Commission Meeting News

Chelan PUD board partners with land trust to protect unique property

by Kimberlee Craig | Nov 21, 2016

People involved in the five-year effort to protect the property for recreation include, from left: Jeff Smith, Chelan PUD, Cliff and Mary Bates; Sen. Linda Evans Parlette; Dave Bierschbach, WSDOT; and Curt Soper and Bob Bugert, Chelan Douglas Land Trust. A unique natural area along the Apple Capital Loop Trail in Douglas County that features sand dunes and river access will be protected for community use now and for future generations following its expected purchase by Chelan County PUD with financial support from the Chelan Douglas Land Trust, if federal regulators approve.

Chelan PUD commissioners Monday authorized the purchase of the 26.45 acres of land for its fair market value of $458,000. As part
of the agreement, the District will grant a conservation easement to the Land Trust, which is donating $250,000 toward the purchase price in recognition of the recreation benefits.

“It’s been a long time coming and to be part of preserving (the property) for our public in perpetuity is a meaningful thing,” said Commissioner Dennis Bolz.

Curt Soper, Land Trust executive director, said the commitment between all parties that resulted in the purchase is as unique as the land it protects. 

“It’s been an honor and delight for the Land Trust to be a partner with Chelan PUD on this project, because it’s an absolute gem,” Soper said.

The property runs south from Odabashian Bridge, between the Columbia River and the Apple Capital Loop Trail. It is 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 PUD’s Rock Island Hydro Project boundary.

Key financial support for the Land Trust’s involvement came from retired Chelan PUD employee Cliff Bates and his wife, Mary, who were applauded at Monday’s meeting. Bates now lives near Quincy after serving 25 years as a system operator and chief operator at Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams. He retired in 2002. The couple was among the original supporters of the proposal to keep the riverfront open for recreation rather than building the highway.

“I think the public will be really pleased with what you’ve done,” Bates said, in recapping his interest in preserving the riverfront since the late 1960s.

The transaction includes a request to federal dam regulators to realign project boundaries on some adjacent property owned by WSDOT, said Jeff Smith, District Services managing director.  The net effect is aligning the project boundary with the trail, both upstream and downstream of the Odabashian Bridge.

“This is a significant moment in history for Chelan County PUD and its customer-owners,” Smith said.

Federal regulators also must approve the conservation easement. Depending on the terms of the approval, the PUD will make a one-time payment of $17,000 to $22,000 to the Land Trust’s Stewardship Fund for perpetual compliance monitoring of the easement. PUD staff believes the purchase is consistent with its responsibilities under the federal license for operating Rock Island Dam.

Smith thanked state transportation officials for their willingness to support the partnership.  Dave Bierschbach, WSDOT assistant regional administrator, thanked the PUD for stepping forward to help secure the property for public access and for its collaboration during the five years it took to complete the agreement.

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, PUD Board President Randy Smith and General Manager Steve Wright thanked Smith for his leadership. “Every organization needs a compass as to what’s important to the community and Jeff certainly was that for this project,” Wright said. 

In other business Monday, commissioners: 

  • Celebrated the official closing of the contract to rebuild Entiat Park and construct the Entiatqua Trail. PUD staff and Entiat Mayor Keith Vradenburg noted the significant collaboration with the city and community that brought the project in below budget while exceeding stakeholder expectations. The PUD rebuilt the park under recreation responsibilities in the new license to operate Rocky Reach Dam.  It is operated by the city of Entiat.  After reviewing final changes, board members ratified the contract with Hurst Construction of Wenatchee for $6.2 million and approved remaining payment.  
  • Held the second hearing on the proposed 2017 budget to gather feedback from customer-owners and review updates since the Nov. 7 hearing. Changes included a slight improvement in the bottom line to an expected $86 million due to an improved operating revenue forecast. Forecast spending on major projects was revised down as cost estimates and scheduling were fine-tuned. Information about the proposed budget is posted at 2017 Budget. Commissioners will be asked to approve the budget at the Dec. 5 meeting.
  • Authorized changes in the contract to rehabilitate units B5 and B8 in the first powerhouse at Rock Island Dam to reduce the risk of cost increases while focus shifts to modernizing units B1-B4.  Commissioners directed staff to order major components for B5 and B8 even though that work is now scheduled for 2020.
  • Heard updates on several Public Power Benefit development projects – Rocky Reach Visitor Center improvements to increase visitor counts and splash pad feasibility studies, an economic analysis tool and a report on the results of the day-use pass pilot study. Commissioners agreed with a staff recommendation that the splash pad and Visitor Center be placed on hold until possible federal legislation and/or regulatory action is taken to address spending in project boundaries and license terms.
  • Received an update on Public Power Benefit broadband expansion. Managing directors Mike Coleman, Fiber and Telecom, and John Stoll, Customer Utilities, recapped the collaboration that resulted in coordinating electric system safety and reliability improvements with fiber expansion.  The fiber network follows the path of power lines. Investing time in engineering and planning meant construction started a little later than expected. By year end, fiber crews expect to complete network access to 750 locations, less than the target of 1,038 due to the need to address safety conditions. Coleman also identified 2017 fiber in-fill and expansion locations to reach 928 more homes and businesses in Cashmere, Chelan, Leavenworth, Manson and Sunnyslope. 
  • Received an update on renewable diesel fuel and the good news that the PUD supplier is an industry leader in using oil other than palm to protect rainforests in Southeast Asia. Details on the PUD’s renewable diesel use to reduce carbon emissions are posted at chelanpud.org in the “Learning Center.”

Upcoming events:

  • Nov. 24 – Thanksgiving holiday, PUD offices closed
  • Dec. 5 – Board meeting, 10 a.m.
  • Dec. 19 – Board meeting, 10 a.m.
  • Dec. 26 – Christmas Day holiday observed, PUD offices closed

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 The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.