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

Posted in Commission summary | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Public Power | Leave a comment

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)

Posted in Commission summary | Leave a comment

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.

#                                                          #

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

Posted in Billing, Community, Press Releases | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Community, Press Releases | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Budget, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Recap of the Jan. 9 commission meeting

Grant PUD to hire manager for fiber network

Grant PUD Commissioners learned at their first board meeting of the year Tuesday of plans in the works to hire a manager to oversee operation, enhancement and expansion of Grant PUD’s soon-High Speed Network.

General Manger Kevin Nordt told the board he plans to put someone into the position of network business manager soon. (At 03:11 on the commission meeting audio recording)

“We’re going to continue to operate the current fiber network and enhance its utilization. We’re also looking to expand,” Nordt said. “As part of trying to make that as effective as possible… I’m going to look to put someone who’s got clear accountability and responsibility who will report to me going forward. We’ll figure out who that is and get that in place shortly.”

The manager would pursue opportunities for grants to expand the network and funding from other potential partners, as well as conduct outreach to determine areas for fiber expansion and increase utilization in existing fiber areas, he said.

Network expansion will happen under a detailed plan that becomes part of a 10-year network business plan with goals, milestones, and commission support, Nordt said.

“I want to get a really solid plan of attack,” Nordt said. “That will essentially become a business plan that myself and the manager will be held accountable to.”

Assistant General Manager Tony Webb will support the network manager and help implement the network business plan.

“He’s a great resource to have and so we’ll be using his capabilities,” Nordt said of Webb.

The FCC’s recent ruling on net neutrality shouldn’t have any impact on how Grant PUD will operate its wholesale network since the changes primarily effect retail service providers, he said.

Power Production keeps within 2017 budget

Power Production stayed within its 2017 Capital, O&M and Labor budgets, according to a report from Rich Wallen, managing director of Power Production, given to commissioners. (01:14 on the commission meeting recording)

Power Production spent 78.6 percent of its capital budget of $102.4 million with $80.4 million in actuals. It spent 97.7 percent of its O&M budget of $22.5 million and 99.1 percent of its 25.7 million labor budget. The figures also include estimated unpaid invoices.

The 2018 Power Production capital budget is $66.8 million. The 2018 O&M budget of $21 million is down 4.5 percent from last year, and the labor budget of $25.1 million is a decrease of 2.5 percent from 2017.

Also, Priest Rapids Dam had an availability rate of 82.58 percent and Wanapum Dam had an availability rate of 85.39 percent.

In 2018, rehab work is planned for unit W07 at Wanapum Dam and P02 at Priest Rapids, Wallen added.

Crescent Bar proves profitable in 2017

Crescent Bar’s revenues offset expenses in 2017, according to a Lands and Recreation Program Report given by Lands and Recreation Manager Shannon Lowry.

Total revenues for 2017 were $1.597 million and expenses were $1.123 million. (01:46 on the commission meeting recording)

Crescent Bar revenues include:

  • Campground = $70,064 (For partial year, that didn’t include Memorial Weekend.)
  • Golf Course = $84,610
  • Fuel Sales = $92,916
  • Lease revenue and vendors’ fees = $1.349 million

Total expenses include:

  • Campground = $72,306
  • Golf Course = $336,943
  • Fuel Sales = $113,171 (Corrected number from presentation)
  • Other = $601,224

The Lands and Recreation Program came in under budget in capital, O&M and labor. It spent 94 percent of the $18.4 million capital budget, 89 percent of the $1.347 million O&M budget, and 97 percent of the $1.217 million labor budget.

Next commission meeting: Jan 23, 2018. Discussion of proposed electric rate increases.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Grant PUD’s $77 million refinance hits budget goal, improves customer fairness

EPHRATA, Wash. – Grant PUD has refinanced $77 million in outstanding debt to reduce finance costs, help hold a planned 2018 rate-revenue increase to 2 percent, and more equitably align debt burden to the life of the assets it finances – a big fairness boost to customers.

“This transaction increases customer value by spreading the debt burden over the multiple generations who will benefit from the equipment upgrades it financed,” Bonnie Overfield, senior manager of Finance, said.

The transaction refinances bonds of varying maturity dates through 2023 into a single new issue of 30-year bonds. The sale became final Dec. 20.

The deal does not add to Grant PUD’s $1.3 billion in debt, Overfield said. It locks in an interest rate that will reduce long-term debt liability by approximately $12 million, and saves $1 million-to-$1.5 million in consulting, underwriting and staff time by refinancing the older bond issues as single, “advanced-refunding” transaction.

The debt restructuring comes just ahead of proposed federal tax reforms that, if approved as currently proposed, would prohibit advanced refunding, potentially increasing refinancing costs by millions.

Fast action by Grant PUD’s financial team and executive managers identified the costly risk of waiting to restructure the debt, and completed this complex deal weeks before a vote on the proposed tax reforms.

“A significant amount of credit is due also to PUD commissioners for having the insight and faith in staff to authorize and execute this financing,” Overfield said. “It’s a win-win for both the PUD and our customers.”

Posted in Press Releases | Leave a comment

Grant PUD signs one-year ‘wheeling-charge’ agreement for Basin irrigators

Grant PUD entered into a new one-year agreement Dec. 8 with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation to transport over Grant PUD power lines electricity generated at federal dams for the local irrigation districts who use federally supplied water and power.

The agreement establishes “wheeling charges” – energy-transport/delivery rates – that cover Grant PUD’s cost to provide and maintain the local power lines and other infrastructure necessary to deliver the federal electricity used to pump Columbia Basin Project irrigation water.

The agreement will be in effect January through December 2018. It replaces a six-month agreement requested by the Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts to study the PUD’s cost-of-service calculations. That agreement expires Dec. 31.

The new agreement affirms wheeling rates that will be billed monthly while the Bureau and irrigators continue payment-related discussions and potential for a long-term wheeling agreement with the PUD.

Grant PUD purchased transmission lines from federal Bonneville Power Administration decades ago, but agreed not to charge wheeling fees for 40 years. That contract expired in June. Going forward, Grant PUD will charge to cover its delivery costs, calculated at approximately $800,000 annually.

Roger Sonnichsen, assistant manager of the Quincy Columbia Basin Irrigation District thanked PUD commissioners for the new one-year agreement during the board’s final meeting of the year, Dec. 12.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Recap of the Dec. 12 commission meeting

Satisfaction of residential customers at a five-year high

Commissioners learned Tuesday — their final commission meeting of 2017 — that 90 percent of residential customers who responded to an October phone survey reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service they receive from Grant PUD. The result tops the 88 percent satisfaction recorded in 2012, when we first formally started polling customers.

Seattle-based pollster Strategies 360 conducted the Oct. 22-30 phone survey of 401 Grant PUD residential customers. Respondents were a proportional mix of gender, age group, years as a PUD customers, and preferred language choice (English or Spanish). Most respondents – paid monthly bills in excess of $100; 28 percent said their monthly bills ranged from $75 to $99; and 25 percent reported bills of $74 or less.

The survey has a 4.9 percent margin of error at a 95% confidence level. Strategy 360 conducted focus groups of irrigators, industrial and commercial/small business customers in September, but didn’t include these customers in the October phone survey because their numbers are too small to yield a statistically significant survey result.

Respondents gave highest ratings to Grant PUD for minimizing outages (89%), customer service (83%), providing real-time outage updates (74%) and communicating with customers (71%) – all these category results bested responses from a 2015 survey. Quality and reliability top customers’ list of favorite Grant PUD qualities.

A majority of respondents also agree that Grant PUD keeps prices as low as possible (66%), supports community events (60%) and provides access to the internet (54%).

Despite “rates” making some customers’ “improvement needed” list, 84 percent of respondents described their rates as “affordable,” including 38 percent who said “very affordable.”

See the survey presentation to the commissioners here.

In other business, commissioners:

 

Commissioners approve $274.2 million budget for 2018

Grant PUD commissioners unanimously approved a $274.3 million budget for 2018 that represents a $33 million reduction in expenditures from 2017 and furthers goals to keep the utility financial strong, with energy rates as affordable as possible.

The 2018 budget includes $139.6 million in capital spending for work that includes upgrades to aging equipment at the dams, needed electric system improvements and $7 million for expansion of the High-Speed Network.

The approved budget meets commission goals of managing overall costs within a small, predictable 2 percent annual increase in electric rates. The latest increase is slated for implementation this spring. Actual rate increases will differ by customer class and be determined following commission discussion in the coming months.

The 2018 budget helps steer Grant PUD toward the goals of its five-year financial forecast through 2022. The budget anticipates a positive bottom line of $57 million that will be reinvested in electric generation, delivery and environmental assets.

See a news release on the budget here.

