Okanogan PUD approves 2022 budget

Power 90-plus percent carbon free

OKANOGAN - Okanogan County PUD commissioners approved the 2022 budget Oct. 25. Highlights include:
    •    $60.6 million revenue
    •    $51.1 million expenditures
    •    $4.2 million debt service
    •    $20.9 million capital outlay
The PUD also anticipates a 3.75% average rate increase effective April 1, 2022, but the exact details of the increase have not yet been determined. Each customer type will be adjusted based on the costs to provide those services. The board and staff will discuss the rates in the coming months.
Capital outlay is mostly funded by a $40 million bond issued last year. Major projects include the continued work on the Okanogan-Brewster transmission rebuild, Tonasket substation replacement, substation power transformer upgrades and more.
Non-union wages were increased at the mid-point by 3.8%, normally adjusted to Consumer Price Index (CPI) totals, which this year was abnormally high near 6%. Commissioners discussed some concern about keeping up with competitive wages at high inflation rates
Budget documents are available on the PUD website, www.okanoganpud.org.
In other business in October, the board:
● Considered a broadband grant application through the Washington State Broadband Office for about $9.6 million to serve Twisp, Pateros, Crumbacher and Riverside. The areas were identified through partnerships with area broadband action teams. The grant would require a 10% match.
● Discussed possible slight changes to district boundaries, a requirement following the 2020 Census. Only some slight adjustments were likely in the Omak/Okanogan area. A public hearing will be held Nov. 22 to discuss the proposed plan, which can be viewed on the PUD website.
● Decided to no longer record every board meeting, since those recordings must be retained forever and the PUD would need to purchase expensive equipment to continue to record properly. Instead, minutes will still be made available and staff can work with the public with any questions.
● Heard that about 57 total accounts are 30 days or more past-due, and that many are still working on getting assistance to pay those bills or are setting up long-term payment arrangements. The 60-day and more past-due amount is down to $15,000, with only 8 accounts disconnected due to non-payment and non-contact with the PUD.

No public access
Utility access roads are not public access, and Okanogan County PUD is asking that no one uses them unless on official PUD business.
The PUD has received reports of people using our access roads or the pathways along the powerlines – known as an easement or right-of-way. Some use them to cross private land and access public land during hunting season. However, for safety and out of respect for private landowners’ rights, we are asking that no one use these easements or rights-of-way. Doing so is considered trespassing.
Anyone who sees unofficial vehicles or persons accessing PUD easements or rights-of-way should report it to the PUD or law enforcement.
PUD power report
Once again, the vast majority of power in Okanogan County PUD territory came from
hydropower – about 83%. The PUD shared its 2020 fuel mix report at a Nov. 8 board meeting.
Other main sources – although significantly less than hydropower – were: nuclear at nearly 7%, sourced from Columbia Generating Station; and wind at just under 4%, sourced mainly from Nine Canyon Wind Project.
The PUD’s mix also involved 0.02% of coal and 0.15% of natural gas, the only specified carbon sources in the mix. However, the category “market” is of unspecified sources, and could include additional carbon sources, although it is likely mostly hydropower. Because it could be carbon, however, the state considers the 6% market category to be carbon.
With that in mind, the PUD is still considered nearly 94% carbon-free, which is well within the state’s goal of 80% carbon-free by 2030.
The fuel mix report and comparisons from the past year and the state is posted on the PUD website, www.okanoganpud.org.


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