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Commission summary, 9/13/2022 — Mastodon fossil sends jaws dropping around commission table. This and more...

Commissioner Nelson Cox examines the estimated 6-million-year-old jawbone of a Ringhold Mastodon recovered in March from the Upper Hanford Reach.

"Now for some fun. Show-and-Tell time," Brett Lenz, Grant PUD manager of Cultural Resources told commissioners Tuesday, after he finished what is usually a very routine and subdued quarterly business report.

He reached under the table where commissioners were gathered, pulled out a black backpack, reached inside and withdrew part of the toothy jawbone section of a Ringold mastodon, approximately 6 million years old. He set it on the table as commissioners and a few staff in the room gathered around, awe-struck and fascinated.

Lenz said he was surfing Facebook when he, totally at random, came across a photograph of the jawbone, posted by a rockhound who'd found it in March on upper Hanford Reach. The rockhound's dog had sniffed it out, and the rockhound was hoping someone on Facebook could identify it.

"I knew right away it was a mastodon," Lenz said, of the fossilized jawbone's thick, jagged teeth, which the animal used to bite through woody vegetation, it's main diet.

Lenz contacted the rockhound and introduced himself, showing some ID to prove his credentials as an expert in area archaeology and geology at Grant PUD. The rockhound had left the fossil very near the place he'd found it but hidden from sight. He agreed to show Lenz where it was.

"I didn't want to take custody of it until the Army Corps of Engineers' team had a look," Lenz said. The fossil was on federal land. The Corps is the land's custodian.

The Corps arrived with its own cultural experts, Lenz and the Wanapum River Patrol. The Corps took the fossil into custody. Lenz applied for a permit to study and display the fossil, which was found on what is recognized as the ancestral homeland of the Wanapum People.

He now has the fossil for six months to study. It will soon be on display at the Wanapum Heritage Center before heading to its permanent home at the Visitor Center at Ice Harbor Dam.

"It was fantastic," Lenz said of the random find on Facebook and recovery of the fossil. "Before I worked for the PUD I spent four summers in Ukraine digging these things up."

A mastodon is the ancient predecessor of the elephant. It has a long trunk, curved tusks, and a coat of warm fur. Its skull is squat – flatter than the tall skull of a wooly mammoth, whose teeth are flat for grazing. Mastodons are shorter than mammoths, with more massive bodies.

Ringhold mastodons are named for the region they once inhabited that covers what is today most of Grant County and parts of Benton, Franklin and Adams counties. The land and its vegetation looked different back then, Lenz said, but could have included lowland woody areas west of Richland, in the Frenchman Hills or near Union Gap.

View Lenz's full presentation on pages 13-30 of the presentation materials. The mastodon part starts on page 23. Hear the full discussion at 1:40:11 (mastodon, 1:52:27) on the commission audio.


Staff explores changes to residential new construction fees

Grant PUD is missing an opportunity to bring in approximately $1.25 million in revenue over the past three years from fees it charges to builders for electrical service to new residential construction projects, said Ron Alexander, Managing Director of Power Delivery, and Bob Kakaley, Distribution Systems Supervisor.

Alexander and Kakaley told the commissioners that the fees the utility charges for services to new residential construction sites should be updated. The updated fees would be more in line with Grant PUD's costs to provide the services. The fees charged to the property developer often do not cover the costs of vehicles arriving on site, let alone the cost of materials and labor, they explained.

Power Delivery Engineering, Customer Solutions and Accounting will continue partnering on this subject and return to the commission with proposals for fee increases and also possible modifications to services, including no longer providing conduit for underground electrical developments, itemization of bills, and other accounting process changes.

View the full presentation on pages 1-12 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 4:26:41 on the commission audio.


Commissioners also:

— Approved a change order increasing the not-to-exceed contract amount by $260,998 for a new contract total of $1.829 million to GE-Alstom Grid, LLC to extend its Energy Management System software support services through Aug. 31, 2023. The software ensures that Grant PUD remains complaint in its obligation to protect critical energy infrastructure. (See page 12 in packet here.)


— Heard a proposal from Julie Pyper, senior manager of the Enterprise Project Management Office, for new contracts with Arch Staffing and Consulting and Volt, two companies that provide consultants with a wide variety of expertise, including information technology, construction, electricity and change management. Current contracts with both expire in December 2022. The new contracts would extend through December 2025. The proposed Arch contract would not exceed $10. 4 million. The Volt contract would not exceed $8.6 million. Pyper told commissioners these contracts are crucial to supplement the capacity and capabilities of in-house staff. Use of consultants provides Grant PUD the expertise it needs on a temporary basis, eliminating the need to hire full-time staff only to lay them off when specific projects are complete.

View the full presentation on pages 1-12 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 1:00:17 on the commission audio.

— Heard from Tom Dresser, Manager of Fish and Wildlife and Water Quality of two milestones — record returns of sockeye salmon past Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams and consensus agreement by parties to the Priest Rapids salmon and Steelhead Settlement Agreement on Grant PUD's annual hatchery production.

A record 655,000 sockeye passed Priest Rapids Dam this season, which can be attributed to favorable ocean conditions and collaborative efforts implemented by several parties including the three mid-Columbia PUD's (Grant and Chelan PUDs) and Okanagan Nation Alliance to operate and release sockeye fry from the hatchery facility near Penticton, B.C., use of a water management tool (Douglas PUD) and habitat restoration projects. Regional information indicated that approximately 80% of the returning adult sockeye were destined for the Okanogan River Basin, spelled Okanagan in Canada.

As a result of an agreement reached on hatchery recalculation, Grant PUD produces 8.4 million salmon annually to mitigate for unavoidable impacts for the operation of Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. The agreement provides Grant PUD with a high level of budget certainty over the next 10 years, as it does not require new hatchery facilities; operation, maintenance, monitoring and evaluation requirements are more predictable.

View the full presentation on pages 31-46 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 2:08:35 on the commission audio.