUD’s hydro facilities. The policy also creates a priority status for traditional commercial and industrial customers who are waiting for power service. The new “Evolving Industry” rate class provides more certainty of costs and waiting periods to the large number of cryptocurrency firms interested in service.

“I think it’s important that we adopt this resolution … at this time we haven’t defined the rate yet or the particulars of the class policy, but setting aside a new class is important so that we can go ahead with our traditional lines of business, the existing agricultural processing and large industrial sector etcetera,” said commission president Terry Brewer.  “People that have had growth plans before us for two or three years will be able to move forward while we put the (Evolving Industry) policy together. The thing that we’re all concerned about is protecting the district from any adverse risk and at the same time allowing our traditional customer base to function and grow as they intend to.”

With the new plan, cryptocurrency firms would pay a rate — to be determined — that covers both Grant PUD’s cost to provide their electricity and any elevated risks they pose to the utility’s other customers.  Similar to the pricing for current large industrial customers, the new policy requires these emerging businesses to pay more, so core residential, irrigation and commercial customers can continue to pay below-cost rates. Evolving Industry customers would cover extra costs if Grant PUD has to pay more to bring additional power resources into the county to serve their load.

By July 1, Grant PUD plans to begin processing applications for traditional commercial and industrial customers, who have been waiting for electrical service since last fall, while staff developed this new policy. The utility is expected to implement the new Evolving Industry rate class by Aug. 1.

A product of six months of research and analysis, the new Evolving Industry rate would apply to businesses:

  • Whose primary revenue stream is evolving and unproven.
  • Whose ability to pay power rates long term is uncertain or at risk, compared to traditional customer classes.
  • Who are vulnerable to extreme value fluctuations of their primary output.
  • Who are at risk for detrimental changes in regulation.
  • Who could become part of a large concentration of power demand in Grant PUD’s service area.

Early on, cryptocurrency firms will likely be the only members of the Evolving Industry customer class, but the class will apply to all businesses that meet the same proposed risk criteria.

Evolving Industry customers would be placed in a secondary waiting queue for service and traditional commercial and industrial customers’ applications will be processed first. As with Industrial rate class customers, Evolving Industry customers would also pay an application fee and expenses to reimburse engineering costs, plus up-front costs to cover infrastructure upgrades needed to serve them.

Since summer 2017, Grant PUD has received an unprecedented 125 new service requests that total above 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This is more than three times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, farms, businesses and industry. One average megawatt of electricity provides enough energy to serve about 450 homes in Grant County. Approximately 75 percent of these requests are from cryptocurrency firms.

 In other business:

Commissioners approved a change order with North Sky Communications, increasing the not-to-exceed price by $4 million for a new contract total of $5.9 million for work to install fiber optic service in the fiber build out areas in northern Moses Lake and George. (03:14:00)

Approved a contract change order with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to increase the contract price by $324,580 for a new maximum contract price of $2.338 million and extend the term from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. The work is for monitoring and evaluation studies to fulfill Grant PUD’s obligations for fall Chinook salmon propagation at the Priest Rapids Hatchery. (03:15:18)

The commission also received reports about the following topics:

  • A quarterly financial budget update (0:56:30pages 1-15)
  • A review of the 10-year anniversary of Grant PUD’s license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Priest Rapids Project (01:32:30pages 16-44)
  • An introduction and recognition for the Grant PUD’s Safety Continuous Improvement Team (02:07:40pages 45-55)
  • A semi-annual internal audit report (03:26:00pages 56-65)
  • A legislative report from external affairs (03:51:00pages 66-73)

Next commission meeting: June 12, Ephrata Headquarters

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Recap: Commission Workshop May 7, 2018

Monday’s commission workshop was a culmination of six months of research and analysis. The workshop occurred to provide commissioners with an in-depth look at how staff is proposing to address the influx of cryptocurrency firms interested in electrical hookups throughout Grant County.

Since just last summer, Grant PUD has obtained an unprecedented number of new service requests.  To date, the utility has received more than 125 new service requests totally more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity.  Approximately 75 percent of this interest is from Cryptocurrency companies. This type of demand forced Grant PUD to stop accepting applications for new industrial hookups until a solution could be developed. (Background discussion begins at 6:50 )

To address this situation, a new “Evolving Industry” rate class is being proposed. The workshop covered the details regarding the new rate class, including the following highlights: (Discussion begins 47:00 – pages 6-29 of the packet)

  • Developing a new rate – yet to be determined – that covers Grant PUD’s cost to provide electricity as well as include additional fees to cover any elevated risks evolving industries pose to other customers.
  • Implementing a policy that if the customer causes a cost, then they will bear a cost. Currently customers only pay for the capacity they request. This can lead to stranded costs for Grant PUD by customers underutilizing infrastructure. The new recommendation would require large customers to pay the full cost of any expansion efforts needed to support their load request. (For example: if a new substation needed to be built, the customer would pay for the construction of the entire substation even if they didn’t use all of its capacity. Staff is also exploring options to reimburse customers who pay for excess infrastructure capacity that would later be used by other customers.)
  • Initiating application fees for customers in the Evolving Industry rate class, as well as other industrial rate classes. Currently there are no application fees. By establishing a fee schedule based on the anticipated megawatt usage will allow Grant PUD to cover any upfront engineering and planning costs. The application fees will be based on a megawatt differentiator as defined in the presentation.
  • Creating a secondary waiting queue for evolving industry customers. Grant PUD would not process Evolving Industry requests for inclusion in this new customer class until all traditional customer applications are first addressed.

Details were also provided regarding the revamped guidelines for distribution and transmission infrastructure planning that are nearly complete.  (Discussion begins 1:52:05 – pages 30-34 of the packet)

  • Key elements of the guidelines include load limits for distribution equipment to ensure the system is operating at industry standards which allows staff to effectively operate and maintain the efficiency of the system.
  • The guidelines establishes a new transmission philosophy that the 230kv transmission system is the backbone of Grant PUD’s delivery operation. It provides parameters for how to best ensure redundancy throughout the system to better serve those with higher voltage loads.

Residential cryptocurrency operations were discussed in the workshop. Public safety is the number one concern with any home/small business cyrptocurrency operation.  It is also imperative that Grant PUD protects its equipment.  Energy services will monitoring loads that appear to show abnormal load factors that may potentially threaten Grant PUD equipment.  If a concern is discovered, Energy Services will contact the customer notifying them of their responsibility to replace any damaged equipment. If needed, the policy would allow the disconnecting of those customers that are posing a risk and to charge them for any costs needed to move them to their own dedicated equipment.  (Discussion begins 2:46:50 – pages 35-42 of the packet)

The workshop concluded with a review and discussion of the rate setting policy. With the purpose of that presentation to provide clarification on existing rate setting policies, and clarify how the policy has been applied. (Discussion begins 3:18:40 – pages 43-50 of the packet).

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Commission meeting recap April 24, 2018

DURING TUESDAY’S MEETING COMMISSIONERS

-Heard about a proposed new customer class that would give all traditional commercial and industrial customers priority status for power hookups. (1:27:30 commission audio)

The proposed new “Evolving Industry” customer class would provide increased certainty to the large number of cryptocurrency firms interested in hookups, Dave Churchman, Grant PUD’s chief customer officer, told commissioners.

The proposed customer class would ensure these firms pay a rate — to be determined — that covers both the cost to provide their electricity and the elevated risk they pose to Grant PUD. It also ensures these emerging businesses pay more, so core residential, irrigation and commercial customers can continue to pay below-cost rates.

Commissioners are expected to vote during their next meeting on May 8 on the proposed policy that would move the PUD toward creating the new customer class.

A product of six months of research and analysis, the Evolving Industry would apply to businesses:

  • Whose primary revenue stream is evolving and unproven.
  • Whose ability to pay power rates long term is uncertain or at risk, compared to traditional customer classes.
  • Who are vulnerable to extreme value fluctuations of their primary output.
  • Who are at risk for detrimental changes in regulation.
  • Who could become part of a large concentration of power demand in Grant PUD’s service area.

Early on, cryptocurrency firms likely will be the only members of the Evolving Industry customer class, but the class will apply to all businesses that meet the same proposed risk criteria.

Evolving Industry customers would be placed in a secondary waiting queue for service hookups. Grant PUD would not process service requests in this new customer class until all traditional customer applications are addressed.

Evolving Industry customers, new and existing, would pay a rate that covers:

  • Grant PUD’s cost to serve them.
  • The extra risk they pose as an emerging industry.
  • An “extra cost” — as all industrial customers pay — to help Grant PUD sustain below-cost rates for its core irrigation, residential and commercial customers.

The new rate class would align with Resolution 8768 (May 12, 2015), which defines Grant PUD’s approach to rate setting and the goal that by 2024 no industrial customer will pay more than 15 percent above their cost of service.

Evolving Industry customers would pay an application fee and fees to cover engineering costs. They’d pay up-front the costs to cover infrastructure upgrades needed to serve them.

Since summer 2017, Grant PUD has received an unprecedented 125 new service requests that total more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This is approximately four times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, businesses, government institutions and industry. One average megawatt of electricity provides enough energy to serve approximately 450 homes in Grant County.

