News

PUD Board briefed on opportunity to partner with Land Trust to protect unique property

by Kimberlee Craig | May 16, 2016

A potential partnership between Chelan Douglas Land Trust and Chelan PUD for purchase of 25 acres of Columbia River shoreline along the loop trail in Douglas County would place the land in a conservation easement to benefit the community for generations to come, PUD commissioners heard Monday.

“This is really significant,” said PUD Board President Randy Smith. “We have an obligation to ensure long-term conservation of that area… I think that’s a very good move.”

The property runs south from Odabashian Bridge, between the river and the Apple Capital Loop Trail, and includes the unique sand dunes area. It is currently owned by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which acquired the property years ago for a then-proposed highway. It has since been declared surplus to state needs. The land is in the Rock Island Hydro Project boundary.

The community benefit in keeping the land open to the public spurred the partnership between the PUD and the Land Trust, said Bob Bugert, executive director. “It provides for a conservation easement in perpetuity on this environmentally unique land – an opportunity that doesn’t come along often,” Bugert said.

The transaction will include a proposal to federal dam regulators to realign current project boundaries on some adjacent property owned by WSDOT, said Jeff Smith, District Services managing director.  Approval would remove approximately 15.3 acres of land located both south and north of the Bridge from project boundaries, realigning the boundary to parallel the bike/walking trail. This would remove existing encumbrances on that WSDOT land. It also would add 3 acres to the project boundary on the south side of the bridge. The net effect is aligning the project boundary with the trail.

If approved, the District would own and operate the property, “preserving its environmental attributes and passive recreational use for future generations,” Smith said. “The effort also would allow the full economic development potential of the land upland of the trail to be realized.”

He commended state transportation officials for their “collaborative spirit” in supporting the partnership. Dan Sarles, WSDOT regional administrator, and Dave Bierschbach, assistant administrator, attended Monday’s meeting to outline the state process for PUD commissioners.

Discussion on the purchase terms are continuing. The parties will return to seek board approval of the purchase in the coming months, Smith said.  

In other business Monday, commissioners: 

  • Heard that cumulative inflows to Lake Chelan since last fall have been the highest in 64 years due to higher-than-normal precipitation and snowpack and warmer temperatures in April. That caused the PUD to begin spill on April 27 of up to 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and to close Riverwalk Park boat launch and Powerhouse Park. With cooler temperatures, spill gradually has been reduced to 4,000 cfs. Lower spill also allowed reopening of Riverwalk boat launch last Friday and Powerhouse Park swim beach and shoreline. Senior analyst Becky Keating said spill for controlling lake level is expected to continue into June. Lake level will likely go up and down by small amounts through the rest of this year’s runoff period, which is about three weeks earlier than normal. Lake Chelan will be well above the minimum target elevation of 1,094 feet above sea level on June 1. Chelan PUD expects to meet all minimum target elevations this year.
  • Heard the good news that early bottom-line financial results are better than expected. Year-to-date results are $7.6 million ahead of budget and the forecast is to end the year at $82.7 million, $6.6 million ahead of budget, said Mark O’Bryan, strategic financial planning director. The District remains on track to meet long-term financial goals. O’Bryan recommended staying the course on strategic goals.
  • Declared an emergency and directed staff to negotiate for replacement head covers for one to four units at Rocky Reach Dam.
  • Heard a staff presentation on long-term debt philosophy to address debt leverage ratio; interest rate risks; liquidity; new bond issues; future electric rates; and Public Power Benefit.
  • Reviewed the initial energy portfolio analysis done to write a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) as required by state law. The 2016 IRP will outline the sources of power needed to supply PUD customers through 2026. It describes the mix of resources from generation, conservation and efficiency that will meet current and projected needs at the lowest reasonable cost and risk to the utility and its customer-owners. Discussion will continue at board meetings in June with commission action set for June 20. Comments can be sent to contactus@chelanpud.org.

Upcoming events:

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The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 6, 2016, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.  

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Visit our Safety and Outage Center for information, or to report an outage, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-PUD-8123.

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