Jul 19 , 2012

Spokane SWAT at Avista

Avista equips first responders with electric and natural gas safety training
 

To ensure the safety of our customers, employees and the public, Avista works closely with local firefighters, police and other first responders so we are all prepared to take action when called upon.

This work includes coordinating with other first responders in emergencies, mock accident training and basic electric and natural gas training.

Last month, the City of Spokane SWAT Team came to Avista to learn a little electric and natural gas 101, as well as how to disconnect electric and gas meters in an emergency situation. 

The Spokane SWAT Team supports the Spokane Police Department with tactical response to critical incidents, such as hostage, barricade, or sniper situations. One of their objectives during an incident is to make the area safe. This includes eliminating the perpetrator’s ability to misuse electricity or natural gas to harm or threaten the safety of others.

“If there are potential electric or natural gas hazards, we always encourage first responders to contact us first,” said Bill Baker, Avista gas training and codes coordinator. “If they have to act at that moment, we’ve ensured they have the proper training to defuse a potentially volatile situation with electricity or natural gas.”

Baker, along with Natural Gas Foreman Dan Gigler taught the class of 30 SWAT team members how to pull an electric meter, how to turn off the gas meter and the importance of wearing safety equipment in the process.

First responders often put their lives on the line to ensure the public’s safety. Avista’s gas and electric servicemen and women, also first responders, ensure the public’s safety by making a situation safe from any potential electric or natural gas dangers.

Safety for everyone is always top of mind every day that we work to deliver energy to your homes and businesses. The training and partnership with other first responders is just one of the many examples of our commitment to your safety.

Check out more information about electric and natural gas safety.
Published: 7/19/2012  4:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 18 , 2012
social media at Avista

Engaged customers and transparent communications boost ranking

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Earlier this month E Source, an energy research company, announced its peer-based ranking of the top utilities using social media and for the second year in a row, Avista Utilities earned the top spot. It’s quite an honor to be recognized nationally for our social media work and commitment to authentic, transparent communications with you, our customers.

But the rankings mean nothing if our customers aren’t on board and thankfully over the past three years you have told us you like what we’re offering through social media.

We know you don’t think about energy 24/7 and that’s why we are constantly seeking out new ways to get the word out about projects we are working on or changes in our business that affect the energy we provide and you use.

What we do – We listen to our customers. We engage. We spark conversation.
We post on the Avista Blog at least a dozen times every month. These posts, photos and videos allow us to tell the story behind what we do as a company to deliver energy to you. For example, if we file a rate request, we give you the reasons why and tell you how it may impact you in conversational and easy to understand language. If we’re working in your neighborhood, you might see photos of the crew along with details on what they were up to. We want you to see what we’re doing – that’s transparency.

We’re also talking with customers on Twitter as a company (@Avistautilities) and online spokespersons (@AvistaDan, @AvistaBrandi, @AvistaJessie . Twitter allows us to participate in real-time conversations happening all over our service territory - from Ashland, Oregon to Sandpoint, Idaho. It’s a great tool for getting information right now about what Avista is working on.

Everyday additional customers are discovering the Avista Utilities Facebook page too. The page is a springboard for discussion about blog content, photos and what’s happening in the communities we serve. On the energy efficiency side, our Every Little Bit Facebook page is popular among customers interested in energy saving tips and programs. No matter your desire, we’ve got you covered on Facebook. 

You can find videos about Avista on YouTube, while photos can be found at flickr and PhotoBucket. We pop-up in less likely places too, such as blog and website comments and online chats through media outlets.

Thank you for following our social media work – it’s all about transparency and you, our customers. Did we miss something? What would you like us to feature on our social sites next? Let us know here: Conversation@avistautilities.com
Published: 7/18/2012  9:57 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 14 , 2012
photo of Post Falls
 
Water levels allow spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed
 

Avista is advising Spokane River users that river recreation is now permitted in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables located just upstream of the Post Falls Dam. River flows have dropped sufficiently to allow all of the spill gates at the hydroelectric facility to be closed. 

The City of Post Falls boat launch and swim beach at Q’emiln Park was opened to the public today. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday, and on average about June 22.

This year, several factors delayed the closure of the spill gates at Post Falls Dam. The spring runoff season extended well into the month of July, due to a larger than average snowpack and rainfall in June that amounted to more than twice the normal amounts.

Avista’s project to replace the lifting hoists and old timber intake gates at its Post Falls Dam with modern lifting hoists and new steel gates delayed the spill gate closure an additional week. During the work, at least two generator units must be taken out of service, which reduces the amount of water that can pass through the power house at any one time. This means the total river flow had to be lower than normal before the spill gates could be completely closed and the Q’emiln Park boat launch could be opened.

Visitors to Falls Park will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including cranes, barges, trucks and contractors throughout the project, which is expected to be completed by November. Some areas of the park may be temporarily fenced off, and detours or alternate viewpoints may be designated for park visitors. The public is requested to obey posted signs, stay out of the area of the river below the dam and keep clear of designated work areas.