 

Recognized an employee work group tasked with improving hand protection

Commissioners and staff recognized an employee pilot committee tasked with finding ways to reduce a rash of hand injuries from sharp box cutters and other cutting tools. The group investigated and identified a new type of slice-resistant glove the district will purchase and distribute to employees in the field who need them.

Committee members were Jeff Grizzel, Dale Sunwold, Jacqueline Roduner, Eric Huber, Ted Harris, Jerad Youngers, Jose Luera, Randall Hovland, Mark Riggs, Eric Grady, Rob Shingledecker, Perry Pierce, Jackie Bicondova, Ryan Roedner, RJ Fronsman, Leroy Boyd and Bill Evans. Presenting the group were Rich Wallen, managing director of Power Production, and Mike Tongue, manager of Power Delivery Construction Maintenance.

“There are no better folks to tell us what we need than the folks on the point of impact doing it,” Wallen told commissioners.

“It’s the goal of all commissioners to see you get home safe to your families,” Commission President Larry Schaapman said, thanking the assembled committee members for their work.

“Hats off to them,” General Manager Kevin Nordt said. “They chose to come forward and form the committee. They’re a tremendous example of the type of folk we have here.”

 

Recognized Wanapum Heritage Center for recent design awards

Rex Buck Jr., leader of the Wanapum; Angela Buck, Wanapum Heritage center director; Angela Neller, center curator; Greg Minden, Grant PUD Project Manager; and Tim Fleisher, Grant PUD Facilities Manager for their contributions to the creation, construction and success of the Heritage Center, which won two awards this year for architectural design. The awards are the latest in a series of recognitions in recent years. The center opened its doors October 2015.

 

Heard that most financial metrics were on target in 2017

Grant PUD will end 2017 hitting most of its key financial metrics for the year, maintaining its high, AA bond rating and a system-reliability index (the amount of time power is available to customers) of 99.996 percent. Financial Analyst Baxter Gillette pointed out a few areas of needed improvement. These include:

– A higher return on net assets. The 2.9 percent actual return was one-half percent below target. Gillette said this figure is a tough one to improve, but it should grow to surpass the long-term target of 4 percent through depreciation and cost controls.

– Availability of units at the dams. They were available to generate power 84.7 percent of the time, a bit shy of the 86 percent target. Kevin Marshall, chief operating officer, pointed to ongoing turbine and generator upgrades at both Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams that require units be taken out of service for repairs. This upgrade at Wanapum Dam is now winding down. Marshall said the timeline for the some of the rehab was slowed slightly to improve employee safety.  General Manager Kevin Nordt said the 86-percent target will remain viable.

– System weakness discovered during a system reliability audit. A weakness in a computer system firewall may result in a fine. The problem has already been fixed.

 

Heard from Brett Lenz, manager of Cultural Resources

Work to repair or prevent damage from erosion at the sites of archeological significance around the Wanapum and Priest Rapids reservoirs will cost an estimated $9 million over the next decade. Site monitoring, mitigation of hazards and other expenses will cost an estimated $25 million to $40 million through 2052 (the life of Grant PUD’s federal license).

Some 1,300 cultural sites – places with historic evidence of human gathering or artifacts – have been evaluated around the reservoirs. Of those, 457 were determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and another 219 treated as eligible sites.

Grant PUD entered into an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2006 to work toward protection of these areas. Chief Operating Officer Kevin Marshall estimates that 1.8 percent of the 2018 average retail energy rate of 4.06 cents per kilowatt hour is attributable to cultural resources obligations. The identified work could drive this up to 3.5 percent of the average retail rate by 2027. View Lenz’s board presentation here.

 

Unanimously passed wholesale rate increases for Internet Service Providers

The local companies (Internet Service Providers — ISPs) that sell internet and other services over Grant PUD’s High-Speed Network will pay an extra $3 per month premium access fee and be subject to a “re-transmission” fee for those ISPs who sell services to two or more customers over a single PUD fiber connection using wireless or other means.

These changes to the fiber-focuses Rate Schedule 100 and the Telecommunications Customer Service Police will take effect March, 1, 2018.

The changes are necessary to provide a financially sustainable fiber network within the guidelines of Grant PUD’s Vision 2021, which sets financial goals and objectives through 2021.

 

Unanimously approved 10-year conservation plan and 2018-2019 targets

Grant PUD has set a target to conserve more than 22 average megawatts of electricity by 2027, including nearly 4 average megawatts by late 2018, to comply with requirements of the state’s voter-approved Energy Independence Act (I-937).

The Act requires Grant PUD and other utilities with more than 25,000 customers to identify 10-year conservation potential and devise conservation targets every two years. Grant PUD’s 2017-2018 target is higher than the 2015-2016 biennium due to expected increased conservation potential from key technologies like LED lighting and heat-pump water heaters.

Commissioners discussed these targets during a public hearing Nov. 28.

 

Unanimously elected 2018 officers for the Grant PUD Commission

Effective Jan. 1, Commissioner Terry Brewer will become president of Grant PUD’s five-person board. Commissioner Bob Bernd will become board vice president, and Commissioner Dale Walker will become board secretary. The slate of officers will remain in effect until the next election of officers. Commissioners Brewer and Bernd also received their 10-year pins, commemorating years of service.

 

Unanimously appointed Grant PUD’s representative and alternates to the Central Washington Power Agency

Commissioner Larry Schaapman was appointed representative to the board of directors. Commissioners Bob Bernd, Terry Brewer, Dale Walker and Tom Flint were appointed alternates. The Central Washington Power Agency was created in 1962 to foster cooperation between Grant PUD and Kittitas County PUD should the two utilities ever seek joint energy-related projects. To date, few joint projects have been proposed. All appointments begin Jan. 1 will serve until successors are named.

 

Unanimously appointed Grant PUD’s representative and alternates to the board of Energy Northwest

Commissioner Terry Brewer will represent Grant PUD on the board of directors of Energy Northwest. Commissioners Dale Walker, Larry Schaapman, Bob Bernd and Tom Flint will be alternate representatives. Appointments begin Jan. 1 and serve until successors are named.

Unanimously appointed representative an alternates to the Washington PUD Association board

Commissioner Bob Bernd will represent Grant PUD on the WPUDA board. Commissioners Larry Schaapman, Tom Flint, Terry Brewer and Dale Walker will be alternates. Appointments being Jan. 1.

Unanimously authorized general manager to execute $1.44 million contract for billing and ebilling service

The five-year contract with Fidelity Information Services LLC is for electronic bill and payment presentment and bill printing and mailing services at a not-to-exceed price of $1.44 million.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Grant PUD commissioners set budget for 2018

Budget advances financial targets, ensures stability for customers

EPHRATA, Wash. –Grant PUD commissioners unanimously adopted a $274.3 million budget for 2018 that reflects a $33 million decrease in net expenditures from 2017.

The budget anticipates a positive bottom line of $57.3 million which will be reinvested in electric generation, delivery and environmental assets. The budget also furthers goals to keep the utility financially strong and energy prices as affordable as possible for customers.

“Our 2018 budget delivers on our customer’s expectation that we provide reliable and affordable energy,” said PUD General Manager Kevin Nordt. “Our healthy local economy depends on affordable power. Grant PUD’s low rates are a major draw for businesses moving to our area, leading the way to more job opportunities and services for residents across our county. That’s just one of the reasons we’re committed to keeping prices low—because we know the vitality of our region depends on it,” said Nordt.

The approved budget contains $139.6 million for capital spending on projects that include continued rehabilitation of the aging generators and turbines at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, needed electric system improvements pushed by the county’s growing demand for electricity, the utility’s new advanced meter program, and new recreation amenities.

Other key cost drivers in the approved budget include $110.8 million for operations and maintenance– an increase of less than 1 percent over 2017 – as well as $92.3 million for payments on the PUD’s $1.35 billion in total debt, and tax payments of $17.1 million.

On the heels of an extensive public outreach campaign, commissioners also allocated $7 million dollars toward the continued expansion of Grant PUD’s High Speed Network. In separate action, commissioners also approved a $3 per month increase to the basic and premium wholesale fiber access fee. These fees will be passed on to local internet service providers.

The approved budget meets commission goals of managing overall costs within a small, predictable 2 percent annual increase in electric rates which are slated for implementation this spring. Commissioners will review this rate recommendation and give the public opportunities for input before taking action.

Posted in Budget | 1 Comment

‘Experience Speed’ video earns national award

By Christine Pratt
Grant PUD Public Affairs

Born to be wi-ii-ii-ii-ld… about Grant PUD’s High-Speed Network. Thanks to this tough bunch of bikers — all PUD employees, including Leroy Boyd, Mason Utter, Randy Weisheit, Ken Holsten, David Cranson and Raymond Garcia — who volunteered some of their spare time to star in an national-award-winning video about how a snail-like internet experience becomes screaming fast over Grant PUD fiber.

