Commission Meeting News

Chelan PUD supports community project ideas with Public Power Benefit fund

by Rachel Hansen | Aug 15, 2022

An interactive exhibit at Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center. Expansion of the PUD’s fiber broadband network. New sport courts. Chelan PUD commissioners gave their support for seven community-minded projects funded by the Public Power Benefit program Monday. (starts at 01:14:25 on the board audio recording)

Commissioners created the Public Power Benefit program in 2015 as part of Chelan PUD’s vision to enhance the quality of life in Chelan County. About $6 million a year is earmarked to support community-minded projects that fall within the PUD’s authority as a public utility. Funding is contingent on the utility meeting its financial obligations.

“These are projects that support ‘the best value for the most people for the longest time’, but wouldn’t fit within our typical operations or business lines,” said Business Manager Felicity Saberhagen.

Every year, Chelan PUD invites customers and partner agencies to send their ideas on potential public power benefit projects. In 2022, 23 applications were submitted. A team of two commissioners and several staff members evaluated the applications based on several criteria, including cost, timeline and project management.

“The committee focused on how the investment of Public Power Benefit dollars can enhance the quality of life,” said Board President Steve McKenna, who served on the evaluation committee. “It was great hearing from various communities in Chelan County on the projects they envision.”

Seven projects were recommended for board consideration:

  • Wenatchee Valley Museum, Coyote Corner: An educational play space about the importance of rivers in our community.
  • Expanded fiber internet network: Accelerates the expansion of the PUD’s broadband network in order to give more neighborhoods access ahead of schedule.
  • Chelan parks master plan: A match with the City of Chelan to review the feasibility of adding a community park on PUD-owned ballfields currently leased to Chelan.
  • Supported employment: Funds two half-time positions for people with cognitive disabilities to help them gain skills and build their resumes.
  • Sport courts: Supports a reconfiguration of sports courts, including new half-courts for basketball and dedicated courts for pickleball and tennis.
  • Water quality research at Lake Chelan: Supports water quality assessments and research by Lake Chelan Research Institute.
  • Job awareness and readiness: Engages local students in career possibilities within the hydropower and utility industries.

As for next steps, PUD-led projects will be approved as part of the budgeting process. Community-led projects will require separate agreements to be approved by the Board of Commissioners later this year.

In other news, commissioners:

  • Celebrated an announcement that Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded Chelan PUD’s debt rating to Aa2. Positive drivers of this change include the new 10- and 20-year power contracts with Avista and Puget Sound Energy, and continued debt reduction. (00:34:25)
  • Approved an amendment to a long-term slice energy contract with Puget Sound Energy to incorporate hydropower’s environmental attributes as part of its value. (02:54:55)
  • Heard an update on a maintenance project to resurface four sports courts at Walla Walla Point Park and repurpose two tennis courts into six pickleball courts. (02:58:55)

Illustration: A preliminary concept drawing of a river-themed play space at Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center designed for kids under age six, families, caregivers and early learning centers.

WVMCC concept drawing2