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Commission recap 4-13-2021: Busy year — and recreation season — ahead

Grant PUD's old Lands and Recreation Department inaugurated a new name just after the first of the year and is gearing up for a busy recreation season, department manager Shannon Lowry told commissioners.

The "License Compliance & Lands Service Department" now has a name that better reflects its expanded duties related to federal license compliance, including managing Grant PUD's shorelines and recreation areas, and in providing GIS, permitting, real estate, and property management services Districtwide.

Work this year through June will include:

  • Weed spraying on hundreds of acres of Grant PUD lands to reduce invasive species and preserve native vegetation.
  • Removing 15 large hazardous trees on Grant PUD property adjacent to the Sunland Estates community.
  • Reviewing requests for new community docks for Columbia Cliffs and Sunland Estates.
  • Implementing safety upgrades to the maintenance facilities at Crescent Bar.
  • Coordinating with local law enforcement and community groups to prepare for the upcoming recreation season, Lowry said.

This summer, staff will also mobilize to survey recreation visitors and gather their opinions about Grant PUD's public recreation opportunities. Other work underway in the department includes completing float repairs at the Wanapum Upper Boat Launch, which was damaged by wind and wave action on the Columbia River over the past several years. The launch is just upriver of Wanapum Dam.

The department is also busy hiring a new lands specialist to help with an increasing workload associated with supporting Wholesale Fiber, Power Delivery, Power Production, and Internal Services on large capital projects, and onboarding a team of seasonal employees who do everything from groundskeeping and trash removal to answering visitors' questions.

Hear the discussion at 1:38:00 on the commission audio. View the presentation on pages 24-36 of the presentation materials.

Commissioners Also-

-Heard from Managing Director of Power Production Ty Ehrman, as he provided an overview of the efforts Grant PUD Power Production crews made to work through the challenges related to COVID-19 during 2020 and highlighting key activities and capital projects the group is scheduled to work on in 2021.

In 2020 the group finished the year spending 1.8% above its total $62.4 million budgeted. So far in 2021, $8.2 million of the $69.7 million budgeted for the year has been spent.

Power Production has 63 capital projects scheduled for 2021. The two largest projects are a new embankment on the Yakima side of Priest Rapids Dam as well as continued turbine, generator and unit controls upgrades at Priest Rapids Dam.

Ehrman said that following the review and approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of the project's environmental assessment, construction on the right embankment at Priest Rapids is tentatively scheduled to begin in June, but may experience some additional delays as crews continue to prepare for the start of project construction.

Ehrman also reported that crews recently began rehabbing turbine/generator unit number four (P04), the fourth unit of 10 at Priest Rapids Dam that will be refurbished. The project is part of the more than decade long task that began in 2016.

Hear the discussion beginning at 01:11:30 of the commission audio and see the full presentation on pages 1-23 of the presentation materials.

-- Heard from Enterprise Risk Manager Paul Dietz about efforts underway to get everyone at Grant PUD involved in managing risk to improve safety, control costs, take advantage of opportunities and address weaknesses to help ensure stable and predictable rates for Grant PUD customers.

Dietz and his team are rolling out a plan to improve Grant PUD's "risk culture" by encouraging all employees to become "risk owners." The plan includes employee education, security risk assessments by department and strategies for using insurance to further mitigate risk, cost effectively.

The effort will produce and implement an effective, enterprise risk management plan, Dietz said.

Hear the discussion at 1:59:00 on the commission audio. View the presentation on pages 37-53 of the presentation materials.

-Heard from Manager of Grant PUD's Compliance Program, Gene Austin provided an overview of the establishment of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, and its modern role of establishing reliability standards that are mandatory and enforceable with penalties for noncompliance.

Austin also outlined the efforts Grant PUD takes to meet the mandated reliability standards including the steps the organization takes to achieve the protection of its critical infrastructure.

There are currently eight open potential noncompliance violations that the group is reviewing with regulators. Austin said the review process may take months or even years to fully complete. In recent years 11 noncompliance violations have been closed.

Hear the discussion beginning at 02:34:35 of the commission audio and see the full presentation on pages 54-68 of the presentation materials.

-- Unanimously approved a $1,167,165 contract with Anixter Inc., of Portland, Oregon, Bidding Eaton Cooper Power Systems, and a $2,788,081.00 contract with General Pacific, Inc., of Fairview, Oregon, Howard Industries, both for distribution transformers. Both bids were the lowest, technically compliant bids received by Grant PUD. (Editor's note: The contact total has been updated from the original $1,137,165 to correct a math error that wasn't detected until after commissioner approval. Commissioners were briefed and approved the correction at their April 27 meeting.)

-- Unanimously approved a not-to-exceed $4 million contract with Star Protection Agency for security services around Grant PUD through July 2, 2024.

-- Unanimously approved a sale agreement in the amount of $10,500 with the City of Ephrata for 1.6 acres of property adjacent to Grant PUD's South Ephrata Substation to allow for the substation's expansion.