Commission highlights, 5/9/2023

$75 million package of electric system upgrades nears completion

An approximately $75 million package of electric-system upgrades over 10 sites around Grant County will be complete by late next year to reduce outage times and increase the electric supply for residential, businesses and industrial growth.

Grant PUD Project Manager David Klinkenberg gave commissioners an update Tuesday.

The projects, which are known collectively as “Design Build 2,” include five new substations, upgrades to existing substations and the new, 10-mile, 115 kV Red Rock transmission line to increase the electric supply to Royal City.

Six of the 10 projects are more than 60% complete. Four are already energized and serving customers in the Quincy, George and Royal City areas.

Construction on the Red Rock Substation began May 4. Red Rock Transmission Line property easements have been acquired, and the design process is 90% complete.

Planning for Design Build 2 began in 2018. Early cost estimates ranged from $42.6 million to $62.6 million.

Delays brought about by the COVID pandemic, resulting supply chain shortages, inflationary cost increases and changes in the overall project scope bumped the cost to $75.3 million with an additional planned scoping change order proposed that would increase total cost to $104 million.

“It’s a lot of work. It’s a project that demonstrates the importance of teamwork,” Commissioner Tom Flint said.

“You guys need to know that we are supportive of that growth,” Commissioner Larry Schaapman said. “Those are good changes, but they’re costly. Growth is a benefit to all residents of this county and the core customers.”

The group of projects takes its name “Design Build” from a state-approved alternative project-delivery method that uses a prime contractor for both design and construction phases. This creates efficiencies that allow various projects to be carried out simultaneously.

Grant PUD became the first public utility in the state to use the Design Build process with a first round of projects from 2016 to October 2017. Work included two new substations in Quincy and upgrades to six other substations.

Hear the full discussion at 15:50:09 on the commission audio. View the presentation on pages 2-12 of the presentation materials

Commissioners hear how new state laws will impact Grant PUD

Several laws recently passed by the Washington state legislature and signed by Governor Jay Inslee will likely have long-term effects for Grant PUD. Ryan Holterhoff, Senior Policy Analyst- Government Affairs, and Chuck Allen, Senior Manager of External Affairs & Communications, talked about the new laws during their Legislative Update to the commission on May 9.

One bill, (SB 5145) sponsored by Sen. Shelly Short of the 7th Legislative District, amended existing legislation to clarify liability protections associated with public recreational use of hydroelectric projects licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This bill, which passed unanimously by both the state house and senate, is a positive outcome for Grant PUD and other FERC hydropower operators in the state, and for continued public recreational access to their reservoirs, stated Holterhoff.

Another bill, (HB 1329), applies when the National Weather Service delivers a heat-related alert for the area. During the alert, customers whose service has been disconnected lack of payment can request to have their power turned back on and utilities may require a repayment plan to help the reconnected customers catch up on their outstanding bills. 

“The last thing we want to do is to disconnect customers,” Holterhoff said. “Disconnections are typically something that’s only done as a last resort.”

Other bills that were passed include state coordination with power utilities on addressing the risk of rolling blackouts, permitting sites for clean energy power plants, and transmission powerline planning. 

Holterhoff added that Grant PUD and other Columbia River hydro operators in the Northwest are closely monitoring Columbia River Treaty negotiations between U.S. Department of State and its Canadian counterparts. The Department has said it is hopeful to have a framework for an agreement announced as early as June. 

Hear the full discussion at 51:03:06 on the commission audio. View the presentation on pages 14-29 of the presentation materials


Commissioners also:

— Unanimously approved amendments to the Grant PUD Code of Ethics Policy. Changes include rules governing “de minimis” use of Grant PUD resources for private benefit, outside employment, off-duty conduct and conditions for employment of relatives. See the detailed changes on pages 8-35 of the commission packet.

— Unanimously approved Resolution 9016, pre-qualifying contractors to perform electrical work for Grant PUD. The evaluated contractors had previously completed a questionnaire, provided a financial statement, summary of work experience, list of previous projects. A group of Grant PUD employees representing Finance, Power Delivery Construction and Maintenance and Power Delivery Engineering reviewed the applications and chose the qualifying contractors. For detailed information, see pages 36-42 of the commission packet.

— Unanimously approved Resolution 9017, accepting a bid and awarding a contract to Wesco/Anixter to supply 15kV underground conductor. The contractor submitted the lowest bid at $12.6 million. The wire is needed for new line extensions, new customer requests, upgrading and/or replacing aged or damaged cable, system improvements and emergency inventory. For detailed information, see pages 36-42 of the commission packet.

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