Issues and Interests

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PUD News

Douglas Port appeals to Chelan PUD to operate Orondo River Park

by Kimberlee Craig | Jun 05, 2018
PUD commissioners mull options for park’s future operation

Chelan PUD commissioners Monday heard a request from Port of Douglas County board members for the District to take over operation of Orondo River Park on the Columbia River in Douglas County. (00:30)

PUD staff has been working on options for future operation of the park since last fall when Port staff asked the District to take full ownership, along with operating and maintenance responsibility for the small park just north of the community of Orondo. It’s since been determined that challenges with obligations related to state grant funding for park facilities would make it difficult for the PUD to take ownership.

The Port owns more than 3 acres of the 5-acre park and built it using state recreation funds in 1972.  A 1.4-acre PUD parcel was added in the late 1970s and the day use is cited in the Rocky Reach Dam recreation plan. Chelan PUD leases its portion of the park to the Port under a 1979 lease and operating agreement.

Michelle Smith, Hydro Licensing Compliance director, reviewed legal obligations related to the PUD’s agreement with the Port, the state funding used by the Port to build the park and the recreation responsibility in the federal license to operate Rocky Reach.

The park is open for day use only this season following an assessment that found various safety, code and access deficiencies. Chelan PUD and the Port are sharing 2018 operation and maintenance (O&M) costs of about $50,000.

The Port and PUD are asking the community for comments by June 20 on the changes in park operation.

PUD staff outlined long-term operating options that include:

  • Asking the Port to develop a management program for the park to address capital needs, its state funding obligations and alternative funding sources and for the PUD and Port to share O&M costs for another year with no change in license terms - ­ the least-cost alternative
  • Removing the day use recreation from the Rocky Reach license
  • Subsidizing the Port to continue as park operator at costs to be negotiated, consistent with support given to other park operators, sharing in estimated annual O&M of $50,000-$75,000, with needed capital improvements of $1.5 million-$2.5 million
  • PUD operation of the park – the highest-cost alternative - with the PUD paying all O&M and capital costs and adding staff to take care of it.

All options assume there will be no camping, less grass and the PUD property will become a natural area.

Port Executive Director Lisa Parks said having the PUD take over operation is still the Port’s preference. The PUD subsidizing operations is a second choice. The Port is strongly opposed to removing the day use responsibility from the federal license to operate Rocky Reach, Parks said.

Jim Huffman, Douglas Port commissioner and former PUD employee, said budget pressures, especially for increased costs to operate Pangborn Memorial Airport brought on the effort to seek help with operating the park. 

Chelan PUD Board President Dennis Bolz noted the cooperative relationship with the Port over the years adding, “I hope it continues in a cooperative vein and we believe it will.”

Discussions will continue as PUD commissioners later asked staff for more information on several issues.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Heard an update on design and property acquisition for three substations planned for construction to start by 2021. They also reviewed the priority list for adding 10 more substations in the future to meet forecasted growth. John Stoll, Customer Utilities managing director, said substation planning is a top priority. To meet future needs, staff is looking for available property in industrial and commercial areas, working with county and city planners, considering alternative contracting mechanisms, identifying transmission line options and ordering some long-lead time equipment such as transformers this year. Chad Rissman, Distribution asset manager, recapped the schedules for the new Ohme Substation in north Wenatchee (construction in 2019), the Bavarian Substation near Leavenworth (estimated construction in 2020) and the North Shore Lake Chelan Substation (estimated construction in 2021). A second substation in downtown Wenatchee, near the existing substation, and one on PUD property in Wenatchee’s Castlerock area top the future priority list, Rissman said. (02:05)
  • Reviewed the District’s proposed insurance coverage and premiums for renewal on July 1. Ron Gibbs, Insurance and Claims manager, said quotes on premiums are consistent with budget. Insurance companies have a favorable view of Chelan PUD, in large part due to its asset management strategies. Gibbs said. He estimates premium costs will be up 6.8 percent. Negotiations will continue until July 1. Gibbs noted the global insurance market is responding to losses last year from extreme natural disasters including hurricanes. Board members will be asked to approve an “up to” amount for 2018-2019 insurance coverage at the June 25 meeting. (01:41)
  • Directed staff to plan for a $4 million allocation in Public Power Benefit project funding for 2019. The funds use revenue in excess of PUD operating and capital needs to enhance the quality of life for customer-owners in Chelan County. Projects include building out the broadband network, day use passes for PUD parks operated by the state and improvements at Rocky Reach Discovery Center. Staff will request board action on a resolution at the June 25 meeting. (01:35)
  • Reviewed staff recommendations for updating the PUD’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The 2018 IRP Progress Report outlines the sources of power needed to supply PUD customers through 2028. 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. Staff will request board approval of the progress report at the June 25 meeting. (01:15)
  • Heard that the May monthly average Columbia River flow past Rocky Reach Dam of 275,000 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) was the highest since the dam was built in 1962. Previous high monthly averages for May were 259,000 cfs in 1971 and 249,000 cfs in 1997, reported John Wasniewski, energy analyst. High water has receded and boat launches and trails in PUD parks have re-opened. Park users and boaters are urged to be careful. The level of Lake Chelan was more than 2 feet above the June 1 target of 1,094 feet above sea level. Generation continues at capacity, along with spill into the Chelan Gorge, to manage lake level for an estimated 14.5 feet of remaining runoff from snowmelt, Wasniewski said. (02:40)

     

Upcoming events:

  • June 5 – Tri-Commission meeting, 1 p.m., Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee
  • June 21 – PUD Night at the AppleSox, 6:35 p.m., Paul Thomas Field
  • June 25 – Board meeting, 10 a.m., boardroom (rescheduled)
  • July 4 – Independence Day holiday
  • July 9 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m. boardroom (rescheduled)

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Chelan PUD commissioners will meet with Port of Chelan County and Chelan County commissioners at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, at Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee.  

The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 25, 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 www.chelanpud.org. Find us on Facebook.com/ChelanPUD and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.