Big Investment in dams and tech ahead for Chelan PUD

by Kimberlee Craig | Dec 02, 2019

Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday approved a spending plan for next year that continues upgrades at Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams, keeps plans on track to make electric service more reliable and brings on new technology offering services that customer-owners want. The vote at the meeting was unanimous.

The budget is based on five-year business plans and supports the priorities outlined in the new strategic plan.  (At 01:40 on the board meeting audio recording)

It calls for about $170 million in spending on capital projects, including:

  • Continued modernizing work on hydro units and cranes at Rock Island Dam
  • Continued upgrades of warehouse, work space and crew buildings at Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams
  • Continued large unit repairs at Rocky Reach
  • Start of construction on the Service and Operations Center
  • Launching construction and/or upgrades of four substations

The 2020 budget also reflects the PUD’s strong finances. The District forecasts ending 2020 with a positive bottom line of $58.1 million.

A new rating agency report underscores that financial strength. Treasurer Debbie Litchfield reported that Fitch Ratings has reaffirmed Chelan PUD’s AA+ rating with a stable outlook.  

“High bond ratings ultimately keep electric rates low for our customer-owners,” Litchfield said. “It puts us among the most highly rated utilities in the nation by both Fitch and Standard and Poor’s.

“This gives our customer-owners confidence we’re doing all we can do to keep the District financially healthy.”

Also in the 2020 budget, is continued expansion of the fiber network and funding for day use passes at PUD parks operated by the state as part of the Public Power Benefit program. Fiber staff plan to extend access to areas near Leavenworth - along Chumstick Highway, Alpensee Strause and Riverbend Drive – and near Manson on Totem Pole and Banks roads. (Details will be posted here soon.)  

While the forecasted 2020 bottom line is positive, it is down about $20 million from the 2019 budget, reflecting changes in wholesale power markets and significant spending for hydro work.

Total spending and scheduled debt payments of $440 million forecast for 2020 is about 10 percent more than the 2019 budget

“This is a significant action, it’s one of the top things we as commissioners do each year,” Commissioner Randy Smith said, noting the months of discussion and staff work leading up to Monday’s approval.

Board President Garry Arseneault added his thanks to staff, “for all the effort, time and energy it’s taken to get to this point.” 

In other business, commissioners:

  • Set the state-required, two-year target for energy savings at 2.82 average megawatts and approved the 10-year plan for savings of 15.2 aMW. (01:38)
  • Discussed the elements of an opt-out policy for customers who choose not to receive the benefits offered by advanced meters. PUD staff will return with a proposal on Dec. 16 based on direction given by board members. (00:10

Upcoming events:

  • Dec. 16 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m.
  • Dec. 20 – Fiesta Decembrina, 8 p.m., Pybus Public Market
  • Dec. 25 – Christmas Day, offices closed
  • Jan. 1 – New Year’s Day, offices closed
  • Jan. 6  - Commission meeting, 10 a.m.

* * *

The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 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 Find us at and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.


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