Wahkiakum West taking on role for eastside broadband


August 19, 2021

Ken Johnson returned to the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday to let them know that the board of Wahkiakum West, of which he was CEO, had agreed to do a broadband pilot project east of KM.

“We are going to take the step forward to try to solve some of the broadband problems both in Wahkiakum County and over in Pacific County,” Johnson said. “I’ve been authorized to a certain capital budget to use some pilot builds to prove the concept, make sure there is market demand, make sure the economics work, and the mechanics work.”

Johnson also said there had been some discussion about working on Puget Island, but the location could be subject to change based on a variety of factors.

“We are eager to work with the PUD and with some of the grant funding that is available, there is an opportunity to work together for some areas that would not be the first on anybody’s list to build out and would be outside where the existing broadband monies have been allocated,” he said.

Johnson said WW had already begun ordering materials, which were always needed, and he hoped to continue the conversation with the PUD about how they might work together in the long term.

Commissioner Gene Healy said they needed a little time to get the new general manager, Daniel Kay, up to speed. Kay begins his training at the PUD on August 26.

Johnson said that issue had already been discussed at WW. He felt there was time for that, and added that he would love to see a customer in this area on a new fiber connection by the first of the year.

“We are very excited to cooperate and partner with you on this endeavor,” Commissioner Bob Jungers said.

Johnson also said WW would continue a conversation with Steve Carson of Skamokawa Internet Services, who they considered to be “a valuable component for our part of the equation for partnership.”

General Manager Dave Tramblie reported that a cross country Deep River rebuild project was expected to be completed on Tuesday.

“This was another project that without the Pacific PUD intertie would have taken much longer,” Tramblie said. “It was done with the circuit de-energized, which made the project much safer.”

The PUD replaced several poles and exchanged copper for aluminum conductors.

“It beefed up the intertie capacity,” Tramblie said. “It was a cross country project I’ve been wrestling with for years. Because of the dry weather this summer, we had the opportunity to get in there and now that is done for 30-35 more years.”

Tramblie again expressed gratitude for how the radio read meters have been beneficial to the PUD, freeing up manpower to tackle projects like these.

Commissioner Dennis Reid asked about a high water loss rate on the Skamokawa Water System, adding that there seemed to be an increase in the rate since the PUD completed the project to extend the system.

“We are all concerned about that, and we have done some trouble shooting but nothing is jumping out at us,” Tramblie said.

Auditor Erin Wilson said that in July, the PUD saw the biggest advance for construction numbers they had ever seen, totaling $181,000 for the electric system, the Puget Island Water System, and the Western Wahkiakum Water System.

“There is more work than we can do right now,” Wilson said.


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