PUD commissioners hear about Chelan & Leavenworth substation site analysis

by Suzanne Hartman | Mar 06, 2017

The mayor of Leavenworth and several residents from the north shore area of Chelan attended the Chelan PUD Commission meeting today to provide input on sites under consideration for new substations in each location. Commissioners heard positive feedback regarding the options that have been identified for Leavenworth.  Many Chelan area citizens, however, expressed concern about the potential visual impacts of the Chelan options.

The PUD has expressed increasing concern during the past two years about the need for additional substation capacity in Chelan and Leavenworth as loads continue to grow, as seen during this past winter heating season.

Mayor Cheri Farivar said her community appreciates the process used to identify the Leavenworth substation location options.  The Mayor said she could support two of the three identified options. The Leavenworth options increase the ability to meet peak loads and increase reliability through providing multiple transmission paths into the Leavenworth area.

Chelan area citizens commented on the three current options which were identified as alternatives to locations offered earlier in the process. Concerns about the earlier locations focused on wanting substation sites that weren’t visible and were more remote.  More remote alternatives, however, require higher transmission poles and more distribution lines that potentially could impair views.

John Stoll, managing director of Customer Utilities talked specifically about the three Chelan sites in opening remarks to the commission. “The sites under consideration and recommended by community members are located a considerable distance from where the load (customers) is located,” Stoll stated.  He added that there would be more costs due to the need for additional infrastructure.

Stoll also mentioned that the new engineering analysis reveals an aesthetic tradeoff of a substation located closer to homes versus having to put more “wire-in-the-air” from remote substations to get the power back to where it is needed.

One Chelan Heights community member, Michael Gibb, who joined the community focus group in mid-2016 but speaking on his own behalf, expressed primary interest in the Washington Federal site (see attached map showing the three locations under consideration in Chelan) in order to meet the near-term need. He also suggested that the PUD should purchase a second site, the “Uhrich” site for future needs. Doing so, he said, would give potential property owners and developers a heads up that a substation is planned at that location. He also indicated that the number of transmission and distribution wires passing overhead and potentially blocking lake views was unacceptable and that the PUD should consider working with the community on a customer surcharge to have the distribution wires put underground. Other nearby residents expressed similar concerns.

Another resident, Clint Campbell expressed concern with the Washington Federal site and the potential impact it could have on property near the golf course that he wants to develop.

Commissioner Congdon stated that we [PUD] have been listening and doing outreach for more than 18 months. This has delayed the project and likely means more costs, but we aren’t the PUD of the past where we simply build something and don’t ask the community. We have asked – we’ve even knocked on doors looking for suitable sites. No site will be suitable to everyone.

Commissioner Arseneault expressed concern about how costs of the three Chelan options are escalating and what the potential impact might be on other Chelan PUD customers. He also said he was interested in considering a customer surcharge as suggested by Mr. Gibbs.

No decisions were reached today. The issue is scheduled to be discussed again at the next Commission meeting on March 20 as the District seeks to bring the process to a conclusion.  The District has been working with the Chelan/Manson community since August of 2015 and the Leavenworth community since January of 2016 on substation siting plans.

The Commission also heard a presentation from Jeff Osborn, License Compliance supervisor, and a member of the District team working the Port of Douglas County, the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Douglas County and the city of East Wenatchee on acquisition and naming for a new recreation and conservation area just south of the Odabashian Bridge. The property became available when the Washington Dept. of Transportation declared it surplus to their needs in 2016. It’s a stretch of land along the Columbia River – and in the Rock Island Reservoir – that has been the focus of many community attempts to try and secure. Through the generosity of former PUD employee Cliff Bates and his wife Mary, along with the willingness of the Land Trust to participate in obtaining a conservation easement for the property, Chelan PUD was able to move forward. The new natural area does not include the beachfront that is owned by the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources, but there will be trail access to the beach. The area will remain largely undeveloped with limited amenities and designated trails.

The Commission affirmed the popular vote selection of Coyote Dunes Natural Area. The final step in the process is for the PUD to gain approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the new boundaries. It’s anticipated that the area will be ready for public use sometime in 2019.

In other Commission business:

  • Were briefed on efforts to move forward with a study to regionalize water and wastewater treatment programs operating in the Upper Wenatchee Valley. Three local governments, Chelan County and the cities of Leavenworth and Cashmere originally approached the PUD to fund a study under the District’s Public Power Benefit program. The Peshastin Water/Wastewater District was added to the study earlier this year. The study is designed to look at efficiencies and cost savings that could be realized through regionalization and consolidating services under one entity. It is scheduled to be complete at the end of 2017;
  • Heard from the Finance Team that due to the District’s strong financial performance and stability, there are opportunities to revise financial policies related to cash-on-hand and rate of return. The Commission learned that the District is well ahead of its peer utilities with financial policies looked upon favorably by rating agencies.
  • Received word that a bill allowing PUDs to use unit pricing in contract bidding has cleared the Washington State Senate unanimously. It now heads to the House for consideration. This clears up a long-standing practice that hadn’t been codified under state statute and will mean continued efficiencies for PUDs in their contract work.

Upcoming events:

  • March 12 – Daylight Savings Time starts – Spring Forward!
  • March 18 – Entiat Kite Festival – Kiwanis Park, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • March 20 – Board meeting, 10 a.m.
  • March 30 – Board workshop, 9 a.m., Wenatchee boardroom
  • March 31 – Mariachi Festival – 6 – 8 p.m. – Wenatchee Valley College


The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 20, 2017, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.  

Chelan PUD records most commission meetings, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at
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