PUD expresses optimism in Puget Island water project
September 21, 2023
Wahkiakum County PUD staff had a lot of good news to share with the Board of Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday.
General Manager Dan Kay said that the Washington State Public Works Board had just awarded the Wahkiakum PUD funds, half grant and half loan, to support two local projects. One will extend the water line in Skamokawa and the other will extend a water line on North Hull Creek Road.
The PUD is still looking for funding for a Puget Island secondary water source project, but they hope to go back for another round after getting feedback on their application.
“There is a lot of support for the Puget Island water source project,” Kay said. “[We’re] trying to find which three letter agency wants to fund us. We are really excited about getting that funding and building those relationships. We are talking to everybody we can. We talked with Governor Inslee’s staffers and we did submit all our requests to the governor’s capital appropriations budget.”
At the Washington PUD Association, they also met with representatives and found some leads on how to get the project on the legislative appropriations bill.
“It feels very optimistic that people want to fund us, we’ve just got to find the right people with the right requirements to meet it,” Kay said.
Regarding the Department of Health water system consolidation feasibility study, Kay said that their application had been reviewed, but they were still waiting. On the bright side, there was money left over, and DOH is planning to open another funding window in January.
“This is exciting,” Kay said. “We’ve got some very significant water projects, and these are all in-house projects.”
“I want to give a big thank you to management for this work,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said.
“I’ve never seen this level of grants, or requests, and approvals in my 13 years as commissioner. I applaud you the efforts and the results.” Kay responded.
“I know we have some Westend customers,” he said. “Lets be honest, we’re stumbling a little bit, we’re making some progress, we’re talking to everybody and trying to learn the process, in case opportunities come up to continue to do this.”
They continue to talk with the Department of Commerce, and meet for feedback sessions to discuss how to improve their applications.
Auditor Erin Wilson said that the PUD was also awarded a $57,500 cyber security grant, thanks to a head’s up from Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman. The PUD will use the money for penetration testing and hardening of the system.
She later told the commissioners that the PUD was fortunate to have healthy fiscal reserves.
“We have to be able to pay for these projects and be reimbursed for them so it’s important that we maintain healthy reserve levels,” she said.
With regards to projects around the county, Kay said the backhoe is still in the ground as long as the weather holds; the electric crew is replacing underground cable on Miller Point Road, and some customers on Mill Road have requested water service, which the water crew hopes to start next week. That project is about a mile long and will add three customers. The PUD will add a power line in the same ditch and replace some poles.
Counsel Tim Hanigan said that the PUD now owned 1.8 acres on Puget Island close to the corner of SR 409 and West Little Island Road, inching them a little closer to realizing their hope for an alternative water source.
Commissioner Bob Jungers wondered what was next for that project.
Kay said they would be sitting down with Mike Johnson, an engineer from Gray and Osborne to talk about the next steps.
“We got dinged a few points on our grant application because the Puget Island water source project wasn’t as shovel ready as they thought,” Kay said.
Kay said he learned that recent testing showed that the Town of Cathlamet’s water source had non-detectable levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyls, known as PFA’s.
“It’s excellent news,” he said. “That’s the facility that supplies water to the town and Puget Island.”
The Washington State Department of Health is requiring testing for PFAs, which are manufactured chemicals used in stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick consumer products. The PUD submitted water samples from the Skamokawa and Western Wahkiakum Water Systems at an earlier date and learned that PFAs are undetectable in those systems as well.