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Commentaries and editorials

PUD Commission Starts
Long Term Planning

by Diana Zimmerman
Wahkiakum County Eagle, June 23, 2022

"You take those dams out and the tugs won't be able to bring the wheat down anymore."
-- Wahkiakum County PUD Commissioner Dennis Reid

A Tidewater barge is loaded with grain at the Lewis Clark Terminal at the Port of Lewiston on Monday. A study funded by the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association indicates breaching Snake River dams would increase regional transportation costs by $2.3 billion over the next 30 years. (Pete Caster photo) The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners shared their thoughts about membership with Northwest River Partners which supports hydropower and is working to retain dams on the Lower Snake River.

Commissioner Dennis Reid said he'd been approached by three commercial fishermen. One believed that taking out the dams would restore the salmon and would not raise electric rates, while the other two believed the dams should stay.

"I'm going to vote for approval of this membership," Commissioner Gene Healy said. "My primary reason is to try to ensure equal dialog on this important issue. The other side of the issue has got big time support in high ups in our government. I think on behalf of public power and power consumers everywhere, there needs to be a full dialogue and I think River Partners is probably the best ones to do that."

Reid agreed.

"Those dams do a lot," Reid said. "Not just for public power, but for transportation on the river system. You take those dams out and the tugs won't be able to bring the wheat down anymore, so you'd be putting hundreds of trucks on the road. That can't be good ecologically. The barges are a much better way to go. Besides all the irrigation for the farms that would be lost, and recreation as well."

"I have received numerous positive comments as well as far as our membership," Commissioner Bob Jungers said. "Northwest River Partners makes a very persuasive argument that removing the dams would not have a positive effect on fish harvest, fish production anyway, because there are other issues that are so much more impacting the issue."

The matter was tabled for the next meeting.

General Manager Dan Kay said that a Puget Island mainline system improvement project was on a list for further consideration for a grant through Senator Patty Murray's congressional direct spending funding.

"That means we've made it past the first round," Kay said. "We haven't made it that far before."

He said the PUD was continuing to look for water infrastructure grants, and grants for cybersecurity upgrades.

A hydrogeology report has been completed and Kay said that it looked optimistic.

The water crew is replacing 700 feet of pipe on Covered Bridge Road.

"This is a segment of one of the projects listed in our Western Wahkiakum Water System plan," Kay said.

The maintenance and leak detection located another unexpected leak, Kay said.

"That was a positive," he added.

Meanwhile, the electric crew is continuing to connect new services in established subdivisions, Kay told the commissioners, as well as replacing poles in the system that were flagged during pole testing.

There have been 51 new service hook ups this year, though Kay later clarified that some of those were customers switching form overhead service to underground.

There were three outages since his last report. One was the result of someone falling a tree on his property, while another was a suspected animal in the wrong place.

"We're not having many outages. I'm very proud of the work we do," Kay said.

Supply chain issues continue to plague the utility. Their transformer inventory is declining, but Kay is finding other ways to serve customers.

"Fellow utilities are not taking certain customer requests for line extension because they don't have the equipment to meet the customer's needs," Kay said. "We are trying to put pressure on manufacturers to get us some units. I want to thank [former General Manager] Dave Tramblie for the extra maintenance work he did on the small bucket truck.

It's taking a lot longer to get the replacement truck than they said it would.

"It would be nice if we could have some of these bottlenecks of this supply chain issues open up," Kay said.

Kay said that Wahkiakum West had been "progressing nicely" along SR 4 in their project to get fiber on poles and to customers.

"We are working on the next step to take it out East Valley Road and Middle Valley Road.," Kay said.

Cathlamet public wifi is up and running, Kay said.

Steve Carson, who was largely responsible for the installation of the new service, said that it was working well and dozens of customers were using it every day, adding that the organization had already seen revenue from people looking to extend their time on the network.

Diana Zimmerman
PUD Commission Starts Long Term Planning
Wahkiakum County Eagle, June 23, 2022

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