During the recent American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Customer Connections Conference, Grant PUD’s promotional video was recognized as one of the best in the nation. The conference took place earlier this month. Public power utilities from around the country submitted their marketing projects for a chance to win one of these coveted awards.

This year Grant PUD’s video promoting its high speed fiber network took home the best video award in its class. The video was up against numerous other entries from similar sized utilities around the country. It also received the “People’s Choice Award” during the conference. That distinction goes to the favorite video as voted on by conference attendees.

The video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Plklf9WVR2c

Posted in Broadband, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Approval appears close for fiber expansion, new wholesale fiber rates

Commissioners Tuesday appeared ready for a Dec. 12 vote on both their own directive to add $7 million to the 2018 budget to expand the fiber network and a staff proposal that would increase the wholesale fees the internet service providers (ISPs) pay to sell internet and other services over Grant PUD’s High-Speed Network.

Fees these companies pay for wholesale fiber basic and premium access would increase by $3 per month. The staff proposal would also create a new “re-transmission” (aka retransmit) policy and fee to ensure the PUD is reimbursed by those ISPs or individuals who provide multiple customers with wireless internet service from a single fiber connection.

The fees, all part of Rate Schedule 100, would take effect March 31, 2018 to give local ISPs time to determine how any increases will be implemented and passed on to their customers.

The retransmission policy and fee is something commissioners requested from staff months ago and is fairly typical for wholesale providers, according to Grant PUD Fiber Project Specialist Russ Brethower. The ISPs have been part of the process throughout the year to modify the current rate schedule and also address the retransmission issue.

Retransmission generally describes any situation in which a customer or carrier takes service from Grant PUD and then subsequently transmits it on to other customers. Retransmission  typically occurs when a service provider takes fiber service from Grant PUD and then retransmits it wirelessly to multiple wireless customers while paying only a standard single customer subscription fee. This results in a lost revenue opportunity for Grant PUD to cover the expenses of operating the High Speed Network.

Based on consultation with telecom engineers and service providers, staff proposed changes to the customer service policy to restrict retransmission unless a service provider agrees to pay the new retransmission rate.

The retransmission rate — called an “off-network” rate — provides for the retransmit of signal using wireless or other means while charging a premium rate and limiting the total amount of data that can be transmitted at any given time. The service will be offered with a maximum bandwidth of 50,100, or 1,000 Mbps with associated rates of $75, $150, and $500 per month. This product and rate schedule will be evaluated annually to ensure a balance of competitive product offerings and associated pricing.

Commissioners’ discussion Tuesday also included their own directive that staff take $7 million from existing Reserve and Contingency (R&C) Fund reserves for continued expansion of the High-Speed Network in 2018, as long as the R&C fund level doesn’t drop below the $120 million target.

PUD General Manager Kevin Nordt shared that staff would be back in early 2018 with a plan for how best to utilize the additional funding. “We know how to build out (fiber) but we want to build it out in areas that are the most efficient,” said Nordt.

In other news…

2018 Budget Update (TIMESTAMP 2:39:00): Commissioners were updated on a $10.5 million increase to the 2018 preliminary budget of $263.8 million. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bishop explained that the reasons for the change to the budget centered around changes to “CIAC revenues” (the contributions individuals, developers and companies make to expand or upgrade their electric service), net wholesale power sales revenues and an additional $7 million in capital to fund fiber expansion in 2018. The board is expected to take action on the 2018 budget at their next regularly scheduled business meeting on December 12.

Resolution 8863 (TIMESTAMP 4:23:15)- Resolution adopting a Crescent Bar comprehensive water system plan: This plan, required by the state departments of health and ecology, authorizes crews to proceed with the construction of the remaining water system improvements at Crescent Bar. Now that the board has approved the plan, it is anticipated that the Washington State Department of Health will issue approval of a water system plan by the end of the year. The improvements underway at Crescent Bar resolve outstanding issues associated with water pressure, supply, quality, reliability and fire protection in time for the 2018 recreation season. Per the settlement agreement with island leaseholders, the costs associated with operating the Crescent Bar water system are borne by the users of the water. Currently, costs associated with water service are included in leaseholder payments and are split with 90 percent of the cost for improvements going to leaseholders and 10 percent to Grant PUD.  The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution 8864 (TIMESTAMP 4:24:00)- Resolution accepting a Bid for Awarding contract 430-077770 for Crescent Bar Water System Stage 2. This resolution paves the way for final completion of the Crescent Bar Island water system. Specific improvements under the contract include: a new potable water system well house, inwell pumps, motors and controls, new chlorination equipment, installation of new water meters, backflow preventers, leaseholder connections, and installation of fire hydrants throughout the leased area. The new water system rectifies existing water system deficiencies and satisfies requirements of the Washington State Department of Health, Grant County Fire Marshal and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The contract for the work was slightly below the engineers estimate and awarded to low bidder, KRCI LLC of East Wenatchee for a not to exceed amount of $1,804,947.61 and has a completion date of July 27, 2018. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution 8865- Resolution establishing Rate Schedule No. WD1: This rate schedule follows months of conversation with both the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts and spells out new cost-based charges for wholesale wheeling services. Under the former contract which expired earlier this year, USBR was not charged for these services, and going forward will be charged per the rate schedule No. WD1. Darvin Fales of the Quincy Columbia Basin Irrigation District provided public comment in advance of the board’s consideration of the resolution and requested that the board not act on the resolution until local irrigation districts and the USBR have time to review and sign a temporary MOU extending service into late 2018. This extension would allow the USBR, local Irrigation Districts and Grant PUD additional time to work toward finalization of a long term wheeling agreement. After discussion among the commission, it was determined that the resolution would be tabled until the December 12 meeting.

Resolution 8866 (TIMESTAMP 4:26:50) – Resolution of Public Utility District No. 2 of Grant County, Washington, Providing for the Issuance of Electric System Revenue and Refunding Bonds of the District in the Aggregate Principal Amount of not to Exceed $80,000,000 for the Purpose of Refunding Certain Electric System Bonds and Financing Capital Improvements to the Electric System; and Delegating Authority to Approve the Final Terms of the Bonds: With recent developments regarding tax reform, staff recommended moving up the refunding that was scheduled for Q3 of 2018 to the current month’s (December) financing effort. Commissioner Schaapman commented that, “I would like to thank staff for their due diligence on having forward thinking and getting some of this retired prior to the year…We had some tax benefits that we were concerned about so kudos for being ahead of schedule.” The resolution passed unanimously.

Motion 3227 (TIMESTAMP 4:41:29) Commissioners approved indemnification of Chris Heimbigner and authorized Steve Winterbauer and Winterbauer and Diamond to defend Mr. Heimbigner in pending litigation filed by Wayne Black against Grant PUD and Mr. Heimbigner. The motion passed unanimously.

Posted in Commission summary, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Recap of the Nov. 14 commission meeting

Commissioners back continued funding for fiber build out

After months of study and deliberations, receiving feedback from customers and recommendations from staff, Grant PUD’s board of commissioners came to a preliminary consensus on how to fund fiber expansion for 2018.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bishop presented to the board the current financial condition of the fiber network (a negative cash-flow of $1.86 million in 2016, not including interest, depreciation and cost of existing backbone fiber), and also presented options to pay for expansion of the fiber foot-print (currently available to 70% of the county) by either deferring capital projects (which would result in increased risk and cost of keeping the electric system reliable) or raising rates on the electric system. He also presented staff’s proposal of using revenues or cost savings generated by the fiber system above the $1.86 million subsidy to pay for expanding the fiber system to the remaining 30% of the county.

Following Bishop’s presentation, the board discussed ideas for expansion. Commissioner Tom Flint said he believed the utility needed to follow through with building out fiber to those who do not have access to a broadband service.

Commissioner Bob Bernd said the PUD needed to deliver on its promise of bringing fiber to locations who early on had overwhelmingly said they wanted fiber and were still waiting for it, especially in portions inside the city limits of Ephrata and Moses Lake.

Commissioner Terry Brewer said he agreed that Grant PUD should consider expanding if it could do so without being a financial hardship on the utility or mean that needed projects are delayed or deferred.

Commissioner Dale Walker said he believed that the utility had the money in cash reserves to fund expansion.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Nordt suggested that the board look at money in the Reserve and Contingency Fund and use money above the target of $155 million to pay for expanding the network.

That decision would be reviewed annually until the fiber expansion is complete. Nordt said he would have staff determine what that amount would be at the end of this year and then those dollars will be budgeted for fiber expansion in 2018. Staff would present the commissioners with a plan for funding and expansion for their approval in an upcoming meeting.

