PUD commissioners unhappy with proposed shutoff legislation
April 6, 2023
The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners discussed a couple bills coming up in the legislative session in Olympia and heard about other things going on at the utility.
A wildfire mitigation bill should lift some liability off the utilities and is supported by the industry, General Manager Dan Kay said. The second issue is a heat shut off bill, which Kay said is opposed by the industry and more likely to affect utilities on the east side of the state. The bill was proposed to prevent utilities from shutting off water or power for nonpayment in extreme heat.
“It will probably have very low impact on our utility,” Auditor Erin Wilson said, “but I think the point [the Washington PUD Association] is trying to make is that things the bill is maybe trying to accomplish, we already do at our utilities. We know our customers, the weather and our challenges, We already do these things with our customers.”
“It’s an erosion of local control, one of those things we always push back on. Some agency in Olympia making decisions for our utilities instead of the elected people who are from communities,” Commissioner Dennis Reid responded.
Locally, Kay said that three trees on Columbia Street that have historically caused problems for the PUD will be removed in the next couple weeks.
The PUD continues to seek information on grants, and a grant proposal they submitted for the Puget Island alternate water project is on congressional direct spending lists for both Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, according to Kay.
“It’s good to see all three think it is a valuable project,” Kay said. “This is our first time in the congressional direct spending arena and it’s not easy. It’s been earmarked and now the steps and challenges of just actually…it’s not like a typical grant where the project is funded and we do the work. It’s consuming, but it just slows everything else down.”
“I guess as a citizen of the realm, I’m happy it’s tough to get something on the congressional spending list,” Commissioner Gene Healy said. “There’s enough pork in Washington D.C. and there is a lot of spending, though we think it’s necessary, it all comes from the taxpayer.”
Crews finished a longstanding project to install a dozen hand valves in the water system in Skamokawa, and were working on a new water installation on Puget Island on Tuesday.
Kay also said that the PUD had received an application from Charter for pole attachments to provide broadband to customers from the east side of Cathlamet all the way to County Line Park.
“The quicker we get them approved, the quicker they can get them installed,” Kay said.
Reid passed on compliments. One customer with water pressure issues praised the professionalism and courtesy displayed by the water department and a Puget Island resident was amazed that the crew would respond to a power outage on a Sunday night and resolve the issue in 40 minutes.
Commissioners approved a change in the schedule for the next PUD meeting, which will now be held on Monday, April 17 at 8 a.m. to accommodate a visit from Energy Northwest CEO Bob Schuetz.
The meeting was closed to the public for collective bargaining.