Commission summary, 7/12/2022, Hydropower lobby urges Grant PUD to educate lawmakers

Members of the Washington Public Utilities Districts Association (WPUDA) urged Grant PUD commissioners to "speak with one voice" to state and federal lawmakers about hydropower's critical, carbon-free role in keeping the lights on in the Pacific Northwest.

Without this resource, the lights go out," WPUDA Executive Director George Caan told commissioners, citing wind and solar powers' inability to provide around-the-clock electricity on demand. Hydroelectric dams store water in their reservoirs for use on demand, including to supply extra power when wind and solar aren't generating.

Accompanying Caan on his visit to Grant PUD Tuesday were WPUDA President Gary Arseneault, who is also a Chelan PUD commissioner; Liz Anderson, the agency's deputy executive director; and Nicholas Garcia, policy director.

Their visit comes following the Biden Administration's release of two reports this week that pointed to the removal of the lower four Snake River Dams as one of several to measures that would restore salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake rivers. An earlier report, released by Washington Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee, reaches a similar conclusion. None of the reports explicitly call for the dams' removal.

The General Managers of Grant, Chelan and Douglas counties have expressed their support for the Snake River dams in a joint column to local newspapers.

Hear the discussion at 2:48:16 on the commission audio.

Fiber network revenues continue to climb; network continues to expand

Grant PUD's wholesale fiber network is on pace to bring in more than $12.5 million in revenue this year, which will help ensure that the utility's covers the cost of operating the expanding network.

Terry McKenzie, Senior Manager of Grant PUD Fiber, provided that information in a quarterly fiber update to commissioners on Tuesday.

In each of the first five months of 2022, revenues from the network more than covered operations and maintenance costs. Revenues grew by 3% from January to May. The network also added 1,073 new fiber subscribers in the same time frame. Sixty-nine percent of customers with fiber available to them are using the service.

McKenzie also gave an update on the fiber expansion project. The utility has so far spent $8.349 million this year to expand the fiber network and is on track to spend approximately $20.33 million by year's end. New fiber areas for 2022 include rural parts of Mattawa, Soap Lake, Winchester, Warden and Quincy.

View the full report on pages 1-15 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 51:50 on the commission audio.

Electric system upgrades are keeping Lands Services personnel busy

Commissioners Tuesday heard from Senior Manager of Environmental Affairs Ross Hendrick that Grant PUD's ongoing work to improve reliability and expand capacity of its electric system is keeping the utility's lands services employees busy, permitting, seeking appraisals for and acquiring the land to make it happen.

Projects underway in the planning and/or construction phase are part of the $140 million "Quincy Transmission Expansion Plan (QTEP)," a package of new substations, two new transmission lines and equipment improvements. For more information on these projects, see the June 14, 2022 commission summary here.

The License Compliance and Lands Services Department also oversees recreation-area management, oversite of leased lands and land-use compliance around the Wanapum and Priest Rapids Dam reservoirs on the Columbia River. Their work helps preserve Grant PUD lands for public recreational access, dam operations and environmental protection.

Key projects from April through June include a new floating pad near the Chinook marina at Crescent Bar to improve river access for paddlecraft, a wood barrier at Crescent Bar's Riverbend Park to prevent sand from the beach from blowing onto the adjacent lawn, and a dedicated loading/unloading zone at Crescent Bar's Riverbend Park.

View the full report on pages 16-47 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:09:11 on the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

  • Commissioners also approved a direct purchase for $19,926 from Inland Pipe & Supply for materials needed for ongoing hydro improvement projects. Commissioners needed to approve the purchase because the purchaser had exceeded an allowable limit of $15,000 for direct purchases. Hear the discussion at 3:48:53 on the commission audio.

  • Heard from Enterprise Risk Manager Paul Dietz that his team continues work use computer modeling and analytics to apply standard risk measures across GCPUD. Their work extends to reducing risk to the utility's energy supply and working with employees and Grant PUD managers to mitigate risk. View the full report on pages 48-61 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:59:00 on the commission audio.

  • Heard from Compliance Program Manager Gene Austin of ongoing efforts to ensure Grant PUD operations comply with hundreds of critical infrastructure and energy-reliability requirements enforced by the federal North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and other agencies. Federal compliance experts audit Grant PUD every three years. The next audit will happen in late 2023. Austin said he and his team will have more details about the scope of the next audit in approximately May 2023. "This work is critically vital to our continued success," General Manager & CEO Rich Wallen said of the work. Fines for failing to comply could cost in the millions of dollars. "This team keeps us focused on the areas we need to be focused on." View the full report on pages 62-75 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 2:24:25 on the commission audio.

  • Reviewed a request to approve a new contract for janitorial services from Del Sol, Inc. Grant PUD's present contract with Del Sol was supposed to expire in July 2023, however, because of additional expenses primarily associated with COVID response and extra cleaning to sanitize work areas to prevent outbreaks, the not to exceed funds will expire the end of July 2022. The new contract, which is up for action during the July 26 commission meeting, has a funding limit of $2.046 million and would expire June 30, 2025. Hear the discussion at 3:44:15 on the commission audio.

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