Commissioner Larry Schaapman said that he would like to try this approach for a year and then have it reviewed annually to make sure it does not harm the utility’s financial position.

Brewer asked if the utility would be able to physically deploy fiber expansion in 2018 even if there is funding. Nordt said the Network staff has developed preliminary plans by looking into locations that would be the least costly to reach and should be able to have recommendations for expansion areas in a timely manner.

The commissioners stated that they wanted to see the utility work with Internet Service Providers and customers on the build out so there was some assurance that fiber is going to areas where there will be a high take rate and commitment from prospective customers.

“We need to take fiber to places where the people are going to use it,” Flint said.

In other business:

  • The Grant PUD Safety Continuous Improvement Team No. 2 members were introduced to the board. Members are Mike Bradshaw, Luis Sanchez, R.J. Fronsman, Jared Mooney, Joe Boitano, Russ Seiler, Brian Black, Tim Crawford, Kevin McAlexander, Ryan Roeder, Jared Youngers, Susy Anderson, Rob Sage and Nels Hanson. Board president Larry Schaapman thanked the team and others involved in improving the safety culture of the utility. “Hats off to you guys and the work you’re doing and follow up follow through is key,” he said.
  • The commission passed resolution 8862 – Resolution of Public Utility District No. 2 of Grant County, Washington, Providing for the Issuance of Electric System Revenue Refunding Bonds of the District in the Aggregate Principal Amount of Not to Exceed $50,500,000 for the Purpose of Repaying the Electric System Revenue Bonds, Series 2014‐K; and Delegating Authority to Approve the Final Terms of the Bonds.
  • The commission also passed a motion authorizing the General Manager, on behalf of Grant PUD, to execute Change Order No. 20 to Contract 330‐4018R with Knight Construction and Supply, Inc., for work on the Wanapum Dam Spillway Gate Painting and Trunnion Rehabilitation project, increasing the not‐to‐exceed contract price by $302,665.00 for a new contract total of $15,913,565.00, modifying the completion date in accordance with change order documents, and resetting the delegated authority levels to the authority granted to the General Manager per Resolution No. 8609 for charges incurred as a result of Change Order No. 20. (3223)
  • The commission approved a motion authorizing the General Manager, on behalf of Grant PUD, to execute Change Order No. 8 to Contract 230‐4201 with Long Painting, increasing the not‐to‐exceed contract price by $607,473.00 for a new contract total of $3,270,091.67, to remove the lead paint on the generating units at Priest Rapids Dam and recoat them, revising scope of service, modifying contract completion dates in accordance with change order documents, and resetting the delegated authority levels to the authority granted to the General Manager per Resolution No. 8609 for charges incurred as a result of Change Order No. 8. (3224)

The commission approved payment of Cave B invoice dated September 27, 2017, in the amount of $15,409.94. The amount pays for Grant PUD’s expense in hosting the 2017 Shoreline Management Workshop in September.

Next meeting is Nov. 29 at Ephrata Headquarters, 30 C. Street SW.

Posted in Broadband, Press Releases, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mattawa students get a close-up look at spawning

MATTAWA — A smattering of small, bright-orange orbs lay on the dark asphalt of the Priest Rapids Hatchery spawning area like pearls suddenly set free from a broken necklace. They attracted fifth graders like a magnet.

“What is that?” Asked one of boys in a louder-than-speaking voice. He bent over for a closer look.

“Eeeew! Don’t touch it,” said another, rushing over. A huddle quickly formed – and clamor grew – around and over the curious spheres. What could they be?

More than 60 fifth graders from Mattawa's Morris Schott STEAM Elementary got a close-up look at salmon spawning Nov. 6 at Grant PUD's Priest Rapids Hatchery.

More than 60 fifth graders from Mattawa’s Morris Schott STEAM Elementary got a close-up look at salmon spawning Nov. 6 at Grant PUD’s Priest Rapids Hatchery.

This inquisitive bunch of students from Mattawa’s Morris Schott STEAM Elementary School were getting their first look at real salmon eggs, and they were about to see tens of thousands more.

The 64 students – two classrooms worth – and their teachers Erin Tostenson and Laura Catlin got an up-close look Nov. 6 at both the human-assisted and natural ways fall Chinook salmon spawn. See a video of their visit here.

Led by Grant PUD biologists Eric Lauver and Rolland O’Connor, the group watched state Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery workers corralling the previously trapped Chinook, euthanizing them with a blow to the head and tossing them onto a special tray for the next step in the process.

The students and other guests watched, as fish processors expertly sliced open the females, catching their thousands of eggs in white buckets, and squirting the white “milt” – seminal fluid – from the males into the buckets to fertilize the eggs.

“That was my favorite part,” student Litzy Ramirez said with a smile. “It was very satisfying.”
“What you’ve just seen is the spawning process,” PUD biologist Lauver told the group. “In the wild, the female would dig what in the gravel?”

“A redd!” the kids responded of the depression in the riverbed the female excavates with swishes of her tail to hold her deposit of eggs – somewhere between 3,600 and 4,000 of them per redd.

Grant PUD Biologist Eric Lauver explains how fertilized salmon eggs are incubated in trays filled with circulating cold water until they develop into tiny "frye" -- baby fish.

Grant PUD Biologist Eric Lauver explains how fertilized salmon eggs are incubated in trays filled with circulating cold water until they develop into tiny “frye” — baby fish.

They’d been studying the salmon lifecycle as part of an ecosystem lesson at school, Teacher Tostenson said. Like the STEAM in its name indicates, the school is focused on a curriculum heavy on science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Each classroom built a terrarium on top of an aquarium filled with guppies and snails to observe how whatever is deposited into the terrarium soil can leach into the water below, affecting the aquatic flora and fauna.

“We’re learning what the PUD does to maintain the health of the river, and what they (the students) can do,” Tostenson said.

The PUD annually spends about $15 million to support operations and maintenance of approximately 20 hatcheries, hatchery programs and fish-rearing facilities throughout the Columbia Basin. The cost includes habitat improvements, control of birds and fish that feast on young salmon, and monitoring and evaluation of hatchery and wild fish populations in the region.

In the wild, a male salmon releases his milt over the eggs as they are being deposited in the redd. The female covers them with a layer of gravel to protect them until they hatch into tiny frye.

Teachers Laura Catlin (left) and Erin Tostenson shepherded their fifth graders  among the raceways, spawning rooms and fish channel -- no easy task!

Teachers Laura Catlin (left) and Erin Tostenson shepherded their fifth graders among the raceways, incubation rooms and fish channel — no easy task!

At the hatchery, the crew places the fertilized eggs onto trays infused with circulating cold-water until they hatch – about 12 weeks.

As the Chinook grow, they’re transferred first to outdoor raceways inside chain-link cages to protect them from predators, then to larger rearing tanks until they’re ready for release into the Columbia River for their 400-mile journey to the ocean.

Many Chinook spawn naturally right in the hatchery’s water-filled channel to the Columbia. The tour ended with the students getting a close-up look at the females and bright-red males doing what nature intended.

“Their tails are very strong,” Lauver said of the females. They’ll stay with the redd until they get so weak they fall over and die.”

Student Francisco Capi, listened intently, after peppering Lauver with questions.

“Oh, pobrecitos! (poor things!),” he said softly in Spanish and headed off with his classmates to board the bus.

Story and photos by Christine Pratt, cpratt@gcpud.org, Grant PUD Public Affairs.

Posted in Community, Natural Resources, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Past, present merge at Archaeology Days

Bert, the great-horned owl, entertains kids at Archaeology Days. The annual, two-day event is a celebration of community, culture and history. It drew 488 kids, teachers and chaperons from all over Eastern Washington Oct. 25. "Adult Day," Oct. 26, drew 236 grown-ups for a series of historical lectures by regional experts. Throwing the "atlatl" an ancient spear-throwing tool, was another big draw.

Bert, the great-horned owl, entertains kids at Archaeology Days. The annual, two-day event is a celebration of community, culture and history. It drew 488 kids, teachers and chaperons from all over Eastern Washington Oct. 25. “Adult Day,” Oct. 26, drew 236 grown-ups for a series of historical lectures by regional experts.

MATTAWA — Don’t try to stare down a great-horned owl. They’re experts.

Hundreds of grade school kids from all over Eastern Washington discovered that Oct. 25 when they came face-to-face with Bert, who perched calmly on the leather glove of handler Steve Siebert.

This was Siebert’s first appearance at Archaeology Days, a celebration at the Wanapum Heritage Center to showcase the rich cultural and archaeological history of the Columbia Basin.

“They fly and hunt for jackrabbits,” Elian Guerrero, a second grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Quincy explained, after hearing Siebert describe how he uses Bert and other birds in his collection for hunting.

