Cold snap, Kruse award at Feb. 11 meeting

Submitted by sheilac on Tue, 02/19/2019 - 09:22

The board of commissioners of the Okanogan County PUD learned of several ways recent cold weather impacted the district.

Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg said that the cold days in February have been “rough” on power supply, resulting in the PUD having to buy more than $600,000 in power on the open market. He typically expects to sell power in February, not buy, based on 3-year averages in the budgeting process. The peak hit 175 megawatts of power being used by customers, with the all-time record peak being 201 MW.

Unfortunately, the extreme cold will cause a much higher kilowatt usage than normal, which will also mean high bills for PUD customers, Gadeberg said. Forecasts are radically changing as to what to expect next for weather patterns, but hopefully a warming trend is on its way.

Power sales for 2018 ended up $1.2 million under budget, largely due to the lack of usage during the mild early winter that the region had been experiencing, resulting in low prices when selling on the wholesale market.               

Also weather-related, Operations Manager Randy Bird said that the Feb. 5 outage in the north part of the county was “very long and very cold.” The outage involved 530 customers from Ellisforde to Chesaw area. Temperatures were at 0 degrees with heavy wind chill. Crews were able to isolate the area and get most customers back on in a short amount of time, but there were a few that took additional time while repairs were completed. The outage was caused by a downed conductor on the main line, requiring snowmobiles to get cross-country for repairs.

Director of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Jeri Timm said the USGS Nighthawk gauge measured the flow of the Similkameen River at 174 cubic feet per second (cfs). The lowest recorded since 1929 was 160 cfs.

Due to the low flow, staff were able to visually observe additional areas of the concrete face, that have been historically obstructed.

In other business, the board:

  • Recognized wireman Nate Kruse for 10 years of service to the District. He began as a limited assignment meter clerk in Brewster. Kruse earned his master general journey level electrician certificate in 2010. He began his wireman apprenticeship in 2011. He passed his exam and became a journeyman wireman in 2014, the position he currently holds.
  • Heard from Construction Design Manager Allen Allie that many projects are on the schedule for this year, with several already fully designed and bid with materials soon on their way. So far bids are coming in lower than expected. The joint project with BPA to connect the Twisp substation and Winthrop substation is still on schedule to begin construction in April, and Tonasket substation redesign work is in the 60 percent design stage now.

     Allie also reported that there were 494 work orders in 2018, ranging from maintenance work to new customer connections. Five miles of overhead and six miles of underground  distribution lines were added to the system in 2018.

     Allie also reported on the Reliability indices for 2018 – SAIDI (average outage duration), SAIFI (number of times a customer experiences an outage), CAIDI (average power restoration time). Allie said the power restoration time (CAIDI) was higher than they would like, mostly because some outage sources are hard to find, especially on rough terrain with visual inspection being a challenge. There were a total of 388 outages last year, most small and over quickly.

  • Heard from Human Resources Manager Katie Pfitzer that the district had three reportable workplace injuries/illnesses in 2018 involving one physician visit, one day of work lost and one case of hearing loss.
  • Heard from General Manager Steve Taylor that he and several staff members went to Olympia and met with legislators, agency representatives and dam safety officials, as part of the Enloe Dam evaluation period. Staff expect to report back to the board in late March to share information that has been collected regarding next steps with the dam.
  • Commissioner Bill Colyar said that a local paper shared an article that inferred the District is in negotiation with the Colville Tribe on dam removal. He wanted to make sure that no one forms incorrect perceptions based on the article and that the PUD values the good working relationship they have with the Tribe. He clarified that the District has not been contacted by the tribes regarding this matter, nor has a decision been made on Enloe. The District is still in an investigative stage on the legal obligations of owning Enloe Dam. Colyar said he is looking forward to working with the Tribe in the future.