Blind curves, single lanes, no shoulder

Community member describes hazards of working along SR-4


December 7, 2023

During public comments at the Wahkiakum County Public Utilities District Board of Directors meeting Tuesday a community member, Tom Gartski, noted the amount of money spent on tree trimming by the utility this past summer to alleviate problems along SR 4.

“Unfortunately mother nature doesn’t listen,” Gartski said.

He marked the number of power outages along that corridor east of Cathlamet in the last year at eight.

“I used to be a volunteer firefighter for District 4,” he said. “I was out there flagging in the middle of the night during the winter so the PUD could restore power to the people along there. It’s dangerous. It’s a scary area, all blind curves, single lane each way. No shoulder in many areas.”

Fearing someone might get hurt, Gartski said he was sure it would be an expensive project, but suggested that they take a serious look at the issue, if only to eliminate the calls at night.

Commissioner Bob Jungers asked General Manager Dan Kay for his thoughts, and the manager acknowledged it was a high priority, because of safety and reliability and because it was one of the more problematic areas in the county. He also said that the outages weren’t caused by trees that were trimmed, rather by trees falling from farther up the hill.

“Rocky terrain and excavation is the most expensive part of a project like this,” he added while discussing the potential of moving overhead line to underground.

Nothing was decided at that time.

During the manager’s report, Kay said that the PUD was continuing to apply for grants and funding, and completing paperwork for a variety of projects. He also said that their awards all come in the form or reimbursements and while they were in a strong financial position, they had to consider what they could commit to first.

With rain falling this week, the crew has switched over to preventative maintenance and preparing for flooding, Kay said.

“A lot of behind-the-scene stuff that needs to be done to be able to operate and maintain the system,” he added.

A State of the Utility presentation is planned for the next PUD meeting on Dec. 19.


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