The Okanogan County PUD has maintained its A1 bond rating from Moody’s and A+ rating from Standard and Poor’s. Considerations for the positive ratings include thoughtful financial policies, a proactive approach to rate setting and low cost of power.
The board discussed the district’s standing at their Oct. 26 meeting prior to the $40 million bond sale. Dick Schober, managing director of public finance investment banking at Piper Sandler & Co., shared via telephone that the rating is as good as, or better than, several other PUDs in the state.
The district put its bonds on the market Oct. 28. The proceeds will be used for a projected $35 million in capital projects, such as rebuilding and upgrading the fire-damaged Okanogan-Brewster transmission line from wooden poles to steel poles at $13 million. The line was set for replacement in the next few years, but has been accelerated after the Cold Springs Fire destroyed about 40 percent of it. The upgrades will allow for greater capacity from Wells Dam, which is the district’s least-cost power.
In other business Oct. 26, the board:
- Heard that the state’s moratorium on disconnects due to non-payment has been extended until Dec. 31, 2020. This does not remove customers’ obligation to pay their bills, but keeps power on and waives late fees. Customer Service Supervisor Mindy Morris shared that there are just over 100 accounts for about $40,000 behind on payments, a few of which have not paid since the moratorium began in March. Customer service has been reaching out to help customers find resources to pay their bills.
- Authorized General Manager Steve Taylor to execute change order No. 14 of the Max J. Kuney Company Design-Build Contract, in an amount not to exceed of $227,445 for the Enloe Dam Phase 1 Services, to advance engineering designs to 90 percent, obtain remaining environmental permits, and submit a Phase 2 proposal.
- Heard that the district has faced challenges to meet load requirements with the Okanogan-Brewster transmission line inoperable after Cold Springs Fire damage. Staff is still working on a full redesign of the line. Total repairs of the system since the fire so far have amounted to about $2.2 million toward an estimated $7.6 million to be spent. The district is still waiting for presidential authorization for FEMA reimbursements.
Generation & Power Supply Share 2021 Budgets
In the first evening meeting of the 2021 budget season, Okanogan County PUD commissioners heard from the generation and power supply departments Oct. 26.
Director of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Jeri Timm said the $7 million that had been budgeted for construction in 2020 for the Enloe Dam safety dewatering project had to be delayed to 2021 due to advancing engineering design and permitting delays. That work is estimated to be constructed in 2021, with the goal for the final inspection to be conducted in 2022.
Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg presented the power supply budget, with nearly $25 million expected in power purchases for 2021. The district purchases all its power, which it then sells to customers.
The forecasted mix for contracted power purchases this year include Wells Dam (Douglas County PUD) 39 percent, Bonneville Power Administration 57 percent and Nine Canyon Wind Farm 5 percent.
For times when there is more power than needed, the district expects to sell about $2.8 million on the wholesale power market in 2021.