Avista expects summer operation at the dam to continue through Labor Day, as long as weather conditions allow. River users are cautioned that weather conditions and dam operations can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.

In an emergency, if spill gates need to be opened, the boat launch and swim beach at Q’emiln Park may be temporarily closed, as well as the area of the river downstream of Spokane Street Bridge. If this occurs, boaters in the area will be notified, and temporary closure signs will be posted. This specific “ordinance area” is addressed in the Post Falls Boater/Swimmer Ordinances; City of Post Falls Ordinance 875 sec 8.44.010 and Section II-D of Kootenai County Resolution 2006-68.
 
For current information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River, call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043. The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check weather and water flow information on the Avista Utilities website.
Published: 7/14/2012  12:14 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 13 , 2012
Post by Laurine Jue
 
The Paradise Path along Berman Creekside Park and Styner Ave. in Moscow, Idaho will be closed from July 16-20 while Avista upgrades the poles and wires connected to the Moscow City Substation.

Investing in reliability for you and your area
As part of Avista’s ongoing investment to maintain and upgrade our electric system, Avista will invest $7.5 million over three years to replace approximately 22 miles of electric transmission lines running from the Moscow City Substation south toward Lewiston.

To improve reliability for customers in the region, Avista will be replacing old wooden poles with new steel poles that will require less maintenance in the future. We’re also upgrading the transmission lines for greater efficiency and with a higher clearance area for your safety. The new transmission poles will be fiber-optic wire ready.

Construction along Paradise Path begins July 16 and runs through July 20. We do not anticipate any power outages related to this work.

Thank you for your patience as Avista continues to invest in our electric system so we can continue to deliver safe, reliable power to our customers.
Published: 7/13/2012  11:51 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 11 , 2012
Photo show of July 4 Celebrations on the Clark Fork
 

Original operator at Cabinet Gorge Dam, Clyde Meredith
One of the original operators of Cabinet
Gorge Dam, 90-year old Clyde Meredith,
who retired in 1984, rode alongside
Cabinet's current Chief Operator.
Avista employees and the community of Clark Fork celebrated our Independence Day and commemorated Cabinet Gorge 60th anniversary at the annual Clark Fork, Idaho - Fourth of July celebration last week.
 
Several of Avista’s hydro operations and environmental resources employees and their families, a line truck, electric safety demonstration trailer and Bull Trout education trailer took part in the community’s annual Fourth of July parade.
 
One of the original operators of Cabinet Gorge, 90-year old Clyde Meredith, who retired in 1984, was also in the parade. He rode alongside Cabinet Gorge’s current Chief Operator, Don Wells in Clark Fork License Manager Tim Swant’s 1965 Pontiac LeMans.
 
Avista helped support the community celebrations and fireworks, and donated a trailer-mounted BBQ to the Clark Fork Booster Club so they have a means of fundraising for many years to come.
 
We’re proud to be a part of the community of Clark Fork for the past 60 years. Happy Birthday to America, and to Cabinet Gorge.
Published: 7/11/2012  10:41 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 10 , 2012
Burke-Thompson
Vertical brace
The Burke-Thompson Falls A and B  trans-
mission structures were originally constructed
in 1924. Avista crews are replacing the old
wooden poles with taller, steel poles. The
new  design will stage the poles closer to
the center of the right of way, which will
improve efficiency, as the likelihood of a
tree falling on the line diminishes. The new
design requires 50 percent fewer poles as
well.
Temporary bridge
To access the Burke-Thompson Falls A and
B transmission lines, we’re building three
temporary bridges so our equipment can
safely cross. Shown below, a temporary
bridge a crew is setting over the existing
bridge.
Avista upgrades nearly 90-year old equipment to improve safety and reliability
 

At the east end of the Silver Valley stands the Burke-Thompson Falls A and B transmission lines. Our customers in this region depend on these primary “arteries” of power to deliver electricity to their homes and businesses.

Situated in a remote location near the Idaho/Montana border, maintaining the Burke-Thompson Falls lines carries its own set of challenges. And part of the solution is rebuilding 8-miles of lines to better serve our customers.

The rural reality
The Silver Valley is known for its beautiful forests and ample snow in the winter. The rural reality – lots of snow and trees don’t bode well for transmission lines.
 
“The snow levels can get very high in that area,” said Kellogg Operations Manager Bob Beitz. “When outages occur in the winter, we can't access them without a Sno-Cat. When our crews jump out of the cat, they are up to their armpits in snow. Trying to replace a pole in those conditions is a herculean effort.”

All that snow can weigh heavily on the forested areas near the power lines, which can result in falling branches and toppling trees. Even if our rights of way are 100-feet wide, falling trees can cause power outages. 

