At the annual Northwest Communications & Energy Innovations Conference (NIC) in Marysville last week, Mason County PUD No. 1 was honored with three first place plaques and two second place nods at the Excellence in Communications contest, hosted by the Northwest Public Power Association. PUD 1 was recognized in the Group A (10,000 customers or less) category for their social media campaign, a special publication for water conservation, their new customer packets for their 2018 water systems acquisition, as well as The Connector newsletter and their strategic work plan. (Pictured right, Julie Gray (left) & Kristin Masteller)

“Our employees have really become our best communication assets. They help develop our messaging and have really stepped up, both in the office and out in the field, to consistently improve the way we communicate with our customers”, said Kristin Masteller, PUD 1’s general manager. “I especially want to thank Julie Gray for her work on our website and especially on our social media platforms, which earned a perfect score from the judges.”

The Excellence in Communication contest, which recognizes the top communication efforts from Northwest Public Power Association member utilities and associations, turned 26 years old this year and celebrated

another record-breaking year with 257 entries.

Mason County PUD No. 1’s board of commissioners passed a resolution recently in support of the federal Columbia River Power System and the four lower Snake River dams. The reason for this is that our utility, along with the region’s public power community at large, realize that the lower Snake River and Columbia River dams must stay in service if our region wants to ensure that we have reliable baseload energy to power our communities during the winter and during peak energy times, and to ensure that power rates are affordable for residents.

We know that customers might be tired of hearing us beat the hydropower drum, but we do it out of a sense of urgency. Our state has set a clean energy rule that we have to achieve by 2045. We need hydropower to achieve it. Our state has also earmarked money for a task force to study the impacts of the removal of the lower Snake River dams. Achieving a 100% clean energy standard cannot happen without the dams and removing the dams will not single-handedly save our salmon and orcas. We must have a strategic, multi-pronged approach for both of those goals.

HYDRO IS OUR CARBON FREE BACKBONE

The lower Snake River dams produce over 3,000 megawatts of carbon free power, with the entire Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) amounting to the largest source of clean, renewable electricity in the Pacific Northwest. Without this hydro-powered backbone on our energy grid, our region would experience near-constant brownouts and blackouts when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, and when the west coast is at peak demand for energy consumption. The loss of hydropower negates any efforts to achieve a carbon-free portfolio in Washington State by 2045.

WE CAN’T AFFORD THE ALTERNATIVES

The region would need to compensate for the lack of hydropower baseload with other baseload-capable energy sources like coal and gas fired power plants and nuclear, the first two being high carbon emitters. Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) estimates the loss of hydropower generated by the four lower Snake River dams alone would increase power costs by $274 – $372 million each year, with those costs being borne by customers of the BPA, such as Mason PUD No. 1 customers. Additionally, the increase in CO2 emissions from the loss of the clean hydropower will result in up to 2.6 million metric tons released into our atmosphere every single year moving forward.

The fallout costs continue to climb for the lack of shipping and transportation that the FCRPS provides, the loss of irrigation for our northwest farming communities, rebuilding and reinforcing transmission systems, the loss in revenues to support fish and wildlife, and the overwhelming expense of trying to build out enough solar and wind generation to fill the energy gap, which would escalate into the billions of dollars.

WE NEED THE CONTINUED INVESTMENT IN FISH AND WILDLIFE HABITAT

BPA also estimates that it will cost between $1.3 and 2.6 billion to breach the four lower Snake River dams. These are tremendous amounts of federal funds that could be used to achieve better outcomes for fish and wildlife through other means like funding culvert replacements, saltwater habitat restoration projects in the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean, stream habitat restoration, etc. BPA also reports that the dams are “on track to achieve standards of 96 percent average dam survival for young spring chinook and steelhead migrating downstream, and 93 percent for young summer migrating fish”. This is largely due to the $900 million that is invested annually by Pacific Northwest public power ratepayers through their power bills. Roughly 25% of every dollar is spent toward fish and wildlife habitat restoration at the FCRPS dams. Fish and orca survival will depend on the coordination of multiple factors in addition to fish passage at dams. We need to clean up our waterways and coast lines, we need to curb the aquatic noise from water traffic that is scattering the orca’s food sources and disrupting their feeding. We need to penalize polluters both in the U.S. and in Canada who dump raw sewage and pollutants into our water. We need to do more to protect salmon from the explosion in population of natural predators and overharvesting by humans. Again, it will take a multitude of coordinated activities to get where we need to be.

