Wahkiakum PUD's board of commissioners discussed last Wednesday how to respond to the Town of Cathlamet’s intention to terminate the current water contract in 2037 unless it could be renegotiated to include compensation from the PUD for the cost of financing capital improvements and to share in the cost of water loss.
According to Commissioner Robert Jungers, who attended a meeting with town officials to discuss the issue, the town is under pressure from the Department of Health to improve their system. The demands are threefold: the town needs to improve their water pick up at the Elochoman River water plant, to pursue alternate sources of water for redundancy and reliability and finally, to reduce their water losses.
“It seems to be the mayor’s contention that if the town was not obligated to supply Puget Island with water,” Jungers said, ”then these future demands on their system would be mitigated and they would not be exposed to these costs.”
“I can’t see any reason on earth why we would pay for their water losses,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said. “That’s their business and they should be fixing it.”
“Get your own house in order,” Jungers said, commenting that the town hadn’t raised rates in 12 years and has been selling water to their ratepayers at a much lower rate than it sold to the PUD.
In response, commissioner Gene Healy said, “If somehow it can be demonstrated that they are subsidizing us, we need to fix that. That hasn’t been demonstrated at all.”
The commissioners then went on to discuss options for generating water supply and creating storage facilities for Puget Island at length.
“I think we have to move ahead,” said Reid, “because we’ve been warned. I don’t think we can ignore that. The only thing I think we need to do is be prepared for 2037.”
“Yesterday (August 20) was an awesome day,” PUD general manager, Dave Tramblie said, “First time in the history of the Wahkiakum PUD that the Cathlamet transformer was taken offline and no customers were affected.”
He reported on his recent trip to Kittitas to review the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system that they employ. Kittitas currently uses an airplane to collect data from the meters in the outlying areas.
“It’s my understanding that it is scalable in the future to more of an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), by using fixed antennas in the system," Tramblie said. This is a system that you could bring on over a course of time, so you didn’t have a huge investment right out of the gate. I’m still trying to get more information from other vendors.”
Travel was approved for Lia Sealund to attend an AMI conference in Lake Shasta, Calif., in early September. Auditor Erin Wilson’s travel to a September Washington Public Utility District Association (WPUDA) finance officer’s meeting in Stevenson was also approved.
The next PUD meeting is at 8:30 a.m. on September 3.