Mar 10 , 2010

A regional sports fishing television show will highlight Avista’s work in protecting natural resources associated with our Clark Fork and Spokane hydroelectric projects this spring and summer.

Columbia Country,” which airs Sunday afternoons on Fox stations throughout the northwest, is featuring two Avista projects as part of its “Safekeeping” segments. “Safekeeping” is a sponsored segment that highlights environmental activities, often focusing on efforts to protect and enhance fish habitat.

The Clark Fork Project segment features an ongoing collaborative project on Lake Pend Oreille to reduce the population of invasive lake trout. Lake Pend Oreille was once a world-class fishery for rainbow trout, bull trout and kokanee. In recent years, the lake has been taken over by lake trout (also called mackinaw), which do not coexist well with native bull trout, and which prey on kokanee, depleting the food sources for rainbow and bull trout. This project offers angler incentives and brings in commercial netters to “fish out” the invasive lake trout.

Avista helps fund the Lake Pend Oreille project through our Clark Fork Project license, which includes Noxon Rapids Dam in Montana and Cabinet Gorge Dam in northern Idaho.

The Spokane segment features a new rainbow trout spawning study on the Spokane River, part of our new 50-year operating license for the five hydroelectric developments that make up Avista’s Spokane River Project. The spawning study is part of a ten-year collaboration with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to better understand the relationship between river flow and the rainbow trout population and their spawning habitat from Monroe Street Dam downstream to Nine Mile Dam.

A similar project has been in effect for several years in the Upper Spokane River, and we hope this project will help us better understand how managing river flows affects water levels in Lake Coeur d’Alene and habitat for rainbow trout downstream. By doing so, we hope to ultimately encourage growth of the rainbow trout population in the Spokane River.

Both of these projects show how Avista works with others to care for the natural resources affected by our projects. They are great examples of how we make our commitment to environment part of our daily operations throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

“Columbia Country” airs at 4 p.m. on Sunday on Spokane’s FOX-TV. (For other stations, check local listings). Or, you can see the segments here.
Published: 3/10/2010  2:51 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 02 , 2010
Post by Jessie Wuerst
Follow Jessie on Twitter: @AvistaCares

Kids in foster care and families in need are just a few of the people in our service territory to see the benefit of the first grants from the Avista Foundation for 2010.

We want to give you a brief look at two of the programs the foundation is supporting.

Children in foster care in the Greater Spokane area will benefit from an expanded volunteer mentoring program supported by a $2,000 grant to the non-profit Olive Crest organization. The program recruits, trains and supports volunteers who tutor and mentor foster and adoptive children.

Carol Plischke, area director for Olive Crest told us that the majority of the foster children they work with have encountered abuse, neglect and other challenges in their short lives. They are often behind in school and need the direct support a tutor or mentor can provide, not only to keep up with their studies, but to eventually graduate from high school. She said that through the involvement of community volunteers, this program addresses the need for quality mentors and tutors for foster children and provides opportunities for others to give back to their community in meaningful ways. More information on Olive Crest is available at www.olivecrest.org/pnw.

Over in Coeur d’Alene the St. Vincent de Paul H.E.L.P. (Helping Empower Local People) Center is located in the former Coeur d’Alene Library Building. It received a $5,000 grant this quarter from the Avista Foundation to support programs helping the area’s low income and homeless individuals and families. The first-of-its kind in Idaho pilot project is a one-stop location for meals, job and life skills training, legal counseling, child and family advocacy services, parenting classes and more.

Jeff Conroy, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, told us that the H.E.L.P. program is a collaboration of state agencies, the city of Coeur d’Alene and other non-profits that brings vital services together in one place to help some of the most vulnerable individuals and families in our community. He said that the services they are able to provide help others to help themselves, and this fits well with Coeur d’Alene’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.” Read more about St. Vincent de Paul at http://stvincentdepaulcda.org/c5/help.

In all just over $14,000 was distributed from the Avista Foundation during the first quarter. In addition to Olive Crest and St. Vincent de Paul, grant recipients included Mid-City Concerns, Lilac Services for the Blind, Community Frameworks and Center Pointe in Spokane. The Foundation also made in-kind donations of gently used laptops to the YMCA in Medford, Oregon, and to KSPS Public Television in Spokane.

The Avista Foundation, established in 2002 as a private, corporate foundation, focuses its giving on grants that strengthen communities and enhance the quality of life for people served by Avista Utilities in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, southern Oregon and Sanders County, Montana. The foundation focuses its giving in the areas of:
 
• Education – K-12 education particularly in the fields of science, math and technology; and higher education including scholarships,
• Vulnerable and limited income populations – providing assistance to those on limited incomes and support for initiatives to reduce poverty,
• Economic and cultural vitality – supporting projects that help communities and citizens to grow and prosper.
 
Published: 3/2/2010  5:27 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 01 , 2010
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

I’ve often said that Avista’s rate requests and rate cases that go before the utility commissions are part of a public and transparent process. This is still true, but I’d like to add a bit of an addendum to that statement. They are part of a public and transparent process – but they aren’t always extremely clear for the layman because the requests and cases can be complicated.

That’s no one’s fault really, as a regulated utility we are watched very closely by the regulators who set our rates and we provide a great deal of information to help them reach a decision. The utility business is complex and seemingly thousands of pieces of information go into one rate action.

You have every right to know what we include in our rate requests and we’ll be talking about our rate cases quite a bit over the next few months.

We will file electric and natural gas general rate cases in Washington and Idaho before the end of the first quarter of the year – the end of March.  We don’t have the requested numbers yet because they are still being finalized. Washington’s general rate case decision can take up to 11 months. In Idaho it’s around 7 months.

In the meantime before we file the cases, I encourage you to watch this short video that explains the rate case process in just a little detail. While it’s not specific any one case, it’s a nice overview of how the system works. The video is on a section of our website that has a bunch of information about rates. Check it out.

I’d also be happy to answer any questions in the comment section for everyone to read. Just leave a comment.
 
Published: 3/1/2010  1:31 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 01 , 2010
Avista's Sun Car
Post by Dan Kolbet

If you happened to read the Spokesman-Review this morning, you might have seen a great article about Avista’s Sun Car and electric vehicle work along with the smiling mug of my co-worker and occasional blogger Hugh Imhof. You can check out the article here.

I’ve written about the Sun Car a few times, but it was nice to see the broad reach of the S-R to spread the word too. Here’s the deal – the car (actually two cars) are hybrid electric Toyota Priuses that have been modified to plug-in to electricity and hold a charge. The modifications roughly double car’s miles per gallon to around 90 MPG (not too shabby).

Employees of Avista have been driving the cars around our service territory in Idaho and Washington since last summer. As part of the project we installed solar panels on our company headquarters to help power the cars too. You can see a live feed of the power generated by the solar panels here.

On a personal note, I think this technology is pretty cool. Driving around in one of these cars is a different experience – it’s really quiet – but it’s also just the beginning of the electric vehicle revolution. As the price of gasoline goes up, more of us think about cutting back our driving or carpooling more. But what if you could plug in your car every night and get the juice to power your travels right from your utility? It seems like a convenient option.

Yet, from a utility perspective, it’s somewhat of a tricky prospect. These new cars will collectively take a great deal of power. While I don’t think everyone can afford to rush out and buy a brand new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle today, there will come a time when these cars become a viable (and affordable) option. Testing the cars as Avista is today ensures that we will be ready if and when our customers need us to meet their car-charging needs.
 
Published: 3/1/2010  1:10 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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