Commission recap, 7/11/2023 — Root damaged fixed on Crescent Bar pedestrian trail

Crescent Bar trail repair More than 250 feet of pedestrian trail have been repaired on Crescent Bar to remove damage caused mostly by invasive roots.

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.

See the full presentation on pages 1-13 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 30:18 on the commission audio.

Fiber-optics team looks beyond full network buildout

Senior Manager of Wholesale Fiber Terry McKenzie told commissioners her team is focusing on a plan to keep the network in good repair, well run and financially viable, beyond its expected full build-out date of late 2024.

The department has hired a construction-and-maintenance specialist to prioritize projects and optimize scheduling to increase efficiency, McKenzie said. Efforts are underway to get a better handle on what the network costs to operate and create long-term business and operation plans.

With the wholesale network build-out complete, the team could also consider ways to share marketing costs with the private internet service providers who sell Internet, telephone and TV services to retail customers.

Grant PUD has focused much of its marketing budget to encourage customers to sign up for fiber service as soon as it becomes available. Several commissioners have commented they’d like to see the service providers cover a portion of the marketing costs, since they also benefit from the promotion.

Currently 28,542 customers subscribe to Grant PUD fiber, out of a potential 40,354 for a total “take rate” of 70.7 percent. See the full presentation on pages 14-29 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 1:15:48 on the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

— Heard from Manager of Enterprise Risk Paul Dietz about the top near-term risks facing Grant PUD, which include state regulation that eliminates carbon-creating fuels from the state’s energy supply, as well as wildfire danger, changes in the energy marketplace and unusual weather patterns. Dietz and his team are also working on risk analyses for each Grant PUD business units. See the full presentation on pages 30-43 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 1:47:54 on the commission audio.

— Heard from John Mertlich, senior manager of Financial Planning & Analysis, and Shaun Harrington, senior financial analyst, as they presented an analysis that recommended moving forward with the rehab of turbine/generating units 9 and 10 at Priest Rapids Dam. The analysis utilized Monte Carlo simulation to capture the risk mitigation benefits for the upgrade work. This is a similar method as used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The analysis showed the net present value (NPV) is $7.5m, the expected return on investment (ROI) is 10.2% and the payback period is 25 years, occurring before project relicensing. These factors support the business proposal to upgrade these units. For more information, see pages 50-62 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 3:29:54 on the commission audio.

— Heard about reliability compliance from Gene Austin, compliance manager. Highlights included the results from the successful 2023 NERC Audit with: zero findings or non-compliance, three recommendations, zero areas of concern and one positive observation. Also noted as a “Big 3 in 2023” initiative, is to standardize the process used to notify key departments of employees who either transfer within or leave the District. This goal will be worked on from July-December 2023. The next audit will be conducted in the second quarter of 2026. For more information, see pages 63-70 of the presentation materials.Hear the discussion at 3:55:57 on the commission audio.

— Approved Resolution 9025 accepting a bid and awarding contract 130-11695H for Quincy Foothills Substation labor. This labor contract will support the construction of the new Quincy Foothills Substation for the purpose of supplying 60 MVA to an industrial customer. For more information, see pages 15-21 of the commission packet.

— Approved Resolution 9024 Accepting a bid and awarding contract 130-11694HR for West Canal Substation labor. This labor contract will support the construction of the new West Canal substation for the purpose of supplying 40 MVA to an industrial customer. For more information, see pages 8-14 of the commission packet.

— Approved a motion authorizing the General Manager CEO to execute Change Order No. 11 to Contract 430-4045 with Voith Hydro. This change order increases the not-to-exceed contract amount by $15,820,834 to a new revised contract total of $75,876,052. This increase covers the labor costs to disassemble, rehabilitate and re-assemble Unit 6 of the Priest Rapids Dam turbine/generator upgrade project. For more information, see pages 22-32 of the commission packet.

— Reviewed a motion to execute Change Order No 2 to contract 130-11080R with Basin Tree and Pest Service, increasing the not-to-exceed contract by $699,824 for a new revised contract total of $3,560,037. This vendor provides the tree trim/removal services for both the fiber and electric, systems. This motion will be presented to commissioners for a vote July 25. For more information, see pages 33-42 of the commission packet.

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