Hosted by the Wanapum Band and Grant PUD, the event began in 1999 and now spans two days — one just for the kiddos and a second for adults. Kid’s day was definitely the noisiest.

Students from as nearby as Quincy and as far away as Leavenworth, Richland, Coulee Dam, Toppenish and Spokane observed flint knapper Lloyd Barkley, a Pendleton, Oregon resident and member of the Yakama Nation, make projectile points (don’t call them “arrow heads”) out of obsidian.

They got a close look at Luna the live Pacific Lamprey and a handful of baby lampreys in an aquarium set up by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials. They learned to use the “atlatl,” a spear-throwing device used by hunters some 3,000 years ago. They observed intricate beadwork on buckskin, had fun using Grant PUD’s solar car racetrack, and watched PUD linemen put on their popular high-voltage show.

The commotion shifted indoors only for a hot dog lunch, served by their Wanapum hosts.

“We do a bit of pre-teaching about the Wanapum Native Americans, and then the students can come and see things in person, touch things and talk to people,” said Brooke Rosenow, second-grade teacher at Mountain View. “This is a great way to learn about the past.”

Jordan Buck helps a young visitor throw an "atlatl," an ancient spear-throwing device.

Jordan Buck helps a young visitor throw an “atlatl,” an ancient spear-throwing device. Watch a video of the atlatl field here.

Education is also the goal for Heritage Center Curator Angela Neller. “My hope is that our visitors learn something and realize how important the natural and cultural resources are to the tribes,” she said.

Many exhibitors stuck around for adult’s day, too, when the focus takes a more scholarly turn with a series of archaeological-themed discussions by local and regional experts. Columbia River Historian Bill Layman kicked off the series with a talk about the Native American rock images — pictographs and petroglyphs — submerged in the reservoirs above Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.

The Wanapum gifted each presenter with salmon and cherries. The audience munched on donuts.

“You guys bring us a big gift today just by being here,” Rex Buck, leader of the Wanapum, told the nearly 200 adults seated for the upcoming talks. “We can all come together and maybe understand things we didn’t understand in the past.”

Rex’s daughter Lela Buck was one of many who helped organize the event. Many Wanapum helped in the kitchen and elsewhere in the Heritage Center to make the event happen. Rex’s grandsons helped out on the atlatl field.

“As young Wanapum kids, they’re sharing things about their culture,” Lela said of her young nephews. “They’re just talking about who they are, and that’s really cool. We’ve been fortunate that Archaeology Days are just growing and growing and growing.”

Click here to view slideshow of Archaeology Days.

Story by Christine Pratt,  Grant PUD Public Affairs

Posted in Community, Community Service, Employees, Press Releases, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

High bills giving you the chills? Grant PUD has some tips for the season.

As winter draws near these tips will help to ease the strain on your bill

EPHRATA, Wash. – Ready or not winter is coming. Even though we can’t control what the weather will bring, there are steps you can take to minimize the increase in electrical usage that typically accompanies colder temperatures. Consider these tips to prepare for winter so you can stay warm without sacrificing comfort or wasting money.

  • Prepare your home:
    • Schedule a service visit for your central heating system to see what maintenance is required to keep it operating efficiently.
    • Ensure your central heating system has a properly fitted and clean air filter installed.
    • If you have a heat pump, avoid switching your system to “E Heat” or “Aux Heat” as most heat pumps can provide heat to your home even as temperatures dip into the low teens.
    • Close or plug your foundation vents. This will keep your home warmer and help protect against frozen water pipes.
    • Check the weather stripping on exterior doors and windows. Adjust or replace if worn or missing.
    • Cover drafty windows and permanent wall-unit air conditioners by using a heavy-duty clear plastic. The plastic should be sealed tightly to reduce cold entering your home.
    • As colder temperatures arrive, close drapes in the evening and on overcast days to help retain heat within your home. Ensure your drapes do not obstruct heat registers.
  • Adjust the temperature:
    • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as comfortably possible.
    • When you are asleep or out of the home, turn your thermostat down even further. A programmable thermostat can help you adjust your heat to match your schedule. If you have a heat pump it is recommended to not drop your thermostat lower than 4°F below your normal heat setting.
    • Lower the heat setting on your water heater. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 18 percent of a household’s energy consumption is from water warming. Keeping your temperature at 120°F will help you see small changes in your energy bill.
  • Lighting choices:
    • Replace incandescent lighting with energy efficient LED lights.
    • Use timers and motion sensors to reduce the operating hours of interior and exterior lights left on for security purposes.
  • Inquire about Grant PUD’s programs to further manage your bill by calling 509-766-2505:
    • Grant PUD offers low-interest loans for energy-saving upgrades on windows, heat pumps and insulation for site-built homes.
    • Special rates for low-income seniors or those with a qualifying disabilities. These households may be eligible for up to a 20 percent discount on their electric bill.

Also, remember the number of days in the billing cycle can vary from one to four days each month. Each additional day in the billing cycle can mean as much as a 3 percent increase on your bill. Conserving energy can save you money and help all of us make the most of our energy resources.

Posted in Energy Saving, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Commission meeting recap – Oct. 24, 2017

Load Growth

With the help of Grant PUD’s affordable rates and trusted reliability, the county continues to be an attractive location for business of all types. Recent expansion over a 10-year period ending in 2015, saw Grant PUD’s load grow by 63.5 percent to 590 average megawatts. Average annual growth during this time of 5.04 percent was more than 19 times the national average of 0.26 percent during the same period, according to historical data from Grant PUD and the U.S. Department of Energy. The need for future expansion doesn’t appear to be slowing. Over the course of the last few months Grant PUD has seen an unprecedented number of requests for new services.

This increased level of requests was the subject of discussion during Tuesday’s commission meeting on how Grant PUD can ensure they are positioned to addresses these requests while continuing to reliably serve existing customers. Some customers in the que awaiting service range from 3 to 100 megawatts of service. These requests, including both completed applications and initial inquires, would total approximately 640 megawatts of new service if fulfilled. This level of interest creates issues when looking at the available electric system capacity, infrastructure enhancements, rate design and policy issues. Addressing those topics will be a focus going forward as Grant PUD looks to responsively work to address these requests while also ensuring the reliability of service for existing customers. One new type of industry whose requests have grown in the recent months include the “Blockchain” and “Cryptocurrency” such as Bitcoin. Businesses within these industries use sophisticated computing systems that require high levels of energy.

In the end this is a favorable spot for the utility to be in. While the rest of the country struggles with flat or declining load growth, we are fortunate to see diverse industries expanding in Grant County.  The goal through this process is to set Grant PUD up to experience healthy growth for years to come that will benefit current and future customers.
Wheeling charge discussions continue: Grant PUD and a few members of the Quincy Irrigation District met on Tuesday to further discuss the cost of a proposed new “wheeling charge” – the cost incurred by using the transmission and distribution system to deliver energy – to the irrigation district. Grant PUD purchased transmission lines from Bonneville Power Administration decades ago, but agreed not to charge wheeling fees for 40 years. That 40-year agreement expired June 30, 2017. Initial analysis based on the cost of service shows the new wheeling fee would be just over $1 million a year. Grant PUD has been working under an MOU with Federal Bureau of Reclamation since June 30 as the irrigation district representatives and PUD discussed various aspects of the new wheeling rate. During Tuesday’s discussion the irrigation district requested that Grant PUD extend the current MOU until the end of 2018. The current MOU is set to expire at the end of the year. This extended timeline allows the irrigation district to work with the Bureau on how best to apply the wheeling rates to their irrigation district customers. Commissioners agreed to review the MOU and discuss the feasibility of an extension with Bureau.

In other business:

Revised Customer Service Policy and Fee Schedules Approved: Commissioners approved a proposal from staff to revise the customer service policy. The revisions included a few clarifications, corrections and changes that will allow the fee schedule and policies to better correspond to their business processes.  Included within these changes is the approval of a manual meter read fee for customers who prefer not to participate in Grant PUD’s Advanced Metering Program (AMP).  The approved fee schedule includes a one-time deactivation fee of $250.99 for those who wish to have the remote-read capability of their new meter turned off. Those who choose this option will also incur a monthly meter reading fee of $64.34 per month. The extra monthly charge for the manual read program covers the PUD’s cost to send a truck and a meter reader to the homes or businesses to continue reading the meter each month.

