PUD should benefit from BPA surplus


September 22, 2022

The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners met for more than two hours on Tuesday morning, with reports and engaging conversation that spanned a variety of topics that affect the utility both directly and indirectly.

It started with a visit from Bonneville Power Administration Account Executive Lindsay Bleifuss, who answered questions for staff and commissioners, and had some potentially good news to share.

BPA did really well in the power secondary market, she said, and with prices so high, they made a lot of money. This meant that they could offer a zero percent rate increase, on average, and rebates to their customers.

It’s too early to know exactly what this might mean for Wahkiakum PUD.

“She’s saying that rates are holding at zero on average,” General Manager Dan Kay said later, “we need to see that number before we celebrate. Some people are going to go up a little, some people may go significantly down.”

Wahkiakum PUD customers will benefit.

“I think we’re optimistic that it is going to affect them positively,” Commissioner Bob Jungers said. “It is premature to start making calls and decisions on how we are going to deal with this expected windfall, but I’m hoping for the best, and I’m excited about getting the numbers nailed down, and letting the public know."

“The budget will come out soon,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said. “We will get final numbers from BPA by the 6th of October and then we’ll start having a better idea.”

Jim Jespersen, the water foreman, was also in attendance on Tuesday. He said that all of the PUD’s reservoirs were cleaned and inspected last week.

The Department of Health recommends that this work be done every five years, Jespersen explained, adding that the internal inspections and cleaning were done by certified divers.

He said the PUD would receive a full report, but he knew of one ladder that needed to be replaced.

During the manager’s report, Kay said that the electric crew was actively installing new service, and replacing aging underground cable and poles.

The PUD responded to a couple tree related outages recently.

“Our crews were very quick to respond, in both of those we had the customers restored in about an hour and a half each,” Kay said.

Mike Johnson, an engineer from Gray and Osborne Inc., will attend the next meeting to give an update on the water test results, and talk about the next steps in the Puget Island emergency water system project.

Kay talked about supply chain issues, and how prices have the PUD looking for alternatives. For instance, he said, the price of a wood crossarm had risen from $56 to $91, making fiber crossers more attractive.

“We’re looking at newer innovations to us,” Kay said. “It’s crazy times. We were hoping that things were getting better. But we’re not seeing as much relief three years into the pandemic, with the supply chain challenges that we’re seeing.”

Kay said the PUD was also continuing to work on pole attachment agreements and investigate appropriate fleet replacements.

“They’re not asking for anything elaborate,” Kay said.

Commissioner Bob Jungers asked about tree trimming.

“Tree trimming is going to be a challenge for the next couple years,” Kay said.

The general manager said he has asked for bids, but for the most part, has gotten no response. He said he sends an email to one company, which had responded before the pandemic, every week. He also acknowledged that there were a lot of areas that needed trimming in the county and agreed that the PUD could do some of it, but it would take away from their other responsibilities.

“Would they be more interested in us if we raised the price 25 percent?” Healy asked regarding contractors.

“If you’re going out and asking for bids, and you’re not getting any,” Reid said. “We’re saying what do you want?”

“They want to do it for Cowlitz where they can get $5 million,” Healy said.

Kay agreed it was an important matter, legally and operationally, and for reliability and insurance purposes. He suggested that the PUD go ahead and get a flagging crew and do it themselves.

“If we don’t get some trees trimmed, we’re going to have a few more outages,” he said.

Travel was approved for Kay to attend a WPUDA meeting in Richland in October.


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