The solution: A rebuild to alleviate outages and concerns
This year, we’re rebuilding 8 miles of electric transmission lines from Burke to the Montana border to improve the safety and reliability of delivering power to our customers. The project carries a price tag of $2.5 million. It’s part of Avista’s ongoing investments to maintain and upgrade our electric system.

The transmission lines were originally constructed in 1924. Though updated several times over the decades, many of the original structures still exist and will be replaced this year. We’ll be re-using the existing wire for the project.

Avista crews are replacing the old wooden poles with taller, steel poles. The new design will stage the poles closer to the center of the right of way, which will improve efficiency, as the likelihood of a tree falling on the line diminishes. The new design requires 50 percent fewer poles as well.

Investing in the future
Many parts of our system are 30, 40 and even 50 years old. Some of the poles on the Burke-Thompson Falls A and B lines are nearly 90 years old.

As we rebuild this section of our electric transmission system, we’ll also have to build three temporary bridges to accommodate the heavy equipment necessary for the construction project.

It’s a big job, but it’s well worth the effort. This is another example of what it takes to provide safe, reliable service for our customers, now – and in the future.
Published: 7/10/2012  12:11 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 06 , 2012
Post Falls Dam
 

On the Avista blog last week we announced summer work taking place at Post Falls Dam.

We’re replacing the lifting hoists and old timber intake gates with modern lifting hoists and new steel gates. The work is expected to update a system that is more than 100 years old in places, enhancing safety and increasing reliability and efficiency at the dam. We were also planning to refurbish the spill gates in the south channel of the river, but that project has been postponed until 2013.

The intake gate replacement project is scheduled for July-November 2012 while river flows are at summer levels. During the project, we’ll do our best to minimize the disruption to recreation and power generation as much as possible, but the work is important so we can continue to safely generate clean, reliable hydropower. The project will affect park users, boaters and dam operations.

Q’emiln Park Boat Launch: During the work, at least two generator units must be taken out of service, which reduces the amount of water that can pass through the powerhouse at any one time. This means the total river flow will need to be lower than normal before the spill gates can be closed and the Q’emiln Park boat launch can be opened. Depending on weather, this will likely take place sometime in mid-July.

Falls Park: Falls Park visitors will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including cranes, barges, trucks and contractors throughout the project duration. Some areas of the park may be temporarily fenced off, and detours or alternate viewpoints may be designated for park visitors. For your safety, please obey posted signs, stay out of the area of the river below the dam and keep clear of designated work areas.

Post Falls Dam Informational Meeting July 10
Avista will host an informational meeting to discuss the project and answer questions on July 10 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Post Falls Police Department in Post Falls at 1717 E. Polston Ave. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, please call Mac Mikkelson at 509-495-8759. We'll be sure to keep you updated as the project reaches completion.
 
Published: 7/6/2012  3:09 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 06 , 2012
video
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

In early May, First Wind officially broke ground on Palouse Wind, a wind farm near the town of Oakesdale, Wash., off of State Route 195. First Wind created above video at the event, which captures the sights and sounds of the event, while setting the stage for the project.

The first of 58 towers is expected to be erected very soon. When we get more information, we’ll update the blog.

Last year Avista signed a 30-year power purchase agreement for the renewable wind power that will be generated at the site once it’s completed later this year.

The wind farm is expected be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with 58 turbines and the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes.

The power we get from Palouse Wind will be part of a diverse, responsible energy portfolio that includes renewable resources generated right here in eastern Washington. In addition, the project is helping Avista invest in our infrastructure through the transmission upgrades we’re making so we can connect the power to our system. Palouse Wind will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while meeting renewable portfolio standards in Washington.

The groundbreaking ceremony included speakers from Avista, First Wind, Vestas, as well as several elected officials from Whitman County and the surrounding area who discussed the benefits of the project to the area’s economy, the surrounding communities and Avista’s customers.

Check back with us for more updates.
Published: 7/6/2012  9:28 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 02 , 2012
 
Natural gas rates were lowered 6.4% in Wash., 6% in Idaho in March

Natural Gas Flame

Wholesale natural gas prices have been declining in recent years, which is very good news for customers who use natural gas in their homes and businesses. If you’re a Washington or Idaho customer, you may recall that natural gas rates decreased on March 1 by an overall 6.4 percent and 6.0 percent respectively.  We also requested on June 1 to decrease rates again for our Washington natural gas customers as part of the annual true-up of energy efficiency program costs.

But lower wholesale natural gas costs have added challenges to offering energy efficiency rebates and incentives to our customers in Washington and Idaho, making the programs no longer cost effective. It costs more to provide natural gas energy efficiency rebates and incentives than it costs for the natural gas that customers use.

That’s why Avista has requested to suspend the natural gas programs in Washington and Idaho effective September 1. If the utility commissions in the two states approve the requests, customers would still have time to get their rebate and incentive forms to Avista.

Find out more in today’s news release on the requests.
Published: 7/2/2012  7:18 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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