Businesses looking for a solid working relationship between commerce and utility interests were given a prime example in progress on Tuesday. For the first time in recent memory, the commission boards of the Port of Grays Harbor and the Grays Harbor PUD met in joint session to discuss a pair of economic development opportunities and their potential impact on the county.
“For Grays Harbor to succeed, cooperation between community, business and utility interests is critical,” said PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan. “The two projects that were discussed today at this joint meeting are a great example of what happens when two groups with a shared goal come together.”
The meeting included a report from Sound and Sea Technology on the financial and technical feasibility of landing a transoceanic telecommunication cable in Grays Harbor. The report indicated that the cable project, in conjunction with a Satsop Business Park-based data support center, could be a good fit for Grays Harbor.
“There’s land. There is power. There is potential. Grays Harbor can be a digital port,” said Sound and Sea Technologies Chelsea Meggitt.
The meeting concluded with a report from PUD Engineering Director Schuyler Burkhart on a joint effort by the Port and PUD to increase power capacity at the Satsop Business Park. The two groups are currently working with Grays Harbor County and the Bonneville Power Administration on a system study for a proposal, that when completed would immediately bring a further 40 megawatts of power capacity to Satsop, with room for future capacity growth.
“The cooperation between the Port, PUD, Grays Harbor County and BPA is driving us to a position where we can make Satsop the hub for economic development we all envision it to be,” said Burkhart. “Partnerships and meetings like this one send a positive message about the business climate that exists in Grays Harbor.”
On July 26, 2018, Grays Harbor PUD Customer Service Collector Helen Berglund heard a call for help. On Thursday, her response to that call earned her the Washington Public Utility District Association’s Good Samaritan Award.
“The Washington PUD Association is proud to honor Helen Berglund with the Association’s Good Samaritan Award,” said George Caan, Executive Director of the Washington PUD Association. “Her quick life-saving actions to assist a woman in medical distress are a testament to her caring nature and commitment to serving others.”
Berglund had arrived at the East Grays Harbor County home on the hot July afternoon but after knocking on the door and receiving no response was preparing to return to her vehicle when she heard the sounds of a woman calling for help from inside. Finding the door unlocked. Berglund entered the home, immediately called 911 for emergency assistance and stayed with the woman for over 30 minutes until the ambulance arrived. During that time, Helen provided comfort to the woman, speaking to her, locating her cell phone and attempting to contact family who lived in the area.
“We are very proud of Helen,” said PUD General Manager Dave Ward. “Given the woman’s condition, the remote location of the home and the hot weather that followed, I truly believe her actions saved a life and we are thrilled that WPUDA has honored her for the aid she rendered that day.”
The Grays Harbor Public Utility District is notifying customers in Ocean Shores of a planned power outage beginning at 10:00 AM on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. The outage is expected to last until roughly 4:00 PM on that day and will affect around 30-35 customers.
The outage will impact customers on a four street loop including Pearsall Street NE from Duck Lake Dr NE to Olympic View Ave NE, customers on Olympic View Ave NE from Pearsall Street to Hutton Street, customers on Hutton Street from Duck Lake Dr NE to Olympic View Ave NE, and customers on Duck Lake Dr NE from Hutton Street to Pearsall Street. Customers living on three courts within the loop (Miller, Glover and Hagar Courts) will also be impacted.
During the outage, PUD crews will replace a failing piece of underground equipment, the complete failure of which could impact power to several hundred customers.
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 six 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 of time.
The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a $126-million budget for 2019 that reflects an improving financial situation and a dedication to improving the utility infrastructure.
“This budget shows us that the PUD is on the right track,” said Board President Arie Callaghan. “We continue to live within our means and as district finances improve, we can put additional resources into the utility system that will improve safety and reliability for the PUD’s customers. That is what they expect and what this budget accomplishes.”
The budget calls for the PUD to spend $9.1 million on capital projects. Nearly three quarters of every dollar spent on capital improvements will go to the replacement of aging equipment, including aerial and underground transmission and distribution lines, hundreds of utility poles, and substation transformers and circuit breakers.
Roughly 56% of the the budget will go to power purchases from the Bonneville Power Administration, and renewable energy contracts including the Nine Canyon Wind Project, the Coastal Energy Project and Sierra Pacific Industries. Utility operations and maintenance costs make up just 21% of the district’s spending.
Because of increased power costs of over a half-million dollars and a projected 5% increase in BPA costs in October, customer rates are proposed to increase 2.5 percent beginning on April 1, 2019. The delay will allow the PUD to assess any weather or market changes that take place over the winter and make any needed adjustments.
“Rate increases are not something the utility or the board take lightly,” said Commission Vice President Russ Skolrood. “As power costs rise, so to do the costs for the PUD. However, we continue to work with Bonneville and other power providers to ensure that the needs of our customers are known and that we provide power at the lowest cost we can afford.”
Next month, the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners will consider a budget for 2019 that will include $9.1-million in capital expenditures. The budget outlines costs for the maintenance and upkeep of the PUD system, new customer connections, the installation of new equipment and improvements to utility facilities.
"While the total capital investment makes up less than 10% of our overall budget, that amount is what makes so much of what we do possible," said General Manager Dave Ward. "The safety and reliability of the PUD system is at the core of our mission to our customers. Our capital budget makes that happen."
Nearly three quarters of every dollar spent on capital improvements will go to the replacement of aging equipment, including aerial and underground transmission and distribution lines, hundreds of utility poles, and substation transformers and circuit breakers. In 2019, the utility plans to invest $2-million into the PUD transmission system, $3.9-million into the distribution system and $1.4-million into its substation network
"Our engineering and operations crews have worked together to identify the work that needs to be addressed now to keep our system working in the way our customers expect," said Engineering Director Schuyler Burkhart. "Our budget team started with a $14.8 million proposed cost and worked it down to the more affordable amount we had planned for the year."
The remainder of the proposed capital budget is dedicated to general plant improvements, including telecommunications, facilities, IT systems, fleet and tools, which will see a total investment of $1.75-million. These improvements will be partially funded with grant dollars, secured by the utility to improve the telecom network used by local internet service providers.
Overall, the proposed 2019 capital budget shows an increase of 11.5% over 2018, which is a reflection of gradual improvements in the PUD's financial state. While the needs, value and estimated life of the system call for the PUD to spend between $12-million and $13-million on its upkeep, the utility is recommending that the Board gradually work toward that total as finances improve, rather than increase spending in a way which would mean a larger increase in customer rates.
The commissioners are expected to approve the 2019 budget in November. It will take effect on January 1.