PUD commission reviews water plans


January 19, 2023

By Diana Zimmerman

The Wahkiakum PUD Board of Commissioners talked about water plans, a new way to deal with supply chain issues, and got an update on activity at the utility.

General Manager Dan Kay said he was working with the Department of Health and engineers from Gray and Osborne, Inc., on the Puget Island Water Plan, which is about to expire.

He suggested that the PUD consider a Puget Island Small Water System Management Plan, a less expensive alternative to the traditional water plan.

The water system qualifies, he said, because there haven’t been any significant changes: the growth area hasn’t expanded, and the capital projects list hasn’t changed dramatically.

There are two major capital projects outstanding in the system. One is to find an alternate emergency water source, and the second is to connect two lines on the island that currently don’t connect back into the main system, Kay said.

The PUD recently learned they would receive congressional spending funding for the second project, Kay said.

The goals outlined in their water plan are to continue work on the capital projects list and to reduce water leaks to below 10 percent, which they have already reduced from 16 percent down to around nine.

“We could convert back to a water plan if there was a major change or something significant happened,” Kay said.

Supply issues have made acquiring materials necessary for business more complex for places like the PUD. While other utilities have already created emergency procurement policies in response, Wahkiakum is considering following suit. An emergency policy would allow them to consider secondary conditions besides price when they order things like transformers or even machine bolts.

“This procedure still requires three bids,” Counsel Tim Hanigan said. “This procedure outlines the process to give management a little more flexibility to go out and get what we need so we’re not ending up like the utility up north that couldn’t hook up new customers. We have to have our ability to get our materials.”

“Since covid and all the supply chain issues, a lot of utilities have been modifying their procurement processes, doing what it takes to keep business going,” Kay said, adding that the goal is to do what’s right, keep the auditor’s office happy, the legal department happy, and being 100 percent transparent.

The board was asked if they would like to add a sunset clause to the new policy. After some discussion, the answer was yes.

One project that was affected by supply chain issues was completed this week. Voltage regulators ordered a year and a half ago were installed on Tuesday at the Cathlamet substation.

Kay said that the PUD received $36,000 in December, their first installment of the $312,000 they will receive from Bonneville Power Administration, which is giving rebates to their customers following a banner year.

Crews have been working on customer installations on both the water and electric side thanks to an improvement in the weather Kay said, and the PUD is seeing numerous broadband pole attachment applications, and more trucks on the road setting up service for customers.


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