While the wind storms that come with life on the Washington coast are not common in the spring and summer, the rapid growth of trees and plants can quietly threaten power lines just as much as a gale; but not if Jeff McClain has anything to say about it. McClain is charged with heading up the PUD’s vegetation management efforts; no small task when you consider the size of the district.
“We have about 1,100 miles of distribution lines and 225 miles of transmission lines and about half of them have trees growing under or next to them,” said McClain, a second generation PUD worker whose father and brother work for electric utilities. “Trees grow very quickly here. It’s an ongoing battle.”
PUD lines are threatened both by tree branches falling from above and trees growing up from below. Overhanging branches can be weighted down by snow or blown down by wind, sending them crashing into the lines and knocking out power to hundreds of customers. Trees growing into the power lines can cause a fire hazard and pose a threat to anyone who climbs or touches them. Using PUD crews and professional tree trimmers, McClain and his team cut, mow and spray around the lines to keep those threats from getting out of hand.
“We have bucket crews that trim branches up to 65 feet and ground cutting crews that get to those areas that are harder for the bucket teams to reach,” said McClain. “During the spring and summer we also spray around substations, facilities and right-of-ways just to keep that growth at bay.”
In addition to working on scheduled trimming of fast growing trees, McClain responds to several calls per day from PUD customers who are concerned with trees and branches that they believe may be threatening their power lines.
“If it’s a danger to our lines we will take care of it,” said McClain. “If we don’t do preventative maintenance like this, outages would go up considerably. We’re never going to stop all of it, but we can slow it down. It’s something we have to do”
Should you have any questions on the PUD vegetation management, call 360-538-6284.
Six months of preparation and planning came to a head over a 12 hour span on July 24-25 as Grays Harbor PUD crews completed maintenance work on the power infrastructure around Cedarville and Oakville.
The planned outage to 1600 customers allowed four PUD line crews and two sub-station crews to replace over a dozen aging power poles and carry out maintenance work at the Cedarville and South Elma substations. The completed work strengthens the PUD infrastructure in the area and allows the PUD to meet it’s goal of providing safe and reliable power to it's customers.
The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have adopted a new vision of the PUD’s future. On Monday, the commissioners adopted the District’s first strategic plan, outlining the goals and steps the PUD will take in the coming years to improve several areas of internal and external service.
“It’s a big moment and one that was achieved by tapping the minds of our employees,” said Commission President Russ Skolrood. “We all have ideas about how we can improve as a district, but for the first time, the people that work at the Grays Harbor PUD were asked to be involved in the creation of that vision. That is significant.”
Over the last five months, employee groups have been meeting to discuss the PUD’s development and future plans in six areas:
- Safety and Reliability
- Process and Performance Improvements
The sub-groups were made up of PUD employees from across the district, from line crewmen to customer support staff. Meetings involved discussing PUD strengths and weaknesses in those sub-areas, identifying both short-term and long-term goals and planning the steps needed to achieve those goals. Those goals included:
- Improved internal and external outreach and communication.
- Providing stable rates and responsible budgeting.
- Maintaining system safety and reliability.
- Addressing employee pride, retention and development.
- Improved processes and organizational performances.
- Long-term facilities plans and asset management.
The plan will be reviewed quarterly to ensure that established goals are being met and that updates are made to keep up with the times.
“I am very proud of this milestone moment for the employees and customers of the Grays Harbor PUD. This is not the vision of one person or one department but of the entire PUD,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “In placing such a high emphasis on staff involvement, we have produced a plan that is a true representation of the PUD’s goals and desire to move toward a bright future.”
The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved an increase in customer rates. The 1.5% increase will go into effect on August 1.
The increase was approved in December as part of the 2014 budget. However, the commissioners agreed to postpone a portion of the increase to help move the District away from winter increases to the summer when bills are lower and household expenses are not as high.
“We understand that when bills go up it has a big impact on customers,” said Commission President Russ Skolrood. “For that reason, we delayed a portion of this increase until August 1st, when electricity bills are not as high. The extra time also gave our staff a chance to make some adjustments and reduce the size of the increase.”
The PUD had expected an increase of 1.75%, however those adjustments allowed the increase to be lowered by a quarter-percent. The need for the increase is driven by rising operational costs, especially an increase in power costs from the Bonneville Power Administration.
The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners will consider an increase in customer rates at their regularly scheduled meeting on July 21, 2014. The 1.5% increase will go into effect on August 1.
The need for the increase is driven by rising operational costs, especially an increase in power costs from the Bonneville Power Administration . The PUD had expected an increase of 1.75%, however budget adjustments allowed the increase to be lowered by a quarter-percent.
“I really appreciate the work put in by the staff to make this increase as small as possible. Thanks to some pencil sharpening, we were able to find a little room to ease the impact on our customers,” said Board of Commissioners President Russ Skolrood. “Providing safe and reliable power to our customers is the most important job we have. It’s our responsibility to do it at the lowest practical cost.”
The change is part of an increase approved last December as part of the 2014 budget. However, the commissioners agreed to postpone a portion of the increase to help move the District away from winter increases to a time when bills are lower and household expenses are not as high.