News

Commissioners approve fiber acceleration, Rocky Reach remodel, tree trimming

by Rachel Hansen | Sep 08, 2020

Chelan PUD received the go-ahead Tuesday to start work on several projects from its strategic plan. PUD commissioners approved:

  • An accelerated schedule to build the fiber network to about 5,800 homes by 2024 -- about 1,200 more than planned (7:40 on the board audio)
  • The final construction package with Lydig Construction of Spokane to remodel the Discovery Center and Central Maintenance facilities at Rocky Reach (1:55)
  • A contract to remove more trees and vegetation that threaten power lines, with more frequent inspection in fire-prone areas. (56:30)

PUD speeds up fiber build-out

The fiber expansion would connect more rural neighborhoods to the PUD’s fast broadband network ahead of schedule.

In 2016, the PUD committed $25 million to reach 85-90 percent of the county by 2026. With commissioners’ support Tuesday, the PUD will spend an additional $2 million in public power benefit funding to bring more homes online by 2024.

An accelerated build-out was one of the top requests from customer-owners during the strategic planning process.

“If we look at the times, we can see that there’s more need than ever for these connections, and I certainly am supportive,” said Commissioner Steve McKenna.(22.23)

Rocky Reach facilities remodel

Work begins next week on a two-fold project at Rocky Reach, fulfilling a top strategic priority to invest in assets and people.

The popular Discovery Center will be remodeled for the first time in 60 years, with new interactive displays and floor-to-ceiling fish windows. The guaranteed maximum price for the next phase of the Discovery Center project is $4.4 million. Plans are to reopen for year-round operation in late spring 2021.

Commissioners also approved a $28.5 million package to provide more efficient and safer quarters for maintenance crews, including a new crew building, shop building, warehouse and hydro large parts storage building.

Tree trimming ramps up

Trees in power lines threaten public safety, electrical reliability, and it’s one of the leading sources of utility-caused fire ignition.

Commissioners approved a contract that would increase the frequency and volume of tree- and shrub-trimming along Chelan PUD’s 1,000 miles of power lines.

The PUD plans to implement a 4-2-1 schedule for vegetation management: A 4-year trim cycle, with inspections every two years, and annual inspection for areas with high wildfire risk.

The contract takes a step toward the PUD’s goal of becoming a national leader in reliability, while also reducing fire risk.

“The spotlight has been turned on with respect to utilities and the potential for starting fires,” said Board President Garry Arseneault. “It makes a great deal of sense to move forward with [this] proposal.” (1:11)

In other news, commissioners:

  • Approved a nearly $7 million plan to build a higher-capacity substation near Olds Station. The 56-megawatt substation will replace an aging, 28-megawatt substation and provide better reliability for the growing needs of industrial customers in that area. (24:17)
  • Heard a manager’s report regarding the impacts of wildfires and wind storms to electrical infrastructure. (2:32)
  • Considered a plan to purchase the Schmitten property in Cashmere to maintain its smolt trap site along the Wenatchee River. The commission is scheduled to act on this property acquisition at the Sept. 21 board meeting. (1:30)
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