Approximately 75 percent of these requests are from cryptocurrency firms.

The deluge of requests exposed serious deficiencies in Grant PUD’s current “first in, first out” customer-connection policies.

Utility officials agreed to stop accepting applications for new industrial hookups until staff proposed solutions. Staff hopes to develop a rate, create separate waiting queues for traditional and evolving customer classes by July 1 and transition to the new Evolving Industry rate class by Aug. 1.

The audience at Tuesday’s commission meeting included cryptocurrency miners who were in the request queue for a power hookup and members of the public who seek more control of the miners to set up their mining computers in residential areas with distribution infrastructure unable to handle for the machine’s huge energy draw.

“Churchman is putting together a fine program,” said Moses Lake resident Dick Deane, who said he lives next door to a mining operation with noisy cooling fans the operate around the clock, blowing hot air into his bedroom window. (Grant PUD staffers said after the meeting that the amount of power used by this customer is not out of the ordinary and poses no safety risk to others or Grant PUD power infrastructure.)

Deane urged Grant PUD to work together with the City of Moses Lake to crack down on the clandestine operations. “What we’re facing here is a tsunami. We’re here to blow the whistle.”

Deane’s neighbor Douglas Sly agreed. “Cryptocurrency operations are threatening Grant County’s economy,” Sly said. “They’re sucking the value out of Grant County, because Grant County PUD has the low rates.”

Heard expansion plans for Grant PUD fiber-optic network expansion in 2018. Senior Managers of Wholesale Fiber, Russ Brethower and Tom Stredwick announced during staff reports that this year’s expansion will bring an additional 1,400 residents and businesses access in Moses Lake and George. (1:52:55 commission audio)

The expansion in Moses Lake will extend the fiber availability into northern portions of Moses Lake from East Wheeler Road to Road 10 NE. The new expansion in George will bring service to the remaining residents and businesses of the city without fiber access. Construction is expected to begin in May or June. The expansion comes after commissioners allocated an additional $7 million from financial reserves toward the wholesale fiber-optic program in late 2017.

Commissioners have committed to extending fiber-optic connectivity to all residents of Grant County. The timing of ongoing expansion will be based on the overall financial strength of the utility going forward.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report (FCC), over 23 million rural individuals lack access to a broadband internet connection. As state and federal legislators wrestle with how best to bridge the digital divide that exists in rural America, Grant PUD is closing the rural gap by expanding world-class fiber-optic connectivity to all residents and businesses of Grant County.

Fiber service is currently available to about 70 percent of county residents and businesses. To connect to Grant PUD’s High Speed Network.

Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Bishop, followed up with a presentation discussing the goal of finishing the expansion project and how the determination will be made each year on whether the expansion of the fiber network will continue.  The annual Go/No-Go assessment will be based on the fiber program’s ability to meet its programs financial metrics and overall health of the District.  (Begins 2:30:50 on commission Audio)

In other action, commissioners:

Approved a resolution amending the 2018 strategic plan for Grant PUD.  The strategic plan is reviewed by the commission every six months to assess the progress made towards company goals and identify future steps. Slight variations may occur during the review process and when formal action for approval is needed to revise the plan the changes are done via a resolution.  (Commission Audio 3:30:35)

Unanimously approved salary and benefit increases for Grant PUD General Manager Kevin Nordt and General Counsel Mitch Delabarre. Effective May 4, Nordt will receive a one-time addition of 15 days of personal leave and a 5-percent salary increase to $292,032 annually, up from his former salary of $278,110. Delabarre will receive a one-time addition of three days of personal leave and a 3-percent salary increase to $259,740 per year, up from his former salary of $252,116 annually.

“A rigorous set of goals and objectives were laid out for these gentlemen this year. We all concurred that the performance of both the general manager and general counsel were above expectations,” Commission President Terry Brewer said.

Commissioner Bob Bernd said the increase moves Nordt into the “lower quartile” of what general managers at like-sized utilities are earning, according to a recent industry survey.  (Commission Audio 3:31:35)

Unanimously approved a 15-year contract with the Yakama Nation to hatch, raise and release coho salmon to achieve “No Net Impact” designation for coho migrating through Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dams. The change increases the contract amount by $14 million for a new contract total of $21.3 million for expanded services. The Yakamas’ contract work has helped Grant PUD save approximately $9 million by getting federal approval to do fish-survival “check-in” studies every 10 years instead of every five years.  The Bonneville Power Administration and Chelan PUD also contract with the Yakamas’ for their coho salmon work.  Historically Grant PUD has contributed to approximately 15% of the total cost of the contract that all three organizations have with the Yakamas. (Commission Audio 3:40:30)

Unanimously agreed to authorize the general manager to execute a 6-month contract with Avangrid Renewables (formerly Iberdrola) for a 10-percent slice of Grant PUD’s share of output at Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams. The new deal takes effect July 1, 2018 and continues a very similar deal that’s set to expire. (Commission Audio 3:45:40)

Other Meeting Highlights, commissioners:

Learned some good news about the Priest Rapids spillway from Chief Operating Officer Kevin Marshall. Contract crews have drilled 80 holes to pin down the points where water is leaking into the spillway structure. They plan to drill 220 more holes over the next couple of months to analyze all 22 spillway monoliths. So far, only some of the holes drilled in monoliths 17-20 are showing signs of leakage. All others are dry. The holes will remain there to aid drainage, Marshall said. No repair plan has yet been developed.

Learned that Grant PUD received a virtually clean 2017 annual audit by independent firm PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). The firm will release its final summary later this week. Auditors uncovered two errors. The first was cash mistake in 2016 that wrongly recorded a $3.2 million cash inflow as an operational activity instead of a financing activity. The firm did not require a fix. The second involved a miscalculation of interest expense totaling $1.4 million. The error has already been corrected. (Commission Audio 3:02:30)

Heard that Grant PUD’s Power Delivery team contains three new engineers, is looking for a fourth and three more linemen. The team is working well to clear a backlog of needed system maintenance that has resulted from the utility’s rapid growth since 2008. “That’s kind of our Achilles heel right now,” Mike Tongue, senior manager of Power Delivery Construction and Maintenance, told commissioners. Commission President Terry Brewer said industrial customers count on a reliable system when they agree to locate in the county and expect good maintenance. “I don’t want to argue,” Brewer said of the maintenance backlog, “I just want it to change going forward.” (Commission Audio 4:03:30)

Review items for next business meeting, May 8.

-Reviewed a proposed change Order No. 7 to increase by $324,580 the contract price of $2.34 million with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for Priest Rapids Hatchery fish monitoring and evaluation from July 2018 through June 2019. The change order is necessary to meet Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license requirements for fall Chinook salmon artificial propagation, monitoring and evaluation.

-Reviewed a motion that would increase a contract with North Sky Communications of Kent, Washington by $4 million for a new contract total of $5.9 million. The increase will fund expansion into George and Moses Lake of Grant PUD’s fiber-optic network this year.

Important dates:

May 7 – Commission Workshop to discuss proposed “Emerging Industry” rate class for cryptocurrency and other businesses with inherent higher business risk for Grant PUD and its customers. Ephrata Headquarters Commission Room, 12:30 p.m.

Next commission meeting: May 8, Ephrata Headquarters

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Grant PUD fiber-optic network expansion moves ahead in 2018

Additional 1,400 residents and businesses to get access in Moses Lake and George

EPHRATA, Wash. – Approximately 1,400 Grant County residents and businesses are a step closer to receiving fiber optic internet service this year. Grant PUD staff announced fiber buildout locations in portions of the Moses Lake and George areas to commissioners today during their normal business meeting.

The expansion in the Moses Lake area will extend the fiber availability from Road 4 NE to Road 12 NE. The new expansion in George will bring service to the remaining residents and businesses of the city without fiber access. Construction in the Moses Lake area is expected to begin in May or June. The expansion comes after commissioners allocated an additional $7 million from financial reserves toward the wholesale fiber-optic program in late 2017.

Commissioners have committed to extending fiber-optic connectivity to all residents of Grant County. The timing of ongoing expansion will be based on the overall financial strength of the utility going forward.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report (FCC), over 23 million rural individuals lack access to a broadband internet connection. As state and federal legislators wrestle with how best to bridge the digital divide that exists in rural America, Grant PUD is closing the rural gap by expanding world-class fiber-optic connectivity to all residents and businesses of Grant County.

Fiber service is currently available to about 70 percent of county residents and businesses. To connect to Grant PUD’s High Speed Network, visit grantpud.org and select one of the local service providers.

The areas in green are expansion locations. Areas in purple are existing fiber areas.

George Expansion – The areas in green are expansion locations. Areas in purple are existing fiber areas.

The areas in green are expansion locations. Areas in purple are existing fiber areas.

Moses Lake expansion – The areas in green are expansion locations. Areas in purple are existing fiber areas.