Support of the biological opinion of the Columbia River Power System: 97 percent of young salmon successfully make their way past federal dams on the Columbia River in part due to the biological opinion approved by NOAA Fisheries and implemented by dam operators. However in March of this year a District Court in Oregon directed federal agencies to undertake a comprehensive review of the hydro operations while encouraging federal agencies to include an analysis that incorporates the removal, bypass, or breaching of one or more of the four lower Snake River dams. Grant PUD Commissioners approved Resolution 8860 in support of H.R. 3144, which offers federal bipartisan legislation to create a solution to eliminate the unending litigation over the federal hydro system. H.R. 3144 would direct federal agencies to implement the current federal salmon plan known as the 2014 Supplemental BiOp. Without this legislation, federal agencies would be required to author a new 2018 BiOp without the benefit of new science and/or any public input.

Commission approves change order: During construction on the Rocky Ford to Dover 115kV line the Contractor (Summit Line Construction) had to mobilize their Hydrovac truck.  This type of machinery provides a “non-destrictive” method of digging by utilizing a pressurized water and vacuum system that helps safely expose underground infrastructure. The truck was needed to find a fiber optic cable Centurylink had an easement for. This was beyond the initial scope of the project and costs $30,954.82. The change order approves adding this total dollar amount to the overall project.

Posted in Press Releases | Leave a comment

Grant PUD and Wanapum to host archaeology days

One day will be dedicated to youth and a second day will be tailored for adults.

EPHRATA, Wash. – In recognition of Archaeology Month, Grant PUD and the Wanapum invite members of the public and media to Archaeology Days 2017. Archeology Days will begin with Youth Day on Wednesday, Oct. 25 followed by Adult Day on Thursday, Oct. 26. Events and activities on both days will be held at the new Wanapum Heritage Center near Priest Rapids Dam at 29082 Highway 243, Mattawa, Wash.

Archaeology Days provide a fun and interactive experience for all to learn more about the Wanapum way of life. Enjoy expert speakers on a host of cultural, historical and natural topics.  Those attending will hear from speakers, see demonstrations and participate in activities. The displays and events include, hide processing, beadwork, weaving, flint knapping, Wanapum cultural displays, tule structure experience, Wanapum dugout canoe and much more.

Both days begin at 9 a.m. and lunch is provided. Youth Day will go until 2:30 p.m. and Adult Day will finish at 4 p.m. Please call the Wanapum Heritage Center at 509-766-3461 with any questions. Visit wanapum.org for complete details. The schedule is planned as follows:

Youth Day, Wednesday, Oct. 25

9 to 9:30 a.m. – Welcome – What is Archaeology

9:30 to noon – Rotate through activities, including Canoe Display, Skits, Exhibition Tamanwit, Canoe Journey Exhibit, Flint Knapping, Hide Processing, Activity Booths, Natural Resources Plants, River Patrol, Solar Car Races, Demonstrations, Birds of Prey, Atlatl and Lineman Demonstration.

Noon to 12:45 p.m. – Lunch

12:45 to 2:30 p.m. – Continue rotation through activities

2:30 p.m. – Closing  

Adult Day, Thursday, Oct. 26

9 to 9:15 a.m. – Opening

9:15 to 10 a.m. – Bill Layman: Sacred Riverplaces: Documenting the Inundated Pictographs and Petroglyphs of Wanapum and Priest River Reservoirs.

10 to 10:45 a.m. – Matthew Johnson- Fauna from Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon (45KT12) and French Rapids (45KT13) Archaeological Sites.

10:45 to 11:15 a.m. – Break to visit demonstrations, displays and exhibits

11:15 to noon – The Wanapum River Patrol

Noon to 1:15 p.m. – Lunch

1:15 to 2 p.m. – David Rice- A Paleo-Indian Archaeological Assemblage from a Late Pleistocene Outburst Flood Deposit in the Horse Heaven Hills.

2 to 2:45 p.m. – Mark DeLeon- Go West Young Man: Trailscapes Beyond Priest Rapids

2:45 to 3:15 p.m. – Break to visit demonstrations, displays and exhibits

3:15 to 4 p.m. – Christine Brown- Erosion of Traditional Land Use Treaty Rights

4 to 4:15 p.m. – Closing

Posted in Community, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Budget hearing and commission meeting recap – Oct. 12, 2017

Fiber build-out supporters flock to 2018 budget hearing

The first of three public hearings on the PUD’s proposed 2018 budget drew a crowd to commissioners’ Ephrata board room Tuesday to speak out in favor of continued build-out of the fiber-optic network to the 30 percent of the county still unserved.

PUD staff has recommended the district not use any more of its own funds at this time to complete the network, but instead seek find funding from within the community, or via state or federal grants to continue build-out. Continued use of PUD funds for build-out would require a permanent electric-rate increase of between 2.5 and 5 percent on top of the 2-percent rate-revenue increase already planned.

Ten audience members spoke out, saying the PUD has an obligation to continue build-out that began 17 years ago with the original intention to cover the entire county. Many pointed to the advantages of fast internet for students, individuals with medical conditions, families and businesses, including agriculture.

“The fiber program has been a gamble, but we love it and we don’t want to see it stop,” said Mick Qualls, chairman of the Grant County Fiber Active group.

Trish Hunter of Ephrata said her electric bill has been 8-percent to 9-percent higher for 17 years because of the fiber build-out costs that everyone in the county has had to pay, yet she still doesn’t have service. “I don’t want to be left behind any longer,” she told commissioners.

“Find it in your budget until fiber is available to each and every household in this county,” said Bob Murphy of Royal City, speaking on behalf of MacDougall & Sons, one of the county’s big fruit growers and packers. “Let’s get back on track and get this job done. We’ve been paying for it for 17 years.”

A PUD-funded fiber-focused customer survey in April that showed 46 percent of customers questioned said they weren’t willing to pay more for additional build-out.

Driving the staff recommendation are financial forecasts that show declining market prices for the PUD’s surplus electric generation, and a continued need to borrow to fund tens of millions of dollars in ongoing capital expenses, including unit upgrades and at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, improvements and expansion of the transmission and distribution system, purchase and installation of the new advanced meters and the remaining upgrades on Crescent Bar Island.

The fiber build out has so far cost the PUD $258 million. Construction to the remaining 30 percent of the county is estimated at $68 million over 10 years. Of customers with access to the network, only 48 percent actually subscribe to the service, but that number has increased over the past year through increased promotional efforts that will continue into the future.

Budget 2018 Presentation: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bishop reviewed highlights of the proposed, $263.8 million budget for 2018. The budget reflects a 12-percent decline in overall spending from 2017, $133.1 million in capital spending and $93 million for service on the PUD’s $1.3 billion in outstanding debt. Operations and maintenance spending of $111.2 million would be a less than 1-percent increase over 2017, Bishop said.

The PUD is expected to end 2018 with $164.9 million in reserve funds, which are forecast to grow to $173.4 million by 2022. Staff and commissioners told the audience that robust reserve funds are necessary to maintain the PUD’s excellent AA bond rating. High bond ratings mean lower interest rates on future borrowing. PUD Finance Manager Bonnie Overfield told the audience that the PUD will need to issue $300 million to $400 million in new debt in the coming years to cover expected spending.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed 2018 budget in November.

In other business:

Manual meter read fees presented: Customer Service Manager Terry McKenzie told commissioners Tuesday that staff is recommending a $64.34 a month fee and a one-time deactivation fee of $250.99 cost for customers who choose to a manual meter read service rather than participate in the remote-read Advanced Metering Program. The new fee schedule will be up for approval by commissioners in an upcoming meeting.
The extra monthly charge for the manual read program will cover the PUD’s cost to send a truck and meter reader to the homes or businesses to continue reading the meter.

Defective wire won’t slow down Rocky Ford–Dover 115kV project: Defects were discovered in late July in the electric wire purchased for the new 115kV Rocky Ford to Dover transmission line under construction along Highway 17, rendering the wire unusable, project manager Randy Kono told commissioners. Another supplier will provide replacement wire to keep the project on schedule with completion in late 2018. The defective wire was supplied in January 2016 by Sunni Electric Wire and Cable Company from Wuhan, China, and has a three-year warranty, Kono said. PUD officials await the company’s response to a request for compensation. The project’s contractor, Summit Line Construction of Herber City, Utah will provide replacement wire under a $338,133 change order to the contract.

Quincy Plains 230kV tap ready to energize: Severe wind on Oct. 7 has delayed energizing the approximately one-mile new Quincy Plains 230kv transmission line tap in Quincy, commissioners learned Tuesday. The line stretches along Road 11 NW and connects the new Quincy Plains, Cloud View and the existing North Quincy substations. A date to energize the approximately $3 million line will be scheduled soon.

Contract awarded for new Crescent Bar wastewater system: Commissioners unanimously authorized General Manager Kevin Nordt to enter into a $3.27 million contract with Clearwater Construction & Management LLC of Spokane to build a new wastewater-treatment facility on Crescent Bar Island. Both Nordt and Rich Wallen, managing director of Power Production, agree with PUD staff that the KRCI bid was the “lowest responsible and best” of the 10 bids received and is less than the PUD engineers’ estimate $3.4 million. Work on the new system will begin late this month and be finished in November 2018.

