The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

PUD considers micro hydro, pot issues


January 8, 2015

With little on the agenda Tuesday, the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners took advantage of the open discussion period to discuss micro hydro, customer transparency and plans to repair two reservoirs in the western Wahkiakum water system.

Commissioner Robert Jungers asked if the other commissioners had any interest in promoting private micro hydro development in the district. Micro hydro uses water flow to create hydroelectric power, and much like another renewable resource, solar, can be connected to an existing network. The consumer would be able to trade the excess power they are generating with the utility at retail rates.

“Micro hydro makes more sense than solar in this area,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said.

“We are bound by Washington state law to buy back power at retail to a point of zero net metering, Jungers said, “We don’t have to buy back at retail anything in excess of consumption for a given meter.”

Commissioner Gene Healy wondered how it might benefit the PUD.

“Emergency reserves,” Jungers said. “But that’s a good question, it’s worth considering.”

Reid brought up some concerns about Bonneville Power and marijuana growers.

Bonneville Power Administration adheres to federal law and, according to Reid, though Bonneville has no problem with utilities providing power to marijuana growers in the state of Washington, they have put their foot down when it comes to using their money for subsidies which would include rebates for lighting or insulation.

“We don’t want to do something inadvertently that would get us sideways with Bonneville Power,” Reid said.

This begged the question for Reid. Does the PUD need to know how businesses are using their power?

“It was just a thought,” Reid said. “I’m not trying to invade anyone’s privacy, but we do have to know because BP has made it very clear they don’t want us to spend their dollars on something that is not legal federally."

“It’s dependent on the customer to provide that information," said General Manager Dave Tramblie. "We don’t ask specifically what they are doing but the load data indicates what they are doing. I think we’re pretty safe.”

Shifting gears, Tramblie shared some plans he had been working on with his water crew. Old inlets in two reservoirs in western Wahkiakum have corroded and need to be replaced.

“We put some money in the Western Wahkiakum water System budget to replace an inlet in the Malone Creek reservoir and the Deep River reservoir,” Tramblie said. “We will hire contractors to do the core drilling and we can do the rest, plugging the old inlet in the reservoir and cutting that pipe. We think we can do it all in house and save a lot of money.”

Commissioners were pleased.

“That has been a big albatross around the neck of Western Wahkiakum water System since we found out about the problem two years ago,” Jungers said. “Solving it like that requires a big ‘attaboy’.”

“I hope we can do it,” Tramblie said. “I think we can.”

Reid shared a note that the PUD had recently received from a westend customer and then added his own thanks.

“Thanks to all you good people at Wahkiakum PUD for another excellent year of service,” the note read. “No freezing homes or thawed meat here. Also we appreciate the new transformer location in Altoona. Big improvement. Good job.

“On Sunday we had a power outage from a slide,” Reid added. “My wife was quite impressed that the guys could get out there and get the power back on in the amount of time that they did. It was the middle of the night on Sunday and they were working in not very good conditions. It was pretty impressive. I grew up here and in the 60’s and earlier you didn’t get the power back on in a couple hours. It’s appreciated out there.”

Auditor Erin Wilson reported that the donations for the Residential Energy Assistance Program had increased again in 2014, totaling $3,438. Nearly $2,000 of that money has already been spent and donations are always welcome.

The PUD Board of Commissioners will continue to meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 8:30 a.m., in the PUD Meeting Room.


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