Commission Meeting News

PUD board reviews projects guided by priorities to invest in dams and pay down debt

by Kimberlee Craig | May 14, 2018

Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday reviewed progress on major investments at Rocky Reach and Chelan dams and those proposed at Rock Island, positive first quarter financial results and Public Power Benefit projects. Those projects are guided by strategic priorities to:

  • Invest in people and key assets
  • Pay down debt, and
  • Fund Public Power Benefit projects as revenues allow

Staff reported on successful work at Rocky Reach that includes finishing repairs to correct a design flaw on the first of four large units, refurbishing three cranes and rewinding stators on the four largest units. Work on the second of the large turbines will finish next year and is on track to complete all four by 2021. (0:45 on the audio recording)

Dan Garrison, Hydro Operations director, also outlined work planned this summer to repaint the inside of the surge tank above the Chelan Falls powerhouse. The project requires idling the two hydro units from mid-July to early October. Crews will do maintenance needed on the units at the same time.

Planning to rehab the eight horizontal turbines in the second powerhouse at Rock Island Dam continues, including analysis of alternate construction approaches. Board members encouraged staff to further investigate a “design/build” or “general contractor/construction management” alternative to improve collaboration with vendors and ultimately improve quality and equipment life. Plans are to start work in the powerhouse in 2021. (01:55)

First quarter 2018 financial results are strong with a forecast that the PUD will meet its financial targets, pay down debt by $24 million more and end the year with a positive bottom line about $6 million ahead of budget, reported Mark Mullins, Enterprise Risk Management director. He recommended staying the course on the strategic priorities. Looking ahead, staff is planning for lower wholesale revenues with forecasts of declining market prices. (01:10)

Commissioners also reviewed a proposal to bring new life to the old visitor center at Rocky Reach Dam. It would include moving the museum’s historic treasure trove of exhibits from dark and dated quarters in the powerhouse to remodeled space in the former visitor center, now the Discovery Center. The move would increase visibility for the museum and security in the powerhouse, said Casey Hall, project manager. (00:45)

The first upgrades since the center opened in 1962 would start with a new roof and much-needed repairs plus remodeling to make room for Museum of the Columbia exhibits. Estimated cost is $2.4 million. If approved, work could start this year to be finished in time for the 2020 season. Tours, the park, fish viewing and the café would stay open during the work.

Hall also previewed the possibility of requesting Public Power Benefit (PPB) funds to create a new “story” for the museum and develop additional exhibit space.

Felicity Saberhagen, District Services business adviser, reviewed the overall Public Power Benefit program, launched in 2015 to use revenues in excess of PUD operating and capital needs to enhance the quality of life for customer-owners in Chelan County. Commissioners have allocated about $3 million a year to projects since then including buildout of the fiber network and parking passes for day use at the three PUD parks managed by the state. Board members will be asked to decide PPB funding for 2019 on June 4. (01:30)

In other business, commissioners:

  • Reviewed planning for the 2018 Integrated Resource Plan update. Staff will return with a final draft on June 4. Public comment is welcome. A public hearing for additional comment and board action is set for June 25. (00:14)
  • Following review of the project on April 30 approved a total project budget of $4.1 million for the Peshastin Wastewater Treatment Facility Improvements. Funding includes state grant funding of $2.2 million and a $1.9 million low-interest state loan. (02:10)
  • Thanked five employees honored in April for taking personal ownership in their work. Control system engineers Adam Gormley, Michael Martin and Emily Zimmerman were recognized for leadership on the District’s nationally recognized cybersecurity practices. Journeyman mechanic Scott Hanson and apprentice Ryan Mitchell were recognized for excellence in the precise testing and multiple measurements of hydro unit equipment to determine if it can be modified and maintain useful life. (00:10)

Note: Chelan County residents are warned of continuing high water in the Columbia River, closing the Chelan PUD boat launches on both the Rocky Reach and Rock Island reservoirs. For up-to-date information on boat launches, please visit:  www.chelanpud.org/parks-and-recreation/fishing-and-boating. The fast-moving high water also is causing irrigation intake issues. The forecast is for the water levels to remain high until the end of the month due to rapid snowmelt from Canada and the North Cascades.

Upcoming events:

  • May 19 – Kids Fest, 10 a.m., new location in Walla Walla Point Park
  • May 28 – Memorial Day holiday
  • June 4 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m. boardroom
  • June 5 – Tri-Commission meeting, 1 p.m., Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee
  • June 21 – PUD Night at the AppleSox, 7 p.m., Paul Thomas Field
  • June 25 – Board meeting, 10 a.m., boardroom (rescheduled)

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Note: This release covers discussion at the board’s morning workshop session. The commission business session will be held at 1 p.m. at Confluence Technology Center. There will be a separate release following the public hearing on the application moratorium for service to cryptocurrency operations.  

The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 4, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.