Changes to a policy on education reimbursement for employees will help ensure more consistency in the administration of the program and help ensure the utility continues to reap the benefits of that investment.
Senior Manager of Employee Experience Tom Stredwick said the changes better define limits on what the utility will spend, how much on-the-job time the recipient employees can spend studying, the number and type of academic degrees it will fund per employee, the type of employee who can qualify for the reimbursement and the number of years a recipient must remain on staff after completing his/her studies without having to pay the tuition back.
This program aligns with Grant PUD Commission desire to have an industry leading education reimbursement program as outlined in Strategic Plan Objective 2. Programs like this were created to ensure that Grant PUD is able to grow local talent. In Grant County, only 13% of residents have a 4-year degree which precludes many from having access to many positions within the organization.
“I’m glad to see you tightening up some of the requirements,” Commission Judy Wilson said. “They need to be going for a program that will benefit the PUD, too.”
“I definitely agree with the grow-our-own program,” Commission President Nelson Cox said. “But I do like the tightening up.”
The Wanapum Heritage Center and Grant PUD invite you to…
Delve into Columbia Plateau cultures at Archaeology Days
Learn about the Wanapum way of life with a day of fun and interactive experiences at the Wanapum Heritage Center, near Priest Rapids Dam.
Archaeology Days commemorates state Archaeology Month with two days of hands-on activities – one for kids and one for adults – amid the basalt and Columbia River-carved high-desert basin the Wanapum have inhabited since time immemorial.
- Youth Day, Oct. 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30p.m. is for area students to hear stories, learn about area flora, fauna, geology and ecology. They’ll observe hide tanning, beadwork and tule mat weaving. They’ll throw an atlatl (hunting spear) the Wanapum way, view Indigenous arts and crafts and get a glimpse into the cultural importance of it all. Student groups must call the Heritage Center in advance to reserve space. See the telephone number, below.
- Adult Day, Oct. 4, from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. is open to all for a full day of interesting presentations by expert speakers on a host of cultural, natural and historical topics. A list of the day’s presenters will be available at the event. Many of the hands-on exhibits featured on Youth Day stick around for the adults, too.
The Wanapum Heritage Center will be open both days, featuring the permanent exhibit “Life as a Wanapum,” with audio interviews, interactive monitors, diorama and a life-size tule-mat lodge. The Temporary Exhibit Hall currently features the “Portraits in Red. Murdered & Missing Indigenous People Painting Project.”
Getting there: The Wanapum Heritage Center is 1.5 miles south of Desert Aire, off Highway 243. Turn at the Priest Rapids Dam entrance. Address: 29082 Highway 243 South.
The public will get a look at Grant PUD’s draft 2024 budget and proposed rate increase at three public budget hearings in October.
Hearing dates are:
Oct. 10, 2023 — Ephrata Headquarters Commission Room — 2 p.m.
30 C Street SW, Ephrata, WA 98823
Grant PUD commissioners at their Sept. 12, 2023 meeting:
— Learned that the Fish and Wildlife Team will be seeking a contractor to support Grant PUD’s efforts to determine the survival of juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating through the Priest Rapids Project, Tom Dresser, Manager of Fish, Wildlife and Water Quality, said. The 2025-2027 analysis will determine if current mitigation efforts, such as juvenile fish passages at the dams, advanced turbine systems and other measures are continuing to maintain the required survival standards. Other fish-related capital projects reported on included:
- A new production well to supply water to Grant PUD’s Carlton Acclimation facility located on the Methow River and a domestic well, which will be drilled next. Total project cost to date is $880,290. The production well is necessary because the Methow River is naturally migrating away from the facility’s existing water intake structure. The facility acclimates juvenile salmon to Methow River water prior to their release into the river. Once acclimated, salmon will return to that river to spawn after migrating to the ocean to mature.
- Permit applications are expected to go out by December to upgrade the Priest Rapids Hatchery Siphon Intake, which provides the hatchery with surface water from the Columbia River. The current intake does not currently meet required fish screening standards/criteria. The current estimated cost is approximately $5.3 million with project completion schedule for 2027, Dresser said.
See the presentation on pages 1-10 of the presentation materials. Listen to the discussion at 21:40 on the commission audio.
