Funds earmarked for PUD project


August 3, 2023

Wahkiakum County PUD General Manager Dan Kay had some good news for the board of commissioners when they met on Tuesday.

He recently received a call from Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez who serves Washington’s 3rd District, letting him know that the PUD was being awarded nearly a million dollars for their project to find a secondary water source on Puget Island.

Kay said the PUD asked for $2 million, but this was a very large chunk moving forward.

“She is going to continue to look for other sources of funding,” Kay said, “because she is really supportive of this project. We’re going to continue to look for other sources of funding.”

Kay and others from the PUD also recently met with a representative from Governor Inslee’s office to talk about other ways to fund the utility’s projects and how to get on the governor’s appropriations list.

“I’ve never been contacted by the governor’s office before,” Kay said.

“It was a good meeting,” Auditor Erin Wilson said. “He walked us through the process.”

“Making those contacts helps things get done,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said.

Kay agreed.

“We’re making some really good progress and these are grant programs,” Kay said. “These are not loan dollars.”

During Washington PUD Association meetings, they’ve been learning about the cap and trade program, and ways that new low carbon fuel standard programs could potentially benefit the district, including low cost allowances which could be sold into the market, or clean fuel standards which could credit the PUD for the number of electric vehicles that are in the county using electricity.

Details are vague and are still being worked out, but Kay believes these programs could offset some of the low income programs that the PUD may have to support in the future.

“This stuff is moving and changing very rapidly,” Kay said, "but there is potential for revenue in the tens of thousands of dollars range. It’s significant but it’s not going to move the budget needle. It might be able to impact some of the low income components of some of the other climate legislation.

A contractor will continue a tree trimming project along SR 4 for a couple more weeks.

“This work helped us with reliability and it has allowed our electric and water crews to continue with our customer service and infrastructure projects,” Kay said, thanking the commissioners for approving the contract. “It has worked out well.”

Kay said the electric crew completed an intensive cross country underground replacement, and are starting another one, and that they continue to replace poles.

The water crew is working on the Westend doing water leak detection and repair, he added, while maintaining some of their buildings on campus.

Kay noted that customer growth had slowed since last year.

Wilson clarified that the money they were awarded for the secondary water source project was actually earmarked, and it would be some time and there would be some hoops to jump through before the PUD would see the funds.

She gave an update on meter reading equipment upgrades, which crews were reporting to be even more user friendly.

Wilson also learned the improved technology will help them map their system.

“That’s a bonus for us, we weren’t anticipating that,” she said.

"Crews just have to drive by now instead of stopping at each location,” Wilson said. “What used to take 11 days a month now takes three.”

There are a lot of benefits, Reid said, adding that it was easier on bodies too, as crews were not having to get in and out of vehicles to read every meter.

The PUD opened up the meeting for public comment on the feasibility study they plan to apply for regarding consolidation of PUD and Town of Cathlamet water systems. There was no public comment.


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