 

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Crews Continue Inspection of Priest Rapids Dam Spillway Monoliths

Grant PUD officials expect analysis to continue for the next several weeks

Crews continue investigating the leakage discovered in spillway monoliths at Priest Rapids Dam. Initial analysis shows that a disbonded lift joint is the source of the leakage. A lift joint is the area between two concrete blocks poured at different times.  A monolith is the structure that supports the piers holding up the spillway gates.

Priest Rapids Dam continues to generate electricity and operations continue as usual. There is no threat to property or people.  The monoliths are stable, but do merit further investigation.

The monolith lift joint has lost some of its bonding, resulting in the leakage of three to four gallons a minute, which has been detected by the investigative drilling.  This leakage has been found through the same lift joint near the base of four of the 22 spillway monoliths.

To date, inspection drilling has occurred through about half of the spillway and will continue throughout the remaining monoliths.  This is anticipated to continue into May. The spillway structure is stable and no movement has been detected in the structure.  Once the investigation and analysis are complete, Grant PUD officials will make a determination on what, if any, remedies are needed beyond the drilling. The inspection drilling is reducing pressure from the water inflow through the disbonded area of the lift joint.

Late last month, out of an abundance of caution, Grant PUD officials declared a non-failure emergency at Priest Rapids Dam.  This was discovered after inspection drilling revealed the leaking in spillway monoliths.

Grant PUD has reduced reservoir elevation behind the dam by approximately three feet.  This is still within the normal operating range while inspection work continues. Priest Rapids Reservoir will be held to operating elevations between 484.5 to 481.5 feet above sea level. The maximum reservoir elevation is 488.0 feet. The reservoir will remain at the lowered level at least until the inspection work is complete.

Established by local residents over 75 years ago, Grant PUD generates and delivers energy to millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest. What began as a grassroots movement of public power has evolved into one of the premiere providers of renewable energy at some of the most affordable rates in the nation. For more information visit www.grantpud.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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April 10: Commission Meeting Recap

DURING TUESDAY’S MEETING COMMISSIONERS

-Unanimously approved a $2.8 million increase to the contract with Voith Hydro Inc. and an extension of 15 days, bringing the total revised contract maximum to $14.3 million. Voith is a contractor on an approximately 10-year project to rehabilitate the 10 turbine/generator units at Priest Rapids Dam. This change is the result of lessons learned rehabbing the first of the dam’s units. Rehab of the second unit is currently underway. Staff believes the revised work will be needed on all remaining units. Revisions are related to weld adjustments, welding materials needed, increased anchor installations and changes in pricing for materials to rehab each unit’s water passages. (2:26:08 on the audio recording and page 10, of the Commission packet).

Unanimously approved a change order for the extension of services with Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) for an additional $209,880 to allow a one-year extension in their existing contract to provide support of our fiber optic system. Specifically continuing 24×7 monitoring of the Merchant Wholesale Telecom System and Network Operation Center Services.  An annual change order is done to meet the requirements for contract within fiber optic rate schedules 100 and 120. (2:28:50 on the recording and pages 20-26 of commission packet)

During Reports to the Commission:

Commissioners Heard first-quarter Power Production results from Managing Director of Power Production Rich Wallen. Turbine/generator units were available to produce power 86.6 percent of the time at Priest Rapids Dam, January through March, up from 84.7 percent of the time during the same period in 2017, Wallen said. Unit availability at Wanapum Dam also increased slightly to 86.3 percent during Q1. Units are unavailable when they’re down for maintenance, upgrades or repairs.

Wallen pointed to an unexpected outage of Unit P09 at Priest Rapids Dam, the first of dam’s 10 units to be refurbished. The unit was completed, but taken out of service unexpectedly for nine days for follow-up repairs. The unit is has been back in service for 10 days. Wallen said lessons learned from the project, including disassembly, control of tools and parts, cleaning and wear and tear, will help crews with rehab of the remaining nine. Contract crews from Voith Hydro are already at work on the next unit to be rehabbed, P02.

Rehab efforts at Priest Rapids Dam are focused on rebuilding or refurbishing existing parts, rather than purchasing new parts. Project planners expect this strategy will save $55 million to $77 million in total cost for all 10 units. (Staff presentation page 1 and audio begins 1:18:30)

Commissioners received a quarterly business report from Shannon Lowry, Lands and Recreation Manager. Continued construction work at Crescent Bar and preparation for the heart of the recreation season highlighted the update. Construction at Crescent Bar’s on-island Riverbend Park Boat Launch and parking area is scheduled for completion by Memorial Day weekend. As the group gets ready for the peak of the recreation season this summer, seasonal workers and interns are also in process of joining the staff as well.

Initial interest in campsites at the recreation areas this season appears to be very high, as more than $45,000 worth of reservations have already been pre-sold for the 2018 recreation season. Visitors can make online reservations for the Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Sand Hollow and Crescent Bar Recreation Area.

As part of Grant PUD’s responsibility within its federal license to monitor and report recreation throughout the project, Lands and Recreation will also undertake completing two different surveys this year. The last survey was completed in 2015.  The first phase of the survey work will be impact monitoring. This portion will measure how users are using the recreation areas and to determine what if any rehab or restoration work is necessary.

The second phase will involve in-person surveys. These surveys are scheduled to occur throughout a defined portion of the summer. The goal is to gather insights from at least 200 respondents and see how people feel about Grant PUD’s recreation sites.  One of the specific items they will be looking to identify are primary zip codes of those interviewed and whether or not they pay a Grant PUD electric bill.   (Staff presentation page 17 and audio begins 1:46:45)

Commissioners Thanked Grant PUD line crews for long hours and quick, safe work restoring power in February to three large industrial customers in Moses Lake. The three industrials, Chemi Con, Geni and SGL employ hundreds of people over multiple shifts. Crews got the three up and running in less than 24 hours, despite extensive repairs. The cause of the outage was never determined.

“During this whole ordeal, we were getting regular updates every two hours or so,” said Commissioner Bob Bernd to the gathered linemen. He added, to laughter, “But, you know, at 11 p.m. I went to bed. I read the next update in the morning and I said, ‘Job well done and congratulations, and thank you on behalf of our customers and ourselves.”

Other Meeting Highlights, commissioners:

Heard a review of action expected at the next commission meeting April 24 on Grant PUD’s amended Strategic Plan – a roadmap that describes performance objectives and how to achieve them.

Heard a review of plans to extend for 15 years an existing contract with the Yakama Nation to hatch, raise and release coho salmon to achieve “No Net Impact” designation for coho migrating through Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dams. The change increases the contract amount by $14 million for a new contract total of $21.3 million for expanded services. The Yakamas’ contract work has helped Grant PUD save approximately $9 million by getting federal approval to do fish-survival “check-in” studies every 10 years instead of every five years.

Reviewed a motion set for vote at the April 24 commission meeting to execute a new contract with Avangrid Renewables (formerly Iberdrola) for a 10-percent slice of the Grant PUD’s share of output of Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams for six months, starting July 1, 2018. Terms are similar to the current contract.

Upcoming meetings:

Next commission meeting: April 24

Executive meeting with commissioners May 7 to discuss new service requests and emerging technologies

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Priest Rapids reservoir lowered for spillway inspection

priest rapids

Grant PUD officials declare a non-failure emergency

Out of an abundance of caution, Grant PUD officials have declared a non-failure emergency at Priest Rapids Dam, after inspection drilling revealed leaking in spillway monoliths. Grant PUD will reduce reservoir elevation behind the dam to normal operating minimums while inspection work continues.

Priest Rapids Dam will continue to generate electricity. Dam operations will continue as usual. There is no threat to life or property. The Priest Rapids Reservoir will be held to operating elevations between 484.5 to 481.5 feet above sea level. This is within the lower end of the normal operating range. The maximum reservoir elevation is 488.0 feet.

The leaking in the spillway structure was discovered by a contract crew drilling inspection holes. The reservoir will remain at the lowered level at least until the inspection work is finished.

The issue is different than the one at Wanapum Dam in 2014, when a fracture was found on the spillway. That repair required a prolonged reservoir drawdown. Wanapum Dam has since been completely repaired.

The Priest Rapids spillway monoliths are stable, but merit further investigation. The dam has 22 spillway monoliths. A monolith is the expanse of concrete below each of the dam’s spill gates.

Crews will drill inspection holes downward from an internal passageway called “the grout gallery” that runs the length of the spillway. When the drilling is finished, Grant PUD will devise a repair strategy, if necessary, once analysis is complete.

The investigation and drilling at Priest Rapids Dam is precautionary work after completing the repair at Wanapum Dam in 2015. Grant PUD will provide updates as information becomes available.

Priest Rapids Dam is on the Columbia River near the town of Mattawa. Wanapum Dam is 19 miles upriver of Priest Rapids.

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Commission meeting recap: Microsoft announces $200,000 contribution for fiber buildout to George

Microsoft officials announced during the commission meeting in Beverly on March 27 that the company is making a $200,000 contribution toward building out wholesale fiber optic service to residents in the City of George.

Paul Englis, of Microsoft, told the commissioners that his company as an organization has a desire to give back to the community, pointing out that last year the company’s philanthropies donated approximately $1.7 billion in money and goods globally. The George project was selected after months of discussion with Grant PUD staff, including now senior wholesale fiber business managers Thomas Stredwick and Russ Brethower, because it was seen as a location that can help Microsoft bridge the gap for folks who don’t have broadband access in their community.