— Heard from Cultural Resources Manager Brett Lenz that the Wanapum have received a new motorhome to convert into a new Wanapum Discovery Unit mobile museum. The new unit will replace the existing one, which dates to 1999, is worn and in need of repairs. The $164,000 new unit is a 2022 Jayco Precept 36A, which will have more room for displays and better foot traffic. Lenz added that:
- He and his team monitored 213 archaeological sites this year.
- The Wanapum are working on an assessment that details the impacts to their community from the now-complete construction on a concrete secondary embankment on the Yakima County side of Priest Rapids Dam, as well as an upcoming project to anchor the dam’s spillway more securely to bedrock. Grant PUD will work with the Wanapum to mitigate for any identified impacts, Lenz said.
See the presentation on pages 11-19 of the presentation materials. Listen to the discussion at 53:06 on the commission audio.
Auburn-based Sturgeon Electric was the lowest of five bidders on a two-transmission-line project to power two new substations in Quincy, commissioners learned Tuesday, before unanimously approving the contract.
The company’s bid of just over $1 million was the only bid below Grant PUD’s engineer’s estimate of $1.2 million to build transmission to connect the West Canal and Quincy Foothills substations, currently under construction about five miles east of downtown Quincy, Project Manager Matt Moots told the commission.
Both new transmission lines would be energized by the existing Quincy Plains Substation on Road 11 NW.
The line to feed the Quincy Foothills Substation would head east to a farm road and then north to the substation jobsite, which is tucked amid cultivated fields. The contract involves installing one steel pole and 13 provisional wood poles and stringing and connecting the line. The wood poles would eventually be removed as other work continues to expand Quincy’s existing transmission network.
The line to feed the West Canal substation will also head east to the farm road but then jog south to the substation jobsite over 10 steel poles.
Grant PUD working proactively to improve power quality throughout county
Grant PUD is developing a proactive approach to ensure that customers throughout Grant County have power quality that meets high industry standards.
Ron Alexander, managing director of Power Delivery, told Grant PUD’s commissioners during their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, that his team has been working to identify places where power quality presents opportunities for us to improve.
He explained that alternating current power, which energizes the Grant PUD grid, can develop situations where the voltage is lower at the tail end of a circuit than at the head end. Low voltage causes current to rise to meet the power requirements [P (power) = I (current) x E (voltage] for electrical devices connected to the circuit. This can cause overheating and damage to those devices and the circuit. Often power quality issues happen on long sections of power lines that do not have voltage-regulating equipment installed and were designed many years ago, said Alexander. He added that growing power usage on long distribution lines that were originally built for smaller loads is exacerbating this problem.
One of the other issues the power quality efforts are highlighting is the need to share information with irrigators.
Grant PUD to seek federal funding for anchoring work at Priest Rapids Dam
Grant PUD will seek $5 million in federal dam safety-funding to help cover a long-anticipated $38-$45 million project to anchor the spillway at Priest Rapids Dam more solidly to bedrock for added seismic strength.
The project is a smaller-scale version of work completed 22 miles up the Columbia River at Wanapum Dam in 2014 and 2015, Senior Manager of Power Production Dale Campbell told commissioners Tuesday in a quarterly business update.
A contractor will install post-tension strand anchors across the entire length of the dam’s spillway. Priest Rapids will require less anchoring than Wanapum did — two post tension anchors per spillway section versus the three per section at Wanapum. Wanapum also required additional bar anchors that are not needed at Priest Rapids. The same type of anchors used at Wanapum Dam will be used at Priest Rapids Dam.
Priest Rapids Dam leaks through some of the “lift joints” between pourings of concrete. The 65-year-old structure is safe and stable but isn’t heavy enough to adequately hold back the Columbia River to modern standards without additional anchoring.
More than 250 feet of pedestrian trail, damaged primarily by tree roots, were repaired and blanketed with a smooth new asphalt surface on Crescent Bar Island.
The roots from aging poplar trees that line the island’s golf course had pushed the asphalt trail up from below, creating ripples. Crews removed six poplar trees that caused the damage after an arborist assessment indicated that the trees have a remaining lifespan of about five years.
Grant PUD staff are weighing whether to replant other tree species with less-damaging root systems, Shannon Lowry, manager of License Compliance and Lands Services, told commissioners as part of her department’s third-quarter business report.
