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Commission Meeting 7-13-2021: Summertime activities and projects heat up around Grant PUD recreation areas

The summer months are always a busy time for the License Compliance and Lands Services Department. So far, this summer is following suit. Several capital projects, efforts to resolve shoreline management issues, permitting and GIS support across the utility along with the continued maintenance and operation of the recreation areas are keeping the group as busy as ever.

Shannon Lowry, manager of Lands and Recreation, told commissioners during Tuesday's meeting that except for Crescent Bar, revenues from campground fees for the remaining campsites combined are up approximately 177% in 2021 compared to last year. Overall revenues for Crescent Bar facilities, which includes campground fees, fuel sales and golf course fees, are up 31% this year compared to 2020.

"Across the board we are seeing a lot of folks wanting to be out and about," said Lowry.

To learn more about visitors' opinions of Grant PUD's recreation areas, staff is in the process of gathering survey responses from overnight and day-use guests. The survey, which is part of Grant PUD's federal license requirement to monitor recreation activities, is scheduled to remain open until mid-September.

Preliminary data from the survey responses is expected to be ready later this fall. Final analysis will be available early next year.

The group has recently completed the successful removal of several floating docks from the Vantage marina. The floats, which were not in compliance with Grant PUD's license to operate Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams, were the property of a business that operated the marina until late last year. In the upcoming months, additional phases are planned to bring the area fully into compliance.

Other completed or planned work include:

  • Planning and preparations for the implementation of two contracts. One to provide the operations and maintenance of Crescent Bar's recreation facilities and another contract to manage the wastewater and water system at Crescent Bar. Two companies are currently under contract with Grant PUD to fulfill these needs. Both contracts will expire at the end of this year.
  • Looking to renew an interlocal agreement with Kittitas County that will allow for the continued co-operation of the Vantage Boat Launch, including the county's commitment to continue with the maintenance and operation of the restrooms at that site.
  • Continuing to support other departments within the company with various permitting and property needs.
  • Installing a security fence around the Crescent Bar maintenance building.

Hear the full report at 1:39:08 of the commission audio and see the full report on pages 35-49 of the staff presentation materials.

Commissioners also:

Heard from Managing Director of Power Production Ty Ehrman that the group has met this year's turbine/generator unit availability goals for five out of the six months.

The Power Production team has recently collaborated with the district's Wholesale Marketing group to look for opportunities for the utility to make the most of the anticipated high summer and early fall wholesale energy prices.

Initial analysis shows the maintenance schedule changes may allow the utility to realize more than $629,000 in revenues that would not have been possible if the units were undergoing upkeep when wholesale prices are expected to be high.

Construction on the Priest Rapids Right Embankment Improvement Project is scheduled to begin in October.

Hear Ehrman's full report at 1:18:15 of the commission audio and view the presentation on pages 17-34 of the staff presentation materials.

Heard from Enterprise Risk Manager Paul Dietz about work underway to identify, track and rate types of risk faced by Grant PUD and define risk tolerance throughout Grant PUD. An external consultant is helping with this work.

The hot weather has increased demand for power around the county and region, Dietz said, and with increased demand has come higher prices for power purchased on the wholesale market. Drought has helped reduce generation elsewhere in the region.

Grant PUD has power-sales contracts in place that protect against large swings in market prices and low water years. Grant PUD has not experienced the power shortages experienced elsewhere in the region.

Dietz and his team are negotiating what they expect to be 20-30% higher insurance rates, as insurers pay for wildfire damage to utilities around the region. Insurers' concerns also include COVID impacts on utility operations and the cybersecurity attacks on the fuel supply that have happened elsewhere in the country, he said.

Dietz and his team are studying risks involved in Grant PUD's potential construction and operation of a modern, small modular nuclear power plant. More information will be available at future meetings, he said. The Risk Team has also been instrumental in creating the risk-rating system that has steered Grant PUD's ongoing efforts to keep customers, employees and contractors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commission President Larry Schaapman asked that staff give the commission risk-related updates more often than the usual quarterly report.

View pages 1-16 in the presentation materials for more information. Hear the discussion at 24:59 on the commission audio.

— Learned from Gene Austin, manager of Electric Reliability and Compliance, that Grant PUD continues to solidify its tools, program plans and documentation following an excellent reliability audit in 2020.

The external audit happens every three years to ensure Grant PUD dams, electric system, cybersecurity and other systems comply with hundreds of strict federal guidelines for reliability. The next audit happens in 2023. Gene and his team will begin preparations for that audit next summer.

View pages 50-66 in the presentation materials for more information. Hear the discussion at 2:53:56 on the commission audio.

Reviewed a plan by Grant PUD to enter into a new power-sale agreement with Avangrid for a 10% "slice" of Grant PUD's portion of energy generated at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.

The 3-year contract would lock in a stable price for the energy, ensuring a predictable revenue stream and protecting Grant PUD from drought years, when less water in the river means less energy generation. The proposed new deal would last from 2022 through 2024. Avangrid is already receiving a 10% slice of power under a separate, 3-year contract that expires in December.

Terms of the two contracts are very similar, Rich Flanigan, senior manager of Wholesale Marketing, told commissioners, who'll vote on the proposed deal at their July 27 meeting. Grant PUD also has slice contracts with Morgan Stanley – for 33% of generation – and Shell Energy – for 20%.

View pages 67-126 in the presentation materials for more information. Hear the discussion at 2:43:55 on the commission audio.

Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the issue and sale of the utility's Priest Rapids Hydroelectric Project Junior Lien Revenue Bonds. The sale is necessary to help fund capital projects at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. This resolution authorizes up to a maximum of $300 million through Jan. 1, 2027. Read more on pages 9-33 of the commission packet