“We want to help close that gap,” Englis said. “This project in George is one of the ways we can help with that. And aligning with local partners, such as Grant PUD, is how we want to go about it. We see ourselves as being a catalyst to help you be even more successful in what you are already doing.”

He added that George was selected because it was identified as the last incorporated community in Grant County that does not have fiber service. The need is great to help provide for community development and better educational opportunities for those living in the city of 500 people.

“You hear heartbreaking stories of mothers who, at night, load up their children in the family car so they can do their homework by using the free wifi in the library parking lot,” Englis said. “We want to help provide better opportunities for those families so they can improve their lives.”

He added that Microsoft is also looking to address issues in the county where families do have the opportunity to access broadband service but they do not have the resources to make connections to the service.

Commission president Terry Brewer said he and the board are grateful for Microsoft’s contribution to the fiber network buildout.

“We are really appreciative of your offer and we look forward to working with you to make bringing fiber to George a reality.”

Last fall, the commissioners approved $7 million toward fiber buildout in the county. Grant PUD’s wholesale fiber optic managers and staff have been working on a plan for building out fiber not only to George, but also to other areas of the county and are expected to announce those plans in the next few weeks.

In other business:

  • Commissioners approved a $1.356 million contract with Aronson Security Group for the supply, installation and commissioning of a Genetec electronic access control and video management system. The new system will help improve security at Grant PUD facilities.
  • Commissioners heard a request from Warren Morgan, of Double Diamond Fruit Co. in Quincy, to change policy so his new apple-packing facility will have power before apple harvest begins this fall. Morgan said that he had expanded his business and planned for power service to be ready for him this year and was told that his project would be delayed while the utility completes its infrastructure study related to large load requests. Commissioners Flint and Brewer said they would work with Grant PUD staff to make sure that Morgan’s requests and others from growers are addressed quickly and will not be significantly delayed.
  • Approved paying a claim totaling $6,890.76 to Harry Anderson for damage to his sewer line, which was caused by a fiber-installation contractor in 2006. The damage was not detected until Jan. 26, 2018.
  • Heard a presentation from Richard Flanigan, Senior Manager of Wholesale Marketing Supply, and Paul Dietz, Senior Quantitative Analyst, regarding a proposed 10 percent slice sale of Priest Rapids Project Output for six months to Avangrid (formerly Iberdrola). The slice sale is projected to net Grant PUD about $1.5 million over the six-month period, Flanigan stated.
  • Other reports to the commission included a report from the CIT3 Team, Security Report, Safety and Health Improvement Report and Public Power/Industry Outreach Activity Report. All reports materials be found here: http://grantpud.org/component/edocman/3075-presentation-materials.
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Microsoft helps bring high-speed internet to George

Funding will help bring additional connectivity to customers and businesses through fiber service

EPHRATA, Wash. – Microsoft will contribute $200,000 for the buildout of Grant PUD’s wholesale fiber-optic network in the George area, Grant PUD commissioners learned Tuesday.

Since 2006, when it opened a data center in Quincy, Microsoft has supported community projects in Grant County, from human services, to environmental programs, and beyond. “The City of George is the only incorporated city in Grant County that does not have access to fiber-optic service, and we’re eager to help change that,” said Mike Miles, General Manager, Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations (MCIO), whose community development team is working in partnership with Grant County PUD.

Microsoft’s contribution is a benefit to not only those living in George but for customers throughout Grant County, said commission president Terry Brewer. “With this partnership, we can bring our wholesale fiber-optic service to the community of George and also maximize our resources to expand fiber optic service in other locations in the county,” Brewer said. “We are excited about this partnership and that we are able to achieve our mutual goal of bringing high quality fiber optic service to more customers in Grant County.”

“High-speed internet is rapidly transforming how we work, farm, and educate our children,” said Lisa Karstetter, manager Microsoft TechSpark Washington, a program that fosters greater economic opportunity and job creation. “It’s Microsoft’s privilege to help bring broadband to residents and businesses in our community.”

Fiber service is available to about 70 percent of Grant PUD’s customers. In the coming weeks, Grant PUD will finalize its schedule for deploying fiber optic service to George and announce plans for fiber expansion to other areas in the county. Grant PUD’s commissioners set aside $7 million in the 2018 budget for fiber-optic expansion.

To learn more about getting connected to Grant PUD’s high speed network, visit grantpud.org/customer-service/high-speed-network.

#                                                                             #

Established by local residents over 75 years ago, Grant PUD generates and delivers energy to millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest. What began as a grassroots movement of public power has evolved into one of the premiere providers of renewable energy at some of the most affordable rates in the nation. For more information visit www.grantpud.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Grant PUD Commissioners set rates for 2018

New rate will increase average monthly residential power bill by $1.49

EPHRATA — Grant PUD commissioners Tuesday approved the next of a proposed series of small, annual electric-rate increases that will generate an estimated 2-percent more revenue over 12 months. New rates take effect April 1.

The increase aligns with commissioners’ strategy of small, predictable rate increases over time that protect core customers, including residential and irrigation, from less-frequent, double-digit increases.

Customers have said this is their preferred strategy to help keep Grant PUD on a sustainable financial path with outstanding service reliability, while keeping rates as low as possible.

“Careful, data-based planning, budgeting and spending are critical to sustain financial strength and provide outstanding service and value for our customers,” Commission President Terry Brewer said after the vote. “These rate increases are critical to cover needed capital upgrades at our dams and substations and plan for the future at a time when wholesale market prices for our surplus power have declined.”

The increase generates $3.8 million in revenue. Each rate will increase by the following:

Rates Capture2Commissioners in 2013 approved a policy (Resolution 8690, 10/7/2013) of small, predictable increases with the objective of adjusting rates over time until no customer class pays more than 20 percent below nor 15 percent above the cost to provide electric service by 2024. They affirmed this policy in 2015 (Resolution 8768).

The resolutions define residential, general service, large general service and irrigators, as “core customers” who, will continue to benefit with rates as much as 20 percent below the cost to provide their power.

Contact: publicaffairs@gcpud.org / (509) 754-5035

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Commission Meeting Recap: Commissioners set rates for 2018 and more

Grant PUD Commissioners set rates for 2018 (2:47:30)

New rate will increase average monthly residential power bill by $1.49

Grant PUD commissioners Tuesday approved the next of a proposed series of small, annual electric-rate increases that will generate an estimated 2-percent more revenue over 12 months. New rates take effect April 1.

The increase aligns with commissioners’ strategy of small, predictable rate increases over time that protect core customers, including residential and irrigation, from less-frequent, double-digit increases.

Customers have said this is their preferred strategy to help keep Grant PUD on a sustainable financial path with outstanding service reliability, while keeping rates as low as possible.

“Careful, data-based planning, budgeting and spending are critical to sustain financial strength and provide outstanding service and value for our customers,” Commission President Terry Brewer said after the vote. “These rate increases are critical to cover needed capital upgrades at our dams and substations and plan for the future at a time when wholesale market prices for our surplus power have declined.”

The increase generates $3.8 million in revenue. Each rate will increase by the following:

Rates Capture2

*Bill increases for industrial customers are based on too many factors to be characterized by a single average figure.

**These columns show the rate currently paid as a percentage above or below its cost of service (COS) v. their 2024 forecast

For details about how rates are applied, see Page 22 of the March 13 commission packet.

Commissioners in 2013 approved a policy (Resolution 8690, 10/7/2013) of small, predictable increases with the objective of adjusting rates over time until no customer class pays more than 20 percent below nor 15 percent above the cost to provide electric service by 2024. They affirmed this policy in 2015 (Resolution 8768).

The resolutions define residential, general service, large general service and irrigators, as “core customers” who, will continue to benefit with rates as much as 20 percent below the cost to provide their power.

Commission receives public comment regarding rates and more (2:19:15):

Commissioners split their votes on the rate increase. Bob Bernd, Terry Brewer and Larry Schaapman voted in favor. Tom Flint and Dale Walker voted against. Before the vote, commissioners heard comments from Grant County residents present during Tuesday’s meeting:

Marvin Price of Moses Lake told commissioners he’d questioned Grant PUD financial staffers and concluded a rate increase wasn’t needed this year, based on the amount the PUD has in reserve funds (2:19:15).

Dennis Conley called for a flat 2-percent rate increase across all rate schedules (2:40:30). Sharon Hastings and Deb Murphy, both of the “Fiber Active” citizens group, said they were disappointed that PUD officials declined for administrative-liability reasons their group’s offer to be a citizen advisory board, but urged commissioners to provide them updates on the network’s financial performance (2:32:45).

“I’m not necessarily opposed to the 2-percent increase. I oppose the structure,” Commissioner Flint said following citizen comments. “We have a pretty big debt load, six-to-seven years out. It’s certainly a lot more palatable to have a consistently smaller increases than have a period of none and then six and eight and 10 percent. My challenge is the erosion of the preference birthright of the farmers and ranchers who have built and paid for Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams in conjunction with others. That’s probably my biggest angst. That’s why I voted in opposition to the motion.”