Other third-quarter accomplishments include:
- A successful meeting with the county’s fire and sheriff’s officials and LiveNation staff to coordinate security efforts at Grant PUD recreation areas along the Columbia River during the busy, summer visitor season and on concert weekends at the Gorge Amphitheatre in nearby George.
- Completed 192 surveys since mid-June to hear what visitors to Grant PUD recreation areas think about their experience there. Lowry said her team is on track to collect 700-800 surveys by mid-September. The team will use the data to evaluate its recreation operations and maintenance and capital development programs going forward.
- Inspection of all 19 Grant PUD recreation areas to prepare for a federal compliance inspection, Aug. 8-10. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) inspectors will examine each rec area and other areas within the Priest Rapids Project for adequate infrastructure, public access and safety, and implementation of license-required activities.
- Continue studying environmentally safe, effective ways to control mosquitoes and the aquatic weed, “milfoil,” in and around boat launches and designated swim areas to potentially deploy next year.
- Continue efforts to freshen and repair exhibits in the Wanapum Visitor Center, which fell into disrepair during the COVID pandemic closure.
Engineers address customer requests for alternate Quincy transmission route
Engineers Randy Kono and Angel Barahona-Sanchez explained to the commissioners why the Jericho Tap 115 kilovolt line extending from Jericho Substation at the intersection of Beverly Burke Road and Highway 26 to a junction on Frenchman Hills near Road O SW was not selected as part of the planned route for the Wanapum-to-Mountain View 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line project.
Customers have insisted that Grant PUD consider this alternate route and have awaited an explanation about why engineers rejected it over the preferred route 4b shown here.
Kono explained that the route was considered in the initial evaluation process, but it was not selected because of the following reasons. Building adjacent to Jericho Tap did not appear practical due to the center pivots and other agricultural practices surrounding a significant portion of the existing line.
Rebuilding the Jericho Tap for a combined 115kV and 230kV circuit would require a significant outage to the Jericho Substation. Over 500 customers are sourced from Jericho Substation including a USBR Pumping Site. The option would have been the longest option and travel further east than all other options. It would have a bare minimum distance along existing road right-of-way providing less direct access from established roadways for construction and future maintenance.
Kono added that the existing easement for the Jericho Tap is only for one circuit. Adding a new circuit would need to be negotiated with the landowners on the Jericho Tap easement.
The Buck Family joined Grant PUD commissioners for a tribute to late Wanapum leader Rex Buck Jr. Sitting Floor Center: Rex “Tiny” Buck IV. Sitting Chairs Left to Right: Sunsky Buck, Ruth Jim, Angela Buck, Lela Buck holding Elias Corral, Nikkia Owlchild. Standing Left to Right: Clarice Paul, Lightning Paul, Katrina Buck, Kenny Mathias, Rex Buck III, CommissinerTom Flint, River Buck, Commissioner Judy Wilson, Commissioner Nelson Cox, Clayton Buck, Commissioner Larry Schaapman, Tasha Bailey, Commissioner Terry Pyle, Alyssa Buck, Emilee Maurice.
Rex Buck Jr. remembered, honored for a life of education, service and smiles
Commissioners unanimously memorialized late Wanapum leader Rex “Puck Hyah Toot” Buck, Jr. in an emotional tribute that included the large and growing Buck family and friends. Rex died Feb. 11, 2022. The resolution marks the end of the Wanapum’s traditional year of respect following the death of a tribal member.
Rex’s son Clayton Buck read Resolution 9021 aloud, honoring his father and reaffirming the connection between the Wanapum of Priest Rapids and Grant PUD. Since 1953 the “sacred bond between the Wanapum and Grant PUD nourishes a relationship built on integrity, trust, and honor,” he read.
Other members of the Buck family, as well as commissioners and Grant PUD staff shared their memories of Rex.
Rex dedicated his entire adult life to protection, preservation and perpetuation of Wanapum culture. His family, including his wife Angela all the way down to his new grandson was present for the reading. They spoke through their emotions about Rex’s lasting legacy, marked by his “smile, laughter, wisdom and willingness to share the culture and history of the Wanapum with not only Grant PUD but all that had an open heart and mind to listen.” Read the full resolution on page 303 of the commission packet. Hear the discussion at 2:16:55 on the commission audio.
$1 million approved for taller, safer bucket truck —
Grant PUD commissioners Tuesday approved $1 million to buy a taller, more reliable bucket truck to enable crews to reach the highest pole structures safely.
