Okanogan County PUD Commissioners had a busy meeting last Monday.
Commissioners gave permission for staff to apply for $5 million in funding from the USDA’s Community Connect grant program to bring direct fiber to the home for the Carlton area. If the grant is awarded, it would require about $750,000 total in matching funds from the PUD over several years.
They heard from Legislative consultant Jason Herbert of Energy Northwest, who shared some highlights and challenges from the 2023 legislative session. Among the bills discussed were the Utility Wildfire Mitigation Bill, which requires utilities to create and share wildfire mitigation plans with the state Department of Natural Resources; the Resource Adequacy Bill, which requires the state to study the likelihood of insufficient power supply in years to come, especially considering the current push toward electrification and the shuttering of non-renewable energy sources; and the Extreme Heat Moratorium Bill, which allows customers behind on bills to request not to be disconnected during periods of extreme heat.
Okanogan PUD Commissioners also heard from Customer Service Supervisor Mindy Morris, who reported that from October to April, more than 1,000 customers had utilized more than $466,000 in payment assistance. Partner agency Okanogan County Community Action Council is now operating on a full 12-month funding cycle and currently has assistance available for those in need.
And they heard from Chief Engineer Dan Simpson, who shared that the Bonneville Power Administration is working on two sections of their transmission lines that they identified as “high risk” for wildfire. If the area of the lines were to get a red flag warning and predicted wind speeds of 30-plus mph, BPA could choose to disconnect power. Although that would not likely affect the PUD because of its redundancy, it could have some local impacts if other issues occurred at the same time. BPA’s planned maintenance on the lines could remove them from the high-risk list, but exact dates for that maintenance are unknown.