Commissioner Walker said he agreed with Price about not needing an increase.

“I’ve always felt we’ve failed miserably as a commission in support of the rate increase. A zero rate increase I think would take $3.5-4 million off the books. It’s difficult as a commissioner of this PUD for me to stand here and say we need another 2 percent out of your hip pocket when we have as much cash as we have on hand.”

Commissioner Schaapman defended the increase.

“Cost to serve really is the best analysis to use when it comes to setting rates,” he said. “When I looked at rates set way back in 1971, most were done on political will. When you look at where we at now… We’ve set the goal posts – the 15 percent over and the 20 percent under. It’s fair and equitable, yet the heritage core customers of this utility – the ag and residential customers on Rate Schedules 1 and 3 – will still enjoy the biggest discounted rate. We have to continue with this small, incremental increase to achieve the goal we have over the next 15-20 years. That’s the reason I stand on the increase.”

Responding to the citizens who commented, Commissioner Bernd and Commission President Brewer both said a flat rate increase would only accentuate the rate disparities that already exist among customers and defended cost-of-service-based rate setting.

“I appreciate the information the cost of service analysis has given us,” Bernd said. “I agree it’s not the only thing we base our rate increases on, but I think we’ve set a worthy goal, popular or unpopular… That’s my justification for… passing this resolution.”

“I came into this commission, same as Bob, when we were looking at no rate increase one year, then the next year it would be 6 percent. That was hard to explain and didn’t make sound business practice,” said Brewer. “The path we’re on today hopefully sets us up financially with fiscal stability for all of our customers, generations into the future. We’re still spending a lot of capital… We’re borrowing money for the majority of that. But at the same time, in order to be more fiscally sound going forward, we’re trying to lower our debt-to-asset ratio. That means spending more cash on these items than we have in the past. (2:59:28)

In other action, commissioners also:

Approved a $1.44 million change order to a contract with Alstom Power Inc. for rehab of 10 the generators at Priest Rapids Dam. The change brings the new contract amount to $106.33 million for all 10 units. (1:09 on the recording)

Jeff Niehenke, Grant PUD project manager for the upgrade work, told commissioners the increase in contract cost stems from lessons learned during rehab of the dam’s first unit, which is now complete.

Crews hope to save $55 million to $77 million of total project cost by rehabbing as many of the units’ parts as possible, rather than replacing them with new parts, Niehenke said. Disassembly of the first unit revealed more wear and lead-abatement work than expected – work that will also be needed on the second unit, which is now disassembled, and on the remaining units.

Rehab of the first unit also provided insight in many areas of the project, including efficiencies that could be gained in reassembly and equipment staging during work, Niehenke said. These lessons learned extended the unit’s total down time from the expected 12 months to 16 months. They’re planning 13 months for the second unit and 12 months for each of the eight remaining units.

“So much of this depends on what you find when you take them apart,” Niehenke said, adding that the total project budget contains contingencies in anticipation of potential for additional work. Capital costs budgeted this year to upgrade units at Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dams total $85.84 million. The project is still on budget, he said, despite the delays and added work discovered.

Approved Resolution 8880 revising Grant PUD Right of Way Policy and rescinding resolution No. 8581 to include certain primary distribution and telecommunication facilities and an administrative process. (3:06:14 on the recording and pages 29-70 of commission packet)

Approved Resolution 8881 adopting the Wanapum Comprehensive Water System Plan. Grant PUD owns and operates five separate water systems in the general vicinity of Wanapum Dam. Grant PUD intends to consolidate the six different water systems into one retail service area as part of this Wanapum Comprehensive Water System Plan.  Five of the water systems are owned by Grant PUD and the sixth although historically owned by Grant PUD was sold to Zirkle Fruit Company as part of the Wanapum Village in 2016.  Additionally the plan will also allow Grant PUD to identify and schedule water system improvements that correct existing system deficiencies to ensure safe and reliable supply of water for current and future customers.  The plan also meets all applicable Washington State Department of Health and Department of Ecology requirements. (3:07:19 on the recording and pages 71 to 107 of commission packet.)

Other Commission Meeting Highlights:

Commissioners learned that Grant PUD is meeting or exceeding all but a few of the performance targets on its 2018 “Strategic Dashboard.” Consolidated return on net investments is expected to end the year at 2.7 percent – shy of the less-than-or-equal to 3.6 percent target. Grant PUD Financial Analyst Baxter Gillette said some $22 million in additional income will be needed this year to hit the target. General Manager Kevin Nordt said that would have to come with careful spending and hoped for new growth. (3:20:22)

Targets for fiber-optic buildout are subject to further analysis, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bishop said. In the 2018 budget, commissioners allocated $7 million in reserves toward expansion of the fiber network to the 30 percent of Grant County residents who still don’t have access. Further annual funding allocations will be made based on network performance and available electric-system income. Total estimate cost to complete the buildout is $66 million to $76 million.

Quarterly business reports provided to the commission (1:18:15)

Cultural Resources and Fish and Wildlife departments both provided their quarterly program updates to the commission reviewing their top activities and accomplishments of 2017 and goals for 2018. It has been 10-years since the implementation of the relicensing of the Priest Rapids Project. The license outlines various requirements Grant PUD must adhere to within both programs.  Both update presentations are available as part of the staff presentation materials to the commission.

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Major construction enters its final stage at Crescent Bar Recreation Site

Visitors will have access to the on-island boat launch by Memorial Day weekend

 EPHRATA, Wash. – Crescent Bar Island has been bustling with construction activity for the past several months all in an effort to finish three final large projects – the on-island Riverbend Park Boat Launch and day-use marina, water system renovation, and wastewater-treatment plant.  Completion of these projects will put the final stamp on the $30 million transformation of this popular recreation area.

Earlier this month, construction crews were dredging and removing a temporary river rock work platform used to install pilings for the boat launch dock and marina.

02_01_2018 CBlaunch2

Crews then installed a steel framework imbedded in natural river rock and covered it with pre-cast concrete panels to form the boat ramp, said Brandon Little, Grant PUD Project Manager. “Work should be finished and the ramp open by Memorial Day weekend,” he said.

 

Crews will also install new pumping equipment and build a new pump house to shelter both the island’s existing well and a new well. Both will get new pumps. When finished in July, the existing well will continue to be the island’s primary source for drinking water and fire suppression. The new well will be a backup water source. Golf course irrigation will come from a third well, which formerly supplied island drinking water, but no longer meets water quality standards.
“Course fairways will be much improved this season as repairs are finished to the course irrigation system,” Little said.

Adjacent to the course’s No. 1 fairway, crews have poured concrete for a main component of the island’s new wastewater system – the treatment tank.
02_01_2018 CBsewer sys concrete
The new wastewater system is going in just north of the island’s existing open-air wastewater lagoon, which will be decommissioned, Little said. The plant will be finished in late November. Crews and equipment will continue working throughout summer and fall, but won’t impact those wanting to use the golf course. Island leaseholders will reimburse Grant PUD approximately $7 million over 10 years for their agreed-upon share of the water and wastewater system upgrade costs.

As Grant PUD prepares for summer visitors at Crescent Bar, the utility is taking proposals from qualified food truck vendors and/or watercraft rental companies to provide commercial services at the Crescent Bar Recreation Area this summer.  Complete details and information for potential vendors are available at www.grantpud.org.

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Meeting recap: Commissioners cautious of carbon-tax proposal

Commission meeting recap Feb. 13, 2018

Even in light of the shorter 60-day legislative session, it has proven to be a busy and jam-packed scene in Olympia. Wednesday (Feb. 14) is the cut-off day for a proposed bill to make it out of their respective committees. Any bill that doesn’t pass committee by 5 p.m. Wednesday is considered dead for this legislative session. (Recording time stamp, 2:25:55)

Andrew Munro, senior manager of External Affairs, provided commissioners with a 2018 state legislative update. Most of his comments centered on the Governor’s Carbon Tax Proposal. Senate Bill 6203, as requested by Governor Inslee, addresses the reduction of carbon pollution within our state.  Munro noted that this bill is one that has had lots of attention and input from utilities throughout the state in hopes of making it as favorable as possible for the industries and customers we serve.

“We haven’t said we support this and that we are ready to jump on board, but what we are doing is trying to improve (SB 6203) as much as we can,” said Munro.

Munro is encouraged by how responsive the bill’s sponsors and the governor’s staff have been to suggestions from Grant PUD and other utilities. He said he sees the revisions that have taken place within the bill as a promising step in making the bill workable. Munro cautioned that if this bill doesn’t move forward in the legislative process, other potentially less favorable bills could take its place, including a proposal to increase the state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard.