PUBLIC DOLLARS SHOULD BE SPENT IN AN IMPACTFUL WAY

Responsible management of the federal hydro system needs to be one component of the solution to ensuring fish runs are successful and the food chain is stable. Removing the dams makes for a good slogan on a t-shirt, but it does not make good economic, environmental or energy sense. It is counterproductive to the strides made in energy and environmental policy on both a state and federal level. Our region cannot sustain the environmental and economic losses of the removal of the dams. While the examination of dam removal for facilities that have outlived their useful life continues to be a viable environmental strategy, the use of public tax dollars to fund a task force and study for the dismantling of our federal hydro system is a waste. Those monies could be applied toward real, viable solutions that look at a comprehensive solution for ensuring the longevity of our salmon, orcas and wildlife habitat.

Our commission meets the 2ndand 4thTuesdays of the month at 1:00 p.m. at the PUD 1 office in Potlatch. If you want more information on the PUD’s position on hydropower, you’re always welcome to attend and discuss. If anyone would like more information on the statistics that we have cited, please visit Northwest River Partner’s website and click on their “Data & Resources” tab.

 

Mason County PUD No. 1 Board of Commissioners

Ron Gold, President

Mike Sheetz, Vice President

Jack Janda, Secretary

 

 

T.J. GoosAt the April 23, 2019 board of commissioners meeting, Mason County PUD No. 1’s lead water system operator TJ Goos was presented with a plaque inscribed “2018 Water Operator of the Year” by Evergreen Rural Water of Washington (ERWoW). Goos was surprised with the announcement of his award at the ERWoW annual conference in Yakima earlier this spring. The plaque and presentation before the PUD 1 board of commissioners made it official.

 

Tracey Hunter, executive director for ERWoW, (pictured with Goos) cited several reasons Goos was chosen for the honor, including his leadership under pressure when one of the District’s systems encountered a bad routine sample that required substantial reservoir repairs and coordination between state agencies, the PUD, and customers. She also mentioned Goos’ efforts to help the District research and onboard 32 new water systems last July which increased its customer base by about 30%.

 

“TJ’s leadership has really shined in both emergency situations and ongoing daily operations over the last 18 months. He’s very deserving of this award and Evergreen Rural Water has been a great partner and resource to the PUD”, stated general manager Kristin Masteller. “We’re incredibly proud of the work he has done for the utility on behalf of our ratepayers.”

 

Founded in 1994, ERWoW provides training and technical assistance to water and wastewater systems throughout the state to provide help in solving rural water problems. Their headquarters is located in Shelton, Washington.

March 2018-

“Spill” is quite literally the water that is spilled through massive gates that are raised at our federal hydropower dams. The spill is designed to help young salmon migrate quicker and easier downstream from the rivers to the ocean. Due to a ruling after two decades of litigation from fish advocates, Judge Simon from the Oregon U.S. District Court ruled for additional spills this year at eight large dams from April through mid-June. This will hit all of us Northwest ratepayers right in our wallets through our electric bills. Read more

March 2017-

PUD 1 receives its power from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) which runs the hydroelectric system in the Northwest. Back in the mid-1990’s the federal government passed a new energy bill which gave some of the benefits of the hydro system back to investor-owned utilities (IOUs) like Puget Sound Energy. The IOUs complained that preference customers, like Mason PUD 1, that received their power from the federal hydro system have more benefits of the system than IOUs did. Their argument was that federal money was used to build the system so all tax payers should benefit from it. As a result, $50 million a year was given to IOUs to level the playing field. Today, that number is about $250 million per year.

We (public power) protested this and we went to court over it. Read more

My father helped build the lower Snake River dams.  I’m sure he would turn over in his grave if he knew what some environmental organizations are now proposing.  For example, Wendy Gerlitz of the Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC) recently opined that the region must choose between healthy populations of wild salmon and removing the Snake dams. NWEC’s solution is to remove the dams and replace them with more energy conservation and new wind/solar projects. In reality, salmon and dams, including the Snake dams, are co-existing and thriving – good news for those who care about restoring salmon and reducing carbon emissions.