Wheeling charge discussions continue: Grant PUD, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and county irrigation districts have agreed to adjustments that would reduce the cost of a proposed new “wheeling charge” – the cost incurred by using the transmission and distribution system to deliver the power – by about 13 percent, from $1.2 million to just over $1 million, commissioners learned Tuesday. Grant PUD purchased transmission lines from Bonneville Power Administration decades ago, but agreed not to charge wheeling fees for 40 years. That 40-year agreement expired June 30, 2017. Grant PUD intends to charge the Bureau and irrigation districts the cost to deliver the power, no more or less.

Grant PUD to join Local Government Investment Pool: Commissioners unanimously authorized the district to open an account with the state Treasurer’s Local Government Investment Pool. The district’s investment policy allows for such participation. The pool is a free, voluntary investment vehicle operated by the state treasurer. More than 530 local governments have used the pool since it was created in 1986. Pooled, invested funds total approximately $15 billion. Yields from the fund have been similar or better than rates on the Bank of New York Melon’s Treasury bond index since January 2016.

Posted in Broadband, Budget, Press Releases, Public Power | Leave a comment

Public Power Week – Op-Ed

Grant Public Utility District (PUD) will be celebrating Public Power Week Oct. 1-7. Public Power Week is an annual celebration throughout the nation recognizing the contribution not-for-profit electric utilities make to customers.  Grant PUD started in 1938 with a vision of local residents who wanted a county-wide public utility to provide them with affordable, reliable energy.  Today, we realize their vision by delivering energy to nearly 40,000 customers both large and small and using the power of the Columbia River to generate more than 2,000 megawatts of clean, reliable, affordable energy.

Public power utilities like Grant PUD are embedded within our communities.  That means Grant PUD not only works for the people of Grant County, it is Grant County. As PUD commissioners, we are elected to serve our local customers, and we exist to reflect your voice and intentions.

We live, work and play within our communities. Knowing our friends and neighbors helps us balance the demands of our current customers alongside the needs of future generations. This model as envisioned by those early settlers of this county has allowed your PUD to do many great things for residents throughout our history. Most recently this model has enabled Grant PUD to:

  • Provide customers with stable and predictable pricing while continuing to provide you with some of the most affordable and reliable energy in the country.
  • Invest in our advanced metering program to drive efficiency, keep prices low, and provide more responsive customer service. This project is estimated to save your utility more than $35 million dollars over the next decade.
  • Renovate the turbines and generators at Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams. We are undertaking this extensive work to replace and rehabilitate aging equipment to continue generating clean, renewable energy for decades to come.
  • Protect and enhance natural resources and improve river recreation. We have taken many steps to preserve the region’s history and beauty while still allowing residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy all that Grant County provides. We operate 19 recreation sites along our stretch of the Columbia River which bring in an estimated $34 million annual tourism dollars. We protect thousands of acres of sensitive wildlife habitat, preserve more than 1,200 cultural sites, and release more than 10 million juvenile fish into native habitat every year.

As a not-for-profit public power utility, our loyalty is to our customers first and foremost. We take pride in the way we collectively power our local way of life. We hope that you will come learn more about our plans to continue delivering excellence in service and leadership by attending one of our public budget meetings.  The budget meetings will be held at 2 p.m. on Oct. 10 at our Commission Room in Ephrata and that evening at 6 p.m. at the Fire Hall in Moses Lake. We will also hold a budget meeting on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. in our Hydro Office Building near Wanapum Dam.

We thank you for your support of public power — an American tradition that works.

 

Larry Schaapman

Commission President

Grant County PUD

Posted in Public Power | Leave a comment

The City of Grand Coulee to accept Grant PUD payments for local customers.

Grant PUD’s Grand Coulee office to temporarily reduce business hours.

EPHRATA, Wash. – Beginning in September and lasting through November, Grant PUD’s local Grand Coulee Office will only open on Wednesdays. The office will be open during its normal business hours each Wednesday (8 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Traditionally the office is open Monday through Friday.

To continue to meet the needs of local customers, Grant PUD has entered an agreement with the City of Grand Coulee that allows the city to accept Grant PUD payments. This will provide our local customers an added location to make their PUD payment.  Payments can be made at city hall during normal business hours. The Grant PUD pay station at city hall will continue after the local office reopens. Customers can also pay their bill on-line by visiting www.grantpud.org or over the phone by calling customer service at 800-422-3199.

Posted in Press Releases, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Keep your cool this summer with these energy saving tips

Use less energy and lower monthly bills with these simple suggestions.

EPHRATA, Wash. – With the heat of the summer settling into the region, making smart energy-use choices can help save energy and keep bills low. The following tips from Grant PUD will assist in saving energy and money this summer:

  • Temperature:
    • If you have air conditioning, set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible. A recommended 78 degrees if you are home and warmer if you are away.
    • Reduce your electric water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Fans:
    • Use ceiling and other portable room fans to increase your cooling efficiency without having to lower your thermostat.  Be sure to turn any fans off when you leave the area as they are made to cool people and not rooms.
  • Air Conditioning (A/C):
    • Have your A/C or heat pump serviced regularly to maintain its best efficiency and capacity.
    • Clear the area around outdoor units from weeds or other items.
    • Clean or replace your cooling unit filters regularly to maximize their efficiency.
  • Windows:
    • Block sunlight entering your home using curtains or window shades.
    • Open your windows at night to let in the cooler air. Be sure to close any open windows by mid-morning to hold the cool air in.
  • Cooking:
    • Plan meals that can be made on a grill, in the microwave, or prepared in advance to avoid using the oven or stove during the hottest part of the day.
  • Cleaning:
    • Wash laundry and dishes with full loads. Wash laundry loads on cold cycle.
    • When possible air dry clothes outdoors and cancel the drying cycle on your dishwasher letting items air dry.
  • Leaks:
    • Sealing air leaks around windows and doors can save energy and money. Check for drafts around windows, doors and seals. Replace worn weather seals and/or caulk gaps where you feel drafts.
    • If you suspect air ducts are leaking contact an HVAC contractor for duct sealing options.

Grant PUD is committed to helping customers power their way of life. Visit www.grantpud.org for more energy saving tips and tools to help you manage your power use this summer.  For additional information on energy efficiency programs call your Grant PUD Energy Services Department at 509-766-2512.

Posted in Energy Saving, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Learn at local libraries how Grant PUD delivers power to its customers

Grant PUD will participate in North Central Regional Library’s Summer Reading Program 

EPHRATA, Wash. – This July, be sure to visit your local library to learn the cool true story about how power companies like Grant PUD use the naturally-occurring water cycle to generate electricity, and also how power is delivered to customers throughout Grant County.

The program will provide plenty of hands on activities, including acting out the “Water Cycle” play, creating a human-conducting electrical circuit and even an opportunity for attendees to generate their own power. There will also be important information about electrical safety.

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

  • Mattawa: July 6, 10 a.m.
  • George: July 6, 2:30 p.m.
  • Quincy: July 12, 10 a.m.
  • Ephrata: July 12, 1 p.m.
  • Moses Lake, July 13, 2 p.m.
  • Warden, July 13, 4:30 p.m.
  • Soap Lake, July 14, 10:30 a.m.
  • Grand Coulee, July 19, 11 a.m.
  • Coulee City, July 19, 3 p.m.

#                                                          #

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

Posted in Community, Press Releases | Leave a comment

Grant PUD reduces costs for voluntary purchase of alternative energy resources

Commissioners lower cost for customers wanting to purchase qualified energy attributes 

EPHRATA, Wash. – Grant PUD commissioners voted Tuesday, June 27 to lower the price for customers wanting to buy qualified renewable energy resource attributes on top of their regular power bills. In related action, the commissioners also approved a method for customers to purchase renewable energy certificates, as well as power from a specific generation source.

Grant PUD has an obligation under Washington State law (RCW 19.29A) to provide its customers with an opportunity to buy from qualified alternative energy resources. Costs in Rate Schedule 13 were lowered from $2 per 100 kilowatt-hour block to 75 cents per 100 kWh block. The new price is more in line with changes to market conditions since Rate Schedule 13 was first adopted in 2001.

Commissioners also approved two additions to Rate Schedule 13.  Rate Schedule 13REC allows for customers to purchase National Green-e Certified and Washington Qualified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) with a minimum transaction of 1,000 megawatt-hour blocks. Rate Schedule 13SS allows for customers to make a minimum purchase for 1,000 megawatt-hour blocks of specified-source generation energy attributes. The cost to buy blocks of power in Rate Schedule 13REC and 13SS will be based on current market rates and availability and will include an administrative fee to cover Grant PUD’s expenses.

