The Grays Harbor Public Utility District is notifying customers of a planned power outage in Ocean Shores beginning at 9:30 AM on Monday, June 22, 2020.  The outage is expected to last until 2:30 PM on that day and will affect roughly 40 customers.  Those impacted are residents on Sollecks Ave. SE, Itswoot Ave. SE, Skamokawa Court SE, Toleak St. SE and some residents of Quinault Ave. SE (#595-603).  All impacted customers will receive a notification phone call from the PUD.

The outage is part of an ongoing project by the PUD to replace aging power poles in the area.  During the outage crews will move power lines from old poles to the new ones.

In preparation for this outage, customers are advised to take precautions with any electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, and microwaves by unplugging those items.  You should leave them disconnected until after the power has been fully restored. 

The outage time of four five hours is only an estimate and power could be restored at any time as work is completed.  Therefore, it is not safe to do electrical work or repairs during that period.

A report from the Washington State Auditor’s Office has found the Grays Harbor PUD to be in compliance with the Energy Independence Act.  Passed in 2006 as Initiative 937, the act requires the utility to obtain 9% of its energy from sources defined as “renewable.”   In a report delivered on Tuesday, the Auditor found that the PUD reached its goal of 84,439 megawatt hours in 2018 and 86,856 megawatt hours 2019 through a combination of wind, solar and biomass generation and renewable energy credits.  This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the PUD has been in compliance with EIA requirements.

“This report is a message to our customers that their utility continues to responsibly provide energy that is a benefit to the utility and to the environment,” said General Manager Dave Ward.  “Washington has been a leader in clean and renewable energy for decades and I am very proud that Grays Harbor PUD continues to play a role in that tradition.”

In a year marked by two significant events, 2019 saw the number of major power outages fall slightly and all measurable system reliability numbers came in well below five year averages.  A system reliability report released by the Grays Harbor PUD on Monday revealed that the total number of major outages on the utility system (50 or more customers impacted) was down from 296 events in 2018 to 290 events in 2019.  While the total number of customers impacted rose from 54,446 to 57,326, the total hours without service dropped from 198,483 to 181,474.

“Once again our system has performed well under tough conditions and our crews have shown themselves to be amongst the best in the business,” said General Manager Dave Ward.  “For several years our emphasis has been on system strength and vegetation management and this report tells us that the work is paying off in the form of fewer outages and fewer hours in which our customers were without power.”

The 2019 numbers were significantly impacted by two events: a storm on January 6th that knocked out power to over 27,000 customers from the ocean beaches to East County and a car versus pole accident in Central Park on February 5th that brought down a transmission pole, interrupting power to over 7,100 customers in Central Park and Montesano.

Downed trees and storm events continued to be the main causes of outages, accounting for 76% of power interruptions in 2019.  While the number of tree related outages were below the five year average for the second straight year, Ward says it shows the importance of the utility’s tree trimming and mowing cycle.

“We’ve got to keep at it,” said Ward.  “Washington is called the Evergreen State for a reason and without regular attention to tree trimming and undergrowth mowing, you can end up in a situation where blowdowns and falling trees can cause outage numbers to rise.”

At a time when staying connected is more important than ever, the Grays Harbor PUD is teaming together with cities, schools and a large group of state and independent agencies to provide free access to the PUD fiber network.  Using mobile hotspots, free Wi-Fi access will be provided at strategic points around Grays Harbor County.  Users can simply drive-up or walk-up to the sites and immediately have online access for business, school and a host of other needs.

“Today more than ever, internet access is a critical part of our lives and a way to keep connected to family, schools and businesses.  However not everyone has the same level of access, especially in rural Washington.  Mobile sites like these will help to change that,” said PUD Core Services Director Rob Hanny, whose office oversees the PUD Telecommunications Department. 

As of today, three drive-up sites have been agreed upon in Grays Harbor: McCleary City Hall, the Wishkah Valley School, and the Satsop School and should be active by early next week.  The PUD is working with other communities and organizations around the county to bring more sites online.  Equipment for the sites has been provided to the utility free of charge by the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, a private, industry funded disaster relief organization. 

The local access is part of a larger, statewide effort to provide free Wi-Fi access to Washington residents.  Partners in the state’s drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots project include: Washington State University; Washington State Library, part of the Washington Office of the Secretary of State; members of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA) and affiliated nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet); the Washington State Broadband Office; Washington Independent Telecommunications Association (WITA); Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech); and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). 

To date, 140 of the new drive-in hotspots are operational, in addition to 301 existing Washington State Library hotspots identified across the state. All told, some 600 public hotspots will soon be available to keep Washington communities connected. 

For complete information and a map of locations, visit www.driveinwifi.wa.gov.  The map will be updated as more sites come online.

Citing its important role in irrigation, navigation, recreation and energy production, the Grays Harbor PUD has submitted its comments on the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement to the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration.  Authored by those three agencies at the end of February, the EIS supports the Lower Snake River Dams and recommends additional water spill over the dams and increased mitigation efforts to assist salmon run recovery.

“This is an important moment in the history of the Columbia River, the energy industry and our state.  It’s a privilege to be able to tell the story of how the intersection of those three areas impacts our customers, our county and our utility,” said General Manager Dave Ward.

In the comments submitted on Monday, the PUD states that “…the preferred alternative suggested in the draft EIS of increased spill and additional mitigation efforts designed to help (salmon) fry reach open waters is an acceptable method, but needs to be monitored closely to verify fry survival improvement and not create more harm.” 

While the increase of spill over the dams may mean an increase in energy costs for the utility, the PUD points out that the increase is far less than the billions of dollars which would be needed to remove existing hydroelectric dams and replace them with more expensive and less reliable energy sources, which was an alternative considered but not supported in the EIS.  In the PUD comments, the utility urges continued support for resources that generate clean, reliable and affordable energy: “In Grays Harbor, many PUD customers are already struggling to get by with existing costs from the current infrastructure.  To increase the burden by asking them to help foot the bill for new technologies that lack the affordability and reliability that have made hydropower the dominant power resource in the region for nearly a century is an expense many, quite literally, cannot afford.”

The PUD comments also point out the irony in the fact that the elimination of hydropower facilities on the Lower Snake River would be in direct contrast to the Clean Energy Transformation Act passed in 2019 which supported the hydroelectric system: “With a goal of 100% clean energy by 2045, the loss of the clean, emission free energy produced by the dams would deal that goal a severe blow and perhaps force the state to seek energy on the market from emitting resources, thereby working against legislation brought about by cooperation and compromise.”

The value of the hydroelectric facilities on the Columbia and Snake Rivers to their surrounding communities is also supported in the PUD comments which state that the ”economies of these areas depend on the dams in the form of millions of dollars” and “…any actions taken towards their removal would negatively impact Washington and the Pacific Northwest.”

The public comment period on the draft EIS closes tonight, at which point the three governing agencies will compile a final Environmental Impact Statement to be released later this year.


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