As of Feb. 13, some of the key provisions worked into the bill include:

  • Tax rate of $10 metric ton down from $20 metric ton.
  • The ability for consumer owned utilities to claim a credit, up to 100% of the tax owed, if the revenues collect are invested in a commission approved Clean Energy Investment Plan.
  • Tax exemptions on fossil fuels and electricity sold to or used by ag-food processors, off-road diesel for farmers, energy intensive trade-exposed industries.
  • The inclusion of netting language to ensure electricity transmitted through our state that is not produce or consumed in the state are netted out and not taxed.
  • Preemptive language that negates the carbon tax if there is an expansion to the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • Provisions created for rural economic development and rural broadband.

 All of the commissioners where appreciative of the efforts that have gone into this year’s legislative efforts. A few voiced their overall concern with a potential carbon tax bill.

“I appreciate you trying to make the best deal for us. Our challenge is to come through it as the best we can,” said Commissioner Tom Flint. “It’s all the unintended consequences that come back to bite you. I think we need to do the best we can with the hand of cards we have been dealt.”

“I think you are heading in the right direction because whether you like it or not we are probably going to end up with a carbon tax,” said Commissioner Dale Walker.

General Manager, Kevin Nordt added that, “We aren’t looking to be trailblazers with this potential bill. The path we’ve taken isn’t to argue that you should do it as much as to try to provide caution and determine how we can craft it to be as least harmful as possible.”

There are still concerns with the potential legislation. Namely that a proposed July 1, 2019 implementation date is problematic as it doesn’t provide much time to work out complicated rule-making issues. Munro and his team will keep the commission informed as to what transpires with SB6203, as much can happen in the days we have left in the 2018 legislative session.

Other noteworthy bills: House Bill 2555 sponsored by Representative Dent and Senate Bill 6384 sponsored by Senator Warnick would provide the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DF&W) with the authority to issue permits to the Wanapum to catch sturgeon and other freshwater food fish for ceremonial and subsistence purposes. Other tribes have this authority. It does not give them the authority to fish commercially. This bill is currently in the Senate and House Rules Committee. Floor action is anticipated very soon.

Other Commission Meeting Highlights:

 Public comments cover various topics- (3:03:00)

Marvin Price took time to share his issues and concerns with the commission regarding the proposed rate increase. His request was for the commission not to raise rates and asking them to look at other alternatives such as accessing the cash balance on-hand to offset the need to raise rates. He also asked the commissioners to take a closer look at the cost of service among the various rates classes.

 Sharon Hastings of Ephrata and Deb Murphy of Royal City jointly presented to the commission the efforts they are pursuing on behalf of the Fiber Active group, which has proposed creating an external advisory board. The group will provide input to the commissioners as the PUD looks to move forward with its expansion of the high-speed fiber optic network. Their hope is to have an advisory board consisting of five members representing various geographic/industry sectors throughout the county. They are communicating with Grant PUD staff to refine the details. The group hopes the advisory board will provide support to the commissioners and keep momentum of the expansion going.

Glenn Stockwell thanked the commission for their previous support of his proposal to federal lawmakers to complete the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. He said interest is there but more work needs to be done. He encouraged commissioners to continue positive conservations with federal representatives.

Commissioners Discuss Potential Rate Increase (3:42:10)

In a follow-up to the Jan. 23 public meeting regarding potential revisions to customer rate schedules, commissioners discussed the proposed changes and the feedback they have heard from the public.

The potential increases would raise rates among most customer classes. It would equate to an overall 2-percent increase in electricity rate revenues. If approved by commissioners the proposed increases would go into effect April 1.

Commissioners agreed that keeping the district financially strong is paramount for current and future customers.

Commissioner Tom Flint said Tuesday, “I’m not saying we don’t want the district healthy or we don’t need rate increases. I’m just saying the way we have allocated it has not reaped the satisfaction level we had hoped.”

In 2015 Commissioners approved a resolution that would eventually align rates within each customer class to more closely match their respective cost of service. The target range within the resolution is to ensure no customer class pays more than 15 percent above its cost of service nor 20 percent below.

Currently Grant PUD’s core classes (residential, irrigation and general-service commercial customers) are operating at below the 20 percent cost of service level. While the large industrial customers are paying more than 15 percent their cost of service.  The approved approach would align all of these rates to fit within the targeted range through small and predictable increments over time.

Commissioners discussed the challenge of balancing the amount of cash the utility has on hand to help ensure the district can secure the best financial rating to keep borrowing rates low versus doing what they can to avoid an increase in electrical rates for customers.

It is anticipated that commissioners will vote on the proposed rate changes at their next commission meeting on March 13.

Transformer purchase

-Unanimously approved Virginia Transformer Corporation’s bid to supply power transformers to the District. The $19.5 million contract was structured to meet current customer service requests and anticipated growth over the next five years. Nine companies responded to the open bidding process. Power transformers are used in substations to convert transmission-level voltages to lower distribution-level voltage. Each substation requires at least one transformer. The first two transformers purchased under this contract are scheduled to be installed at Mountain View substation.

Injury-accident claim

-Unanimously approved liability claim charges in the not-to-exceed amount of $10,000 to compensate and cover medical costs for occupants of a vehicle struck by a Grant PUD vehicle in October 2017 on SR 243. District policy requires all liability claims in excess of $5,000 be reported to the commission prior to any payment.

Substation contract upped

-Unanimously approved authorizing the general manager to approve a change order in contract 130-4106 with HDR Contractors. The change order would increase the not-to-exceed contract price by $391,238.62 to compensate HDR for unexpected costs during its work to build or refurbish the first seven of eight Grant PUD substations. The district and HDR both anticipate this will be the last change order related to the work on these seven substations.

Contract extended to manage Crescent Bar

-Unanimously approved authorizing the general manager to approve a change order in contract 430-4318 with Central WA Management Group (CWMG). CWMG has managed the operations and maintenance at the Crescent Bar Recreation Area since November 2016. The current contract with CWMG expires on Feb. 28. The change order allows CWMG to continue providing site management of Crescent Bar Recreation Area through Dec. 31, 2018. Construction on the island is slated to be finished by November of this year. The change order increases the not-to-exceed price of the contract by $900,028.80.

 Next commission meeting: March 13

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Progressive Design Build: When speed is the need

Extraordinary load growth demanded a faster way to build. Grant County PUD found one.

By Russ Seiler and Mark Milacek, Grant County PUD

EPHRATA, WA — Pushed by a decade of extraordinary industrial load growth, Grant County Public Utility District was facing a 5-year backlog of needed substation upgrades, including two brand new substations, expansion of two existing substations and ground-up rebuilds of three more — all within a very tight 24-month time frame.

The traditional “design-bid-build” procurement process for public utilities would have added at least two years to that ambitious schedule. Big customers were impatiently awaiting more capacity. System upgrades were critical to handle anticipated growth and ensure reliability of service.

1 Cloud View transformers

A new option

Grant PUD’s $40 million in pent-up substation work couldn’t wait, but the upgrade project couldn’t sacrifice quality, consistency or worker safety.

The utility found its solution when it became the first public utility district in Washington to take advantage of a 2013 state law that gave public entities a “Progressive Design-Build” procurement option – one that has proven both flexible and efficient, producing work that is virtually on time with outstanding quality and an excellent record of safety.

PUD electrical engineer Mark Milacek learned of the option when he attended a seminar in 2015 on the benefits of alternative public works procurement methods available in Washington State.

Like its more widely known Design-Build predecessor, Progressive Design Build lets project owners hire a project designer and contractor under a single contract, with a guaranteed maximum price for multiple construction projects. The progressive version goes further by allowing project owners to choose their contractors based almost entirely on qualifications, although not without a competitive-price component.

Robyn Parkinson, the Mercer Island, Wash. attorney who helped draft Washington’s 2013 Design-Build legislation, says the process gets the three key players — project owner, designer and builder — together early in the process, to develop a scope of work, refine designs, materials, and time frames and, together, determine a maximum project cost.

The project’s ultimate success, she said, depends on the ability of these three key players to work together.

Getting it done

The Progressive Design Build alternative sounded perfect for the PUD’s substation projects. Milacek pitched the idea. Coworkers and management liked what they heard, and they got started putting together the required “owners project-management team,” which included both PUD staff and hired consultants – attorney Parkinson, Vanir Construction Management of Bellevue, Wash, and Power Engineers of Hailey, Idaho. These consultants were skilled in the Design Build process.

3 Central Ephrata

The team created the initial scope of work and submitted an application to the state Project Review Board to see if the substations project would qualify for the Progressive-Design-Build option. The consultants’ contribution was valuable at this stage. The state board needed to see that the PUD had enough experience on its team to ensure a successful project and preserve the reputation of the Design Build alternative. The project qualified.

Throughout the scoping-and-approval process, the team kept the PUD’s elected board of commissioners informed of the Progressive Design Build process and its advantages. PUD board members agreed in October 2015 to hire the design firm of Omaha-based HDR Contractors Inc. and Canby, Oregon-based builder Wilson Construction Company under a single contract with a maximum cost of $24 million. Both these companies had much prior experience doing Design-Build substation and transmission work.

HDR’s Deputy Project Manager Jake Van Houten describes the interaction with Grant as “free-flowing and continuous to be sure everyone is on the same page with regard to expected outcomes and delivery dates.”