These changes give customers access to renewable energy sources. Any purchases made in Rate Schedule 13 are in addition to what customers would normally pay on their monthly Grant PUD power bill.

“With these changes, we can better partner with our customers to meet their needs as they seek to achieve their sustainability goals by leveraging our staff’s knowledge and capability.” said Dave Churchman, Grant PUD’s Chief Customer Officer. “Our customers have told us this is an important service they require and we are glad to meet their needs.”

For information on how to make purchases under Rate Schedule 13, call Grant PUD’s customer service line at (509) 766-2505.

#                                                          #

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

Posted in Billing, Community, Press Releases, Public Power | Leave a comment

New transmission line enhances electric system reliability for customers

Construction slated to finish by the end of the year and begin delivering energy by 2018.

EPHRATA, Wash. – Throughout the upcoming weeks, travelers on State Route 17 (SR 17) between Moses Lake and Ephrata will see crews working on the installation of a new transmission line. The 115 kilovolt (kV) transmission line will connect Rocky Ford Substation, located just north of SR 17 near Rocky Ford Creek, with the Dover Substation

located in northeast Moses Lake on Patton Blvd. The line, comprised of 143 single pole structures, will run approximately eight miles along the north side of SR 17.

The completed project delivers improved reliability for customers in Moses Lake and the greater Grant County area, enhancing Grant PUD’s ability to restore service to homes and

businesses in the event of an outage. This project also allows the utility to meet growing electric demands from customers. The new transmission line is estimated to be constructed by the end of the year and energized in early 2018.  Once completed, the project is estimated to cost $7.95 million.

“A resilient transmission system is a key element of our local electric grid. We’re committed to enhancing this critical link between regional power sources and our communities,” said Grant PUD Public Affairs Officer, Ryan Holterhoff.  “As our communities grow, we are continually looking for ways to improve service reliability to better power our customer’s way of life.”

Drivers on SR 17 shouldn’t expect any uncommon traffic slowdowns during the construction period. Crews working on the transmission line will typically be far enough off the highway as to not disrupt traffic flow. A permanent, gravel access road parallel to SR 17 along the line’s route will be installed and work will take place along this new access road.

Grant PUD began exploring options for this new transmission line in 2012 and in the following year launched a series of public meetings regarding the project.  As a part of those meetings, customers participated in the process to review various social and environmental impacts of the new transmission line and the preferred route. Based in part on public feedback, the current route was selected.

The red line shows the new transmission route.

The red line shows the new transmission route.

#                                                          #

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

Posted in Community, Press Releases, Public Power | Leave a comment

May 18, 2017 Ephrata local office hours change in June

EPHRATA, Wash. – In response to changes in customer preferences, and technological advances in customer service, Grant PUD office hours will change to 8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. June 1.

The changes align with Grant PUD’s desire to be responsive to local needs. Grant PUD began offering online payment options in 2007. At its inception, only seven percent of customers utilized this service. Today that number is over 40 percent and growing as more and more customers make the transition toward online payment platforms.

Grant PUD offers a number of billing and payment programs designed to meet the individual preference of customers. After unusually cold seasonal temperatures, bills were on average, 20-25 percent higher in January through March. To avoid the seasonal peaks and valleys that weather extremes bring, customers have the opportunity to smooth their monthly payments out with a level payment program called BudgetPay. This program gives customers the assurance of a predictable bill each month and makes managing a monthly budget easier. To make the change to BudgetPay call customer service at (509) 766-2505.

Customers will continue to have access to a customer service representative during the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling at (509) 766-2505 or visiting grantpud.org any time.

MEDIA CONTACT(S):

Public Affairs

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

Posted in Press Releases | Leave a comment

Grant PUD offers free, outdoor recreation opportunities along the Columbia

New boat launch at Crescent Bar, with limited parking, opens May 26

EPHRATA, Wash. – Local residents and visitors will have a number of outdoor opportunities along the Columbia River this summer recreation season.

Photo credit: Grant PUD Final work is underway for the Chinook Park boat launch, parking lot and day-use moorage at Crescent Bar. The facility is expect to open on May 26.

Photo credit: Grant PUD
Final work is underway for the Chinook Park boat launch, parking lot and day-use moorage at Crescent Bar. The facility is expect to open on May 26.

Grant PUD operates 19 recreation sites on or near the Columbia River. Recreation sites with boat launches include the Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Buckshot, Huntzinger, Wanapum Dam Lower, Wanapum Dam Upper, Vantage, Frenchman Coulee and Apricot Orchards. The new Chinook Park boat launch located off-island at Crescent Bar, will open to the public on May 26. Fuel will also be available at the Chinook Park boat launch when it opens.

Boaters should be mindful that, because of on-going construction in the Crescent Bar area, parking is limited at the Chinook Park boat launch. Those with off-site parking are encouraged to use that option.

The two-lane launch and boat dock is the first of several new and enhanced amenities that will be free and open to the general public visiting the Crescent Bar Recreation area. The new RV campground and other facilities, including parks, beaches and walking trails, are expected to open by late June to early July following several months of construction. The golf course is also now open throughout the season.

Grant PUD’s recreation sites offer day-use visitors free, family-friendly fun in the sun and are one of the many ways Grant PUD powers our local way of life. During the Memorial Day weekend, overnight camping, which requires a fee, will also available at four campgrounds: Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Sand Hollow, Rocky Coulee and Jackson Creek Fish Camp.  For information about Grant PUD’s recreation options, visit http://grantpud.org/recreation.

Grant PUD wants everyone to enjoy a safe time along the river by following these safety guidelines:

  • Water released from the dams can create hazardous boating conditions. Sudden water level fluctuations can impact the shoreline. Make sure your boat stays wet and anchor well off shore.
  • Safety barriers located above both Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams are there to keep everyone safe. Do not go beyond the safety barriers under any circumstances. If someone gets in trouble and goes beyond the barriers, call 911 immediately.
  • Check the weather forecast before starting out. Watch for any wave, wind and cloud changes that signal bad weather is heading your way.
  • Make sure water and weather conditions are safe before entering the water. Cold water reduces body heat 25 times faster than air at the same temperature. The Columbia River can be cold enough to cause serious harm. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty at our recreation sites. Please be careful.

#                                                          #

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

Posted in Community, Natural Resources, Press Releases, Recreation | Leave a comment

Customers to help shape direction of High Speed Network

Grant PUD requesting participation through online and phone surveys

EPHRATA, Wash. – Grant County residents have an opportunity to help shape possible expansion of Grant PUD’s High Speed Fiber Optic Network. On the heels of focus groups and public outreach meetings, customers can participate through an online survey by visiting grantpud.org and clicking on the “Fiber Optic Outreach Survey” button.

The survey will be available through May 14. The results will provide one of many reference points that Grant PUD Commissioners will use to determine policy related to expanding fiber optic service to county residents currently without access. Commissioners and staff recently held two public meetings to initiate dialogue with customers and determine preferences associated with possible expansion of the High Speed Fiber Optic Network. The service currently extends to 70 percent of county residents. Commissioners are expected to consider public comments and explore scenarios associated with possible expansion this summer.

In tandem with the online survey, a representative sample of customers will be contacted May 4 through May 7 by a third-party research firm to participate in a brief telephone survey. As always, customers should remember anyone claiming to call from Grant PUD will never ask for payment or Social Security information over the phone.

To find out if your home has access to one of the most robust internet connections in the U.S., visit http://grantpud.org/customer-service/high-speed-network or call customer service at 1 (888) 254-1899.

#                                                          #

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

Posted in Broadband, Community, Press Releases, Public Power | Leave a comment

Customer opportunity to weigh in on future of Fiber Optic Network

Grant PUD plans two public meetings to comment on scenarios for potential expansion to unserved areas

 EPHRATA, Wash. – Grant PUD is hosting two public meetings in April to provide customers an opportunity to learn and comment on possible expansion scenarios for the utility’s fiber optic system into unserved portions of the county.

The first meeting is Tuesday, April 25 at 2 p.m. at Grant PUD Headquarters, 30 C Street SW, Ephrata WA. The second meeting is Thursday, April 27 at 6 p.m. in the George Community Hall, 403 W Montmorency Blvd., George WA. During the meetings, expansion scenarios for the fiber optic system under consideration, including potential pros and cons, will be presented to public.

Customers are encouraged to attend the meetings and help Grant PUD shape the future of their High Speed Network. Along with the public meetings, Grant PUD will conduct a telephone & online survey in early May. Learn more at http://grantpud.org/customer-service/high-speed-network.

Posted in Broadband, Press Releases, Public Power | Leave a comment