PUD board hears about storm response, discusses office closure
October 22, 2020
The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners learned about the PUD’s response to a recent storm and got a general update on projects at their meeting on Tuesday.
A couple PUD employees who were headed into Cathlamet to pick up vehicles and equipment on October 10 to respond to outages during a storm found themselves stranded by a tree that had fallen across Elochoman Valley Road. Thanks to an assist from the Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Department, who transported the stranded pair, they were able to return to clear the tree and conductor off the road, General Manager Dave Tramblie said.
Crews were then able to focus on a larger issue involving the Puget Island feeder out of the Wahkiakum Substation, Tramblie said, caused by a couple branches on Columbia Street.
“Outside of that, it was limbs and small trees in various areas around the county,” Tramblie said. “I think the guys went out around 8:30 p.m. and were home by 4:30 a.m.”
Tramblie was happy to report that a generator to operate bay doors at the PUD functioned as it should, and the “guys weren’t hung up getting the doors open.” The generator was purchased after the crew found their work slowed last year when an outage affected the PUD campus, and their first issue became how to access their vehicles and equipment.
Projects to repair and improve service continue around the county. The PUD rented a lift and were able to replace a leaking coupling in the middle of the Altoona/Pillar Road Road bridge. Tramblie said that he had spoken to an engineer about replacing the PVC pipe with either HDPE or ductal iron at some point, but it wasn’t a “rush issue.”
The PUD took advantage of the ongoing water expansion project in Skamokawa to install a fire hydrant in the Brooks Slough area after they had a request to place one there and in Sleepy Hollow. It was too late for Sleepy Hollow, Tramblie said.
Another project on Altoona/Pillar Rock Road to replace overhead lines with underground in a section with a lot of trees was to be completed on Wednesday.
Steve Carson, the broadband consultant for the PUD, said they were still waiting to hear about the Public Works Board grant.
Commissioner Bob Jungers shared what he had learned at a recent Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce meeting and remarked that, “there is much concern about community traditions alive during covid-19.”
Commissioner Dennis Reid, who had recently requested that the PUD figure out a way to work each year toward getting Deep River residents set up on a water system, asked if there had been any forward movement.
“I went out there the other day looking for tree trimming issues,” Tramblie said, “but I also had the water issue in the back of my mind. I don’t have anything definitive for you, but certainly putting some thought into it.”
“I appreciate it, even if we could do a little bit each year, just to be working toward it,” Reid replied.
Wahkiakum County Commissioner Mike Backman asked to be involved in the conversation when the PUD negotiates their annual contract with the Chamber.
“The Town is going to be putting economic development stuff in their contract, not just event coordinating stuff,” Backman said. “I’d like to work with you or talk to you to see what you are going to be asking [the Chamber] to do.”
Backman also asked what the PUD needed in order to open its doors to the public again.
“I think that until we get a cure for this covid-19, we have such a small group of people here, if we were to have someone get sick, it would be extremely detrimental to our ability to provide the service that we need to provide to this community,” Tramblie responded. I believe that we are able to function and provide all the services to our customers at this point and time.”
“I’ve been thinking about this, if covid-19 were to go rampant through our employee body, it would be disastrous. I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Commissioner Gene Healy echoed.
“All of the PUDs in the state still have their offices closed to the public,” Reid said. “I know that the crew has done everything they can to make it as easy as they can for people.”