HDR-Wilson led the project under a single team that included the same project managers, procurement managers, controllers, design manager and construction managers for all seven substation projects.

Notable subcontractors on this project were Tommer Construction Company of Ephrata, Wash., Specialty Engineering of Vancouver, Wash. and KVA Electric of Arlington, Wash.

Work began on the first of the seven substations in June 2016. As that work progressed, the PUD team, together with HDR and Wilson, got to work on the design and logistics of the next substation.

The team gained efficiencies with each stage of construction as they learned lessons from the last.

“It was a real go for a few months. A real scramble,” said Patrick Smith, site superintendent for Wilson Construction “Of all the Design-Build projects, this is the largest number of sites I’ve worked on that are contained within one project. It brought challenges of complexity and speed.”

In February 2017, an arc-flash fire caused extensive damage to Grant PUD’s Central Substation in the city of Ephrata, population 8,032. PUD officials added the rebuild of the damaged substation to the ongoing Progressive-Design-Build project. This brought the total number of project substations to eight.

Work progressed on schedule and with good results. The unseasonably cold winter of 2016-2017 caused some delays and required schedule shuffling, but the overall project – including the additional substation – was finished by late October 2017, only three months longer than planned and with an excellent safety record.

HDR Construction Manager Van Houten said his crew logged more than 60,000 man hours on the project with zero lost-time incidents. Worksites passed multiple surprise inspections from state labor officials. “Safety was huge,” Van Houten said.

Cloud View Sub Under Construction

Lessons learned

Grant PUD’s internal team is conducted a series of lessons-learned exercises. Here are a few of their findings:

– With design, procurement and construction happening in parallel, Design Build requires the three key participants — project owner, project designer and project builder — to work closely and collaborate. The attitude of the key players is critical. The success of the project depends on establishing a culture of trust and collaboration.

– With multiple phases of the project underway at any given time, the project owner should expect to assign more than one staffer to manage the project. Work happens fast. The owner has to be very involved. It can be too much for a single project manager or engineer to handle. Operations folks should also be included throughout the process. They bring a critical perspective. The contractor wants to give the owner what we want, project engineers say. But every utility has its own stamp. The utility has to work with the contractor to reach that goal.

– Get everyone to the table as early as possible. Spending effort and resources on a well-coordinated, organized start is a huge benefit. When the unexpected comes up in the heat of battle, it can stress relations on the team. Catch problems and bring them up early, so it can bring the team closer together. Sometimes, as the saying goes, “you have to slow down to go fast.”

– Bundling the work really had a positive impact on quality. Builders fought through the learning curve early in the build to meet PUD expectations. By the time crews had finished the first three substations, both quality and speed improved. For example, control house wiring took 12 weeks on the first substations. Crews had cut that time in half by the third.

– Grant PUD wants every one of the eight substations to look, feel and even “smell” just like every other substation in the PUD system. When crews go to troubleshoot, it’s a big help to have everything be the same, as much as possible.

– Grant PUD also partnered with two professors from Washington State University to conduct independent research and interviews to compile a formal, lessons-learned report. The effort supports the utility’s drive to develop a culture of continuous learning and innovation.

Christine Pratt of Grant PUD Public Affairs contributed to this story.

Bios:

Russ Seiler (rseiler@gcpud.org) is a project manager for Grant County Public Utility District (PUD), located in Washington State.  He has a BSME degree from LeTourneau University and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Washington. He began his engineering career in building design and entered the utility industry seven years ago as a staff engineer in the Bonneville Power Administration’s structure design group.

Mark Milacek (mmilacek@gcpud.org) joined Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) in 2012 as an electrical engineer in the utility’s Transmission and Distribution Group, where he designs and oversees the construction and testing of substations. He was a power production specialist in the U.S. Air Force and, later, a commissioned officer in the Washington Air National Guard. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering from Seattle University in 1992. Other engineering work includes 14 years at Snohomish County PUD and three years Commonwealth Associates, a private firm.

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Recap of Grant PUD commission meeting, 01/23/2018

Commissioners study 2-percent increase in annual rate revenue

(1:30:00) and (3:37:15) Grant PUD commissioners got a look Tuesday at a proposed slate of rate increases across most Grant PUD customer types that would generate an estimated 2 percent more in revenue from retail electricity rates starting April 1.

The proposed increase would be the fourth in a series of consecutive annual rate increases under a rate-design policy approved by commissioners in 2013 to help keep Grant PUD on a path of financial stability by more closely aligning the rate paid by each customer class to the actual cost to provide it with electricity.

The latest increase will add an estimated average of:

  • $1.49 to the monthly residential bill
  • $6.43 to the monthly general service (large commercial) bill
  • $24.65 to the monthly bill for irrigators
  • $73.85 to the monthly bill for “large general” (commercial)
  • Billing increases for large industrial customers are based on too many varying factors to be characterized by a single average figure.

The latest increase is expected to generate $3.8 million in new retail rate revenue over 12 months. The proposed rate-revenue increase has already been included in the 2018 budget approved by commissioners Dec. 12.

Commissioners agreed in 2013 to align rates based on a Grant PUD cost-of-service analysis with targets to ensure no customer class pays more than 15 percent above its cost of service nor 20 percent below.

Under this model, rates paid by large industrial customers, who pay more than their costs of service, help keep rates lower for the “core” residential, irrigation and general-service (commercial) customers.

Here’s a list of proposed increases per rate class and rate targets: Table

*Achieved through a combination of adjustment to the fixed monthly “basic” charge, the rate per kilowatt hour, demand charge and horsepower capacity charge.

** Resolution 8768 (commissioner approved in May 12, 2015): Goal is to adjust rates in small increments over time until no customer class pays more than 20 percent below its cost of service, nor more than 15 percent above its cost of service. Residential and irrigation classes receive most cost preference, followed by general service (small and large commercial). The target rates above cost will be only be as high as necessary. The below-cost limit for general and large-general (commercial) service will vary.

 

Many cryptocurrency (bitcoin) mining operations that have requested Grant PUD power. An analysis of the cost to serve those energy-intense customers is currently underway to determine a fair rate that also protects all Grant PUD customers.

Commissioner Dale Walker said he was concerned how a “new large load” rate class could end up affecting the rates of other customers. General Manager Kevin Nordt said the analysis that will happen during the upcoming year will examine the structure of that rate and its effects.

“There are ways to address that on our radar screen for sure,” Nordt said.

Commissioner Bob Bernd said Tuesday after a morning rate briefing that he hoped to be able to say “no increase” in rates in 2024.

Some of the approximately 20 members of the public who attended the afternoon rate meeting expressed concerns about the proposed increase.

“You’re going to sell all this electricity to the richest people at the expense of the farmers,” said Judy Wilson of Moses Lake, concerned about the large number of energy inquires from cryptocurrency miners (bitcoin) and potential growth of financial firms and other lucrative businesses that could adopt a variation of the “blockchain” technology currently used in bitcoin mining. (4:20:00)

Spud Brown of Royal City suggested a single rate for all classes of customer and proposed the PUD pay down its approximately $1.3 billion in debt to reduce the approximately $94 million in annual debt service, rather than rely on cost-of-service estimates to set rates.

“You’re looking at this in the wrong direction,” Brown said. “You’ve got to drop some of that debt… Sooner or later, you guys are going to have to pay the fiddler.” (4:28:00)

General Manager Kevin Nordt explained that total debt load is “pretty healthy,” considering that upgrades to modernize Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams cost in excess of $1 billion — more than the $750 million it cost to build both dams — and funding those costs with debt helps fairly spread the debt burden over the multiple generations of customers who will benefit from the upgraded equipment.

An update to Grant PUD’s cost-of-service analysis is expected this year.

Commissioners are scheduled to hear a second round of public comment at their Feb. 13 commission meeting and vote on the proposed increase at their March 13 meeting. Both meetings are at Grant PUD’s Ephrata headquarters. New rates would take effect April 1.

For more detailed information about the proposed 2018 rate increase view PUD Analyst Jeremy Nolan’s presentation here. Scroll down to page 31.

 

Other commission highlights Tuesday

Fiber network build-out could begin ‘fairly quickly’

(2:18:55) Continued build-out of Grant PUD’s High Speed Network could begin “fairly quickly” General Manager Kevin Nordt told commissioners in what he said would be the first of quarterly updates on commissioners’ Dec. 12 decision, amid much customer support, to transfer $7 million from a Grant PUD savings fund to the 2018 budget for the fiber system.

The build-out will not be on a fixed schedule, but based on Grant PUD’s financial capabilities from year to year, Nordt said.

To make it happen, Grant PUD will keep the public aware of the process, get personnel in the right positions, pursue state and federal grant funding, if any, to expand rural broadband; continue to actively promote the network to increase the current “take rate” of 49.55 percent to 75 percent or 80 percent, in line with the country’s best-performing networks, and create a build-out schedule.

The build-out will likely not require a contract-bidding process, he said.

“Network revenue growth is reasonably healthy,” Nordt said. “We’ll get a handle on the build-out schedule with stakeholder engagement… so folks can see there’s a method to our progress. We’ll be able to start building pretty quickly, it’s looking like.”