No matter how many times NWEC makes their assertion, it simply doesn’t change the facts. Read more

March, 2016-

When I opened this morning’s paper the headline read, “Washington Considers Nation’s First Carbon Tax.”  At a recent Washington PUD Association meeting we discussed the various carbon reduction policies that are currently in play in Olympia as well as Washington DC.  There are multiple policies that could impact our cost of providing reliable electricity to you the ratepayer. To list a few:

  • At the direction of the Governor, the Department of Ecology began working on developing a cap on emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from large emitters in the state called the “Clean Air Rule.” Recently, Ecology announced that after receiving feedback from the public and stakeholders, they are withdrawing the proposed rule, updating it, and will release a new proposed rule this spring. Their goal is to finalize and adopt the Clean Air Rule this summer.
  • Ecology is also taking the lead on development of a plan for the state to comply with the President’s Executive Order/EPA Clean Power Plan rule that sets CO2 emission limits for the nation’s existing power plants. While the state is currently working on the compliance plan, the future of the EPA Clean Power Plan is uncertain. The U.S. Supreme Court imposed an injunction on implementation of the rule while legal challenges are addressed.
  • In addition, there’s an initiative (I-732) before the state legislature that would impose a tax on carbon emissions from the generation of electricity used by consumers in Washington State with the funds going toward a 1% reduction in the state sales tax, a reduction in the B&O tax on manufacturing, and to provide funding for the working families sales tax exemption. If the legislature doesn’t enact it, the initiative will go to voters to decide in the fall.

How would all these measures impact Mason PUD 1?

Because the Clean Air Rule and Clean Power Plan are still in development, we don’t know how those policies will ultimately interact with each other or with I-732, should the initiative pass. Because the initiative has already been drafted, we do know more about potential impacts to our PUD.

If enacted, the initiative’s carbon tax would start in 2017 at $15 per metric ton of CO2, rise to $25 in 2018 and increase by 3.5% plus inflation annually until it reaches a cap of $100 per ton in 2016 dollars. The tax would impact what we and ultimately you pay for electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration. During low water periods, BPA has to make market purchases of electricity. Market purchases come from a pool of unspecified electricity resources; meaning the source of electricity isn’t identified (think grab-bag of electricity). The Initiative assumes the unspecified resources have a certain level of carbon emissions and would apply the tax based on the assumed emissions. According to the initiative proponents, the intent is to treat these resources as if they were coal generation. That means at the $15 per ton level, our cost of power would increase approximately $60,000 in a high water year and $212,000 in a low water year. These costs will vary with the tax increasing annually until the $100 per ton cap is hit.

Regardless of the approach, as our community, state, and nation considers measures to reduce carbon, I believe it is important to ensure that carbon reduction policies are complementary and not additive. We should avoid conflicting or redundant policies that may increase costs without a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions. We should also ensure that our polices ensure reliability of the electric grid, and that they provide value to our community.

We are fortunate in that we are starting from a good place. 95% of the electricity used to serve customers is from zero-carbon resources- mainly clean, renewable hydropower. As your elected representative, I am honored to work to protect and maximize the value of our reliable, low-cost and clean hydropower resources.

In the interest of keeping our community informed on policies that may impact the costs and delivery of services, I plan to call a public hearing on Tuesday, May 10th at 1:00 p.m. at the District board room to provide information on the various approaches to carbon reduction and to hear from you, the owners of our system.  Following the work session, the Board may vote on a resolution that will outline our official position on the various carbon reduction efforts.  We look forward to a productive conversation and hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Karl Denison

Commissioner, District 1

Read more

February marked the 80th year of public service for Mason County PUD No. 1. While Homer T. Bone is often cited as the “father of public power”, one very influential public power supporter in our state was Morrison F. Pixley.

Pixley was a land developer and the nephew of Frank M. Pixley, the celebrated founder of The Argonaut, one of the most influential publications in California in the late 1800s. After the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Pixley purchased land along Hood Canal from lumberman John McReavy, with the hopes of creating an artist colony called “Yacht Haven”, what would later become Union City. In 1916, Pixley moved his family from California to their new estate just west of where Alderbrook Resort now sits, and became fast friends with another local artist named Orre Nobles. Read more

The PUD was honored with three Excellence in Communications Awards from the American Water Works Association’s Pacific Northwest Division at their annual conference. Read the press release.

December, 2014

Emergency Preparedness is important.

In October, the PUD participated in the Great Washington Shake Out earthquake drill and earlier in the year employees revised our Emergency Response Plan. We have to be ready so that when the devastating earthquake does finally hit, we have a practiced plan in place to help get the power back on and provide water to our customers while you all work to get your own homes and business back in order. We also actively participate in County-wide disaster planning with other public agencies.

While it may be a while before we have a large scale disaster, it’s very important to make sure that you’re prepared to survive without vital infrastructure such as power, water, phones, road access, transportation and especially food and heat. Read more