The Altec truck would replace a smaller, 20-year-old truck that is slated for retirement.
The boom on the proposed new truck reaches a working height of 150 feet, compared to 100 feet for the old truck. It has “10-wheel drive” for off-road capability. Its boom is insulated, protecting crews from electrical shock, and its bucket is “self-leveling,” creating a safer, level working surface, even on uneven ground.
Altec is already building the truck for a utility equipment show in September. Grant PUD should receive the truck by year end, Transportation Manager Brian Barrows told commissioners. The wait time for such a truck is usually three years.
Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the purchase at their June 13 meeting, but decided to approve the purchase Tuesday to help ensure the truck arrives this year.
$75 million package of electric system upgrades nears completion
An approximately $75 million package of electric-system upgrades over 10 sites around Grant County will be complete by late next year to reduce outage times and increase the electric supply for residential, businesses and industrial growth.
Grant PUD Project Manager David Klinkenberg gave commissioners an update Tuesday.
The projects, which are known collectively as “Design Build 2,” include five new substations, upgrades to existing substations and the new, 10-mile, 115 kV Red Rock transmission line to increase the electric supply to Royal City.
Six of the 10 projects are more than 60% complete. Four are already energized and serving customers in the Quincy, George and Royal City areas.
An invigorated focus on preventive distribution-system maintenance appears to be yielding a much lower total outage time, systemwide, Managing Director of Power Delivery Ron Alexander, told commissioners, Tuesday.
Since total outage time peaked in June 2022 at more than 130 minutes, total outage time dropped below the 100-minute target in August 2022 and continued plummeting downward to less than 70 minutes in November 2022. It has remained well below target ever since. Likewise, average outage duration per Grant PUD customer is also well below the target of .75%, Alexander said.
Crews have been working to replace aged poles, and pole components blamed for pole fires. They’ve also worked on improving “power quality” by updating equipment to ensure voltage remains within acceptable parameters even on the longer distribution lines.
“The improvement I’ve seen over the last 2-3 years — how things have been realigned and repositioned — it’s just brought the bar up higher,” said Commissioner Larry Schaapman, referring to the entire Power Production team. “As a commissioner I couldn’t be more pleased and more proud about what you guys are doing.”
See the full presentation on pages 43-62 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 1:29:41 on the commission audio.
Grant PUD recreation-area visitor survey to launch in May Grant PUD employees will fan out this summer to gather feedback, face-to-face, from the true experts in the utility's 19 Columbia River recreation areas — the 500,000 visitors who camp, fish, picnic, swim, golf or otherwise enjoy them. Manager of License Compliance and Lands Services S...
Grant PUD and Obsidian Renewables announced a Joint Development Agreement for a hydrogen solution on April 6, 2023. Download PDF File Here
Proven managers, skilled leaders and longtime employees Julie Pyper and Ty Ehrman have joined Grant PUD's executive management team. Pyper serves as Chief Administrative Officer and Ehrman as the Chief Customer Officer. "Julie's and Ty's skills and expertise will continue to be on full display, and we are excited to see them deliver positive ...
Commissioners, meeting Tuesday at Grant PUD's Hydro Office Building near Wanapum Dam, again heard from Grant County residents who oppose the route of a proposed new transmission line from the Wanapum Dam Switchyard near Beverly to the Mountain View Substation in western Quincy. The 230-kilovolt line, which is necessary to increase the electrical su...
At their Feb. 28 meeting, Grant PUD commissioners: — Received an update from the Enterprise Project Management Office on the latest successes, that include: Additional training/certification for project-management staff members. The upgrades on the fifth turbine/generator unit at Priest Rapids Dam are ahead of schedule due to clear communication an...
Grant PUD and other utility companies throughout the state are closely monitoring House Bill 1329 and Senate Bill 5366 as they move through the state legislature. The companion bills establish statewide protections against power and water disconnects for non-payment during high heat days and were introduced to the legislature at the request of the ...
EPHRATA – Grant PUD will expand its high-speed, fiber-optic telecommunication service to more than 1,400 customers in 2023 as part of a county-wide buildout project. The areas slated for fiber buildout include: Warden Area Completion (Part of the 2022 delayed by supply issues, weather and permits.) Rural area north, east and south of Quincy (Part o...