 

A fix is in the works for pole fires

(3:30:00) Brent Bischoff, senior manager of Power Delivery Engineering, and Jesus Lopez, manager of Dispatch, told commissioners of plans to replace old-style horizontal insulators that make wood poles susceptible to catching fire.

Last fall, crews responded to a string of pole fires that happened after the first light rains following the dry days of summer. All the affected poles contained insulators installed in a horizontal, rather than the more common vertical position, Lopez explained after the meeting.

The horizontal insulators have more room for dust to accumulate on their surfaces. After a light rain the dust or dirt becomes moist and can become a pathway for electricity to travel from the power line to the wood pole, which is also very dry.

Chris Heimbigner, Grant PUD Line Office supervisor, said after the meeting that the Grant PUD system has thousands of these horizontal insulators in use across the county. But that doesn’t mean they’re all going to catch fire. The setting — near a big, dusty field, for example — would make a pole more vulnerable that one in a rocky or more urban setting.

“We’re going to go after this pretty aggressively starting this year” Heimbigner said.

Crews will replace the horizontal insulators with vertical ones.

 

Total on-the-job accidents declining

Grant PUD Safety Coordinator Tyler O’Brion shared with commissioners that total on-the-job accidents were at a four-year low in 2017 with a total of 70. Incidents that resulted in days away from work are also at a four-year low, at 4 total.

Safety results show that this year’s total 26 “recordable accidents” — ones that require more than first aide — continue to hover around the same level, meaning Grant PUD still has work to do to improve safety district-wide.

 

Commissioners also:

– Unanimously approved four professional contracts that will provide Grant PUD archaeological staff with expert help for carrying out the District’s Historic Properties Management Plan, which includes the ongoing effort to track and record the historically sensitive sites around the reservoirs of Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dams. The work is mandated by Grant PUD’s federal license to operate the dams and by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Each contract is for $800,000 and for a term of 730 days. Twelve bidders responded. The contracts were awarded to these top-scoring bidders: Eastern Washington University, Rain Shadow Research of Pullman, Applied Archaeological Research of Portland, Ore. and Environmental Science Associates of Seattle. (Page 9+ of Commission packet).

– Unanimously authorized the general manager to execute Amendment No. 2 of an existing contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services for avian predator control at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. The authorization increases the contract by $256,552, for a new, not-to-exceed total of $799,345. Ongoing control is necessary to reduce the number of predator birds who eat young salmon on their way past Grant PUD dams. (Page 78 if commission packet)

– Unanimously authorized the general manager to approve a change order, adding $391,238 to an existing contract with HDR Constructors. The change brings the total contract to $28.9 million and extends it by 91 days to Jan. 31, 2018. The change results from a negation between Grant PUD and HDR, the lead contractor on a project to build or rebuild seven substations around the county. The negotiation corrected differing or inaccurate cost estimates. This change is not related to repairs to the fire-damaged Central Ephrata Substation. (Page 105 of commission packet)

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Customers with high bill concerns are asked to contact Grant PUD

Utility’s customer service has plan to help customers with estimated billing

EPHRATA, Wash. – Grant PUD is asking customers concerned with high bills this winter to contact its customer service department by emailing customerservice@grantpud.org or calling (509) 766-2505.

Many of the concerns from customers stem from the combination of the traditional winter energy-use spike that accompanies colder weather and that it was necessary to estimate some bills the past few months. On average, a single meter reader records information from about 300 meters a day. If the meter reader is unavailable because of winter conditions or other reasons, then the reads for that day have to be estimated. Bill estimations are based on prior usage and can sometimes be higher or lower than actual usage. In those cases, bills are adjusted when a reader is able to record the actual power consumption, usually the following month. Estimated bills will have the word, “Yes” on them in the upper right corner of the bill. Also, it’s important to note the days in the billing cycle listed on their bill. Billing cycle days can vary as much as six days.

If a customer is concerned that the estimated bill is out of line with actual usage, then they are encouraged to contact customer service to discuss their options. “We understand that getting an unexpected high bill can be upsetting,” said Terry McKenzie, senior manager of customer solutions. “We want customers to contact us so we can find the best resolution for them.”

Options for customers include:

  • Sending customer service an electronic photo of their meter when they receive an estimated bill so the bill can be reviewed to reflect actual usage.
  • Signing up for BudgetPay level billing service.
  • There are also resources in the county to help customers keep their power on if they cannot pay their bill.

McKenzie encourages customers to e-mail their concerns if possible, due to increased call volume. Emails will be answered as quickly as possible.

It is also important to note that all meters in the county are still being manually read — even the new Advanced Metering Program (AMP) meters. Eventually the new AMP meters will be read remotely when the utility has completed and tested the interface to operate the remote reads. One of the benefits of AMP meters is to eliminate estimations and increases accuracy and efficiencies. To learn more about the Advanced Metering Program, visit http://grantpud.org/customer-service/advanced-metering-program.

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Established by local residents over 75 years ago, Grant PUD generates and delivers energy to millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest. What began as a grassroots movement of public power has evolved into one of the premiere providers of renewable energy at some of the most affordable rates in the nation. For more information visit www.grantpud.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT(S):

Public Affairs (509) 754-5035 / publicaffairs@gcpud.org

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Wanapum Heritage Center Presents Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces

Traveling Exhibition from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian features the contributions of Native Veterans

 MATTAWA, Wash. – Native Americans have served in every major U.S. military encounter from the Revolutionary War to today’s conflicts in the Middle East and in higher numbers per capita than any other ethnic group.

Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces reveals the remarkable history of Native American veterans through art, photography and essay. The 16-panel exhibition documents 250 years of Native peoples’ contributions to the U.S. military. The exhibition runs now through May 8 in the Wanapum Heritage Center at 29086 Washington 243, Mattawa WA 99249. The center is normally open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is always free.

Diné [Navajo] code talkers Corporal Henry Bahe, Jr. and Private First Class George H. Kirk. Bougainville, South Pacific, December 1943. National Archives and Records Administration 127-MN-69889-B

Diné [Navajo] code talkers Corporal Henry Bahe, Jr. and Private First Class George H. Kirk. Bougainville, South Pacific, December 1943.
National Archives and Records Administration 127-MN-69889-B

 “It’s so meaningful to me because it shares a story that is an important part of our history,” Lela Buck, Heritage Center director and member of the Wanapum Band says of the exhibition. “It highlights the vital role Native Americans played in military service throughout our nation’s history. We are grateful to host Patriot Nations and invite everyone to come and learn this history.”

 Patriot Nations has mostly visited larger cities and communities. Having the exhibition come to the Wanapum Heritage Center near Mattawa is a great honor, Buck added. “We’re very grateful to share this exhibition with our community,” she said. The exhibition will include the personal stories of the Wanapum Band’s own military veterans in photographs, Buck said.

 Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces was produced by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

 The Patriot Nations exhibition also promotes the National Native American Veterans Memorial, to be built on the National Museum of the American Indian grounds on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Design finalists for the memorial will be announced later this month. The National Museum of the American Indian is collaborating with the National Congress of American Indian, Native American veterans, tribal leaders, historians and cultural experts to complete the memorial by Veteran’s Day 2020. For more information about the memorial, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu/NNAVM.

 About the National Museum of the American Indian:
The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about the museum’s mission, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu.

About the Wanapum Heritage Center:
Opened in 2015, the Wanapum Heritage Center tells the story of the Wanapum Band, native to the Priest Rapids area of the Columbia River. The Wanapum Heritage Center is located next to Priest Rapids Dam off Highway 243 about five miles south of Mattawa, projects implemented at this center perpetuate the importance of the culture, traditions and beliefs of the Wanapum. To learn more, visit www.wanapum.org.

MEDIA CONTACT(S):
Wanapum Heritage Center (509) 766-3461 / lbuck@gcpud.org

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Public Meeting on Future Grant PUD Rates is Jan. 23

Meeting 2 p.m. at Ephrata Headquarters building

EPHRATA, Wash. – Grant PUD will hold a public meeting as part of its annual review of electrical rates on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Commission Room at the PUD’s Ephrata Headquarters Building, 30 C Street SW, Ephrata WA 98823.

During the meeting, staff will propose rate increases that reflect the utility’s cost to serve each of the PUD’s customer groups — including residential, irrigation, commercial and industrial. The rates are recommended to help Grant PUD achieve its 2018 budget, which calls for a 2 percent overall revenue increase for power sold to Grant County customers and takes into account a $33 million decrease in net spending from 2017. The 2 percent revenue increase continues a long-term strategy that began in 2014 of implementing small, predictable annual price increases to cover rising operations and regulatory compliance expenses. Any price changes made by the commissioners are scheduled to begin on April 1.

There will be an opportunity to comment on proposed increases during the meeting on Jan. 23 and also during the public-comment portion of the Feb. 13 meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. Comments can also be made via email to commissioners@gcpud.org or by mailing Grant PUD Commissioners at PO Box 878, Ephrata, WA 98823. Information about the proposed changes will be posted on Grant PUD’s website at grantpud.org.

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