Jun 20 , 2012
School’s out and the weather is finally beginning to warm, which will have many of you making summer river and lake recreation plans. Before you head out for fun on the water, we would like to provide you with information about current river flows and lake levels, as well as our plans for summer operations at Post Falls Dam.
The amount of snow in the mountains continues to be well above normal, because the cool weather has slowed the snow melt. At the beginning of June, Avista began closing spill gates at Post Falls Dam. However, above normal June rainfall has again pushed Lake Coeur d’Alene above its summer elevation. Avista has had to re-open all spill gates and current flows in the Spokane River are more than twice the volume we would normally expect this time of year.
With snowpack still over 200 percent of normal for the Spokane River basin, and a forecast of cooler and wetter than average weather, the runoff is expected to continue well into the summer.
Avista will likely be spilling excess water over the spillways at Post Fall Dam until after the Fourth of July holiday this year. Because of the open spill gates, the river upstream of Post Falls Dam will continue to be lower than normal until after the runoff season, and the City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park will not open until after July 4th. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and mid-July. The median date for closing the gates is June 22.
Avista operates our hydroelectric facilities with a focus on several different objectives:
Meeting customer demand with reliable energy service
Operating safely and efficiently
Complying with local, federal and state regulations and laws
Being good environmental stewards
Providing recreation opportunities
Safety on the river
As always, we ask you to exercise caution on the water, as river and lake levels can change at any time depending on weather and other factors. The water is still cold, which puts those who are recreating on or near a lake or river at risk for hypothermia, even in warmer weather. Here is some other important safety information for your consideration:
Always wear a lifejacket on the water.
Obey all safety and warning signs.
Never fish, play or anchor your boat below a dam.
Sudden discharges can increase water flows in a hurry.
Don’t cross the boater safety cable above a dam. The current could pull you through a spill gate or drag you under water near a powerhouse.
Watch overhead clearances like cables and power lines when sailing.
The best way to get the latest information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River is to 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 current river and lake levels on our website. Property owners and lake users are reminded to make necessary preparations, including removing boats from the water, and removing or securing docks and boathouses to accommodate changing water conditions.
For more information on lake and river levels, please call Pat Maher at (509) 495-4283.
Jun 19 , 2012
Post by Brandi Smith
Standing in front of an old wood panel wall filled with items such as old smashed-up lunch pails, hot sticks, pole climbing gear, chew cans, and painted plaques, engraved and taped with names, nicknames and years of service entices many questions for those who walk the halls of Avista’s Lewiston/Clarkston construction office.
This particular lunch pail proved difficult
to smash...even with a line truck.
It is rumored that it had to be run over
three or four times before
it finally caved.
The tradition of hanging up an item of significance upon retirement began in the early 1950s. Back then, metal lunch pails were pretty common, and on an employee’s last day, they would back a line truck over the lunch pail, smashing it in honor of their years of service. It is rumored that one lunch pail proved particularly difficult to smash and had to be run over three or four times.
Over the years, the items hung on the wall shifted from lunch pails to other possessions of significance. It’s a menagerie of objects contributed from lineman, gas servicemen and even folks from the Clarkston Water Department.
The wall of fame, as they call it, represents more than years of service. It represents pride and years of hard, physically demanding work with an intangible reward – the lights are back on and the gas is flowing. Customers have the energy they need to power their lives.
If the wall could talk, we could all enjoy hearing the stories from the lineman who just retired after 35 years of service or the gas serviceman who began his career in the late 1950s, back when gas was new to the area. The wall of fame will occasionally get visits from the public wanting to see their friend or family member’s symbol of a lifetime of hard work.
A visit to the office also begs the question. What item represents you upon your retirement? Something to think about.
Jun 18 , 2012
He makes stretcher out of trees, coat, sweatshirt and his chainsaw
Last Thursday Avista’s safety folks surprised employee Matt Anderson with a mock ATV accident in the wilderness near Bovill, Idaho. After lifting the ATV off the victim, radioing for help and MedStar, performing CPR and getting a pulse, Anderson grabbed his chainsaw and on the fly made a stretcher out of nearby trees, his coat, sweatshirt and some straps from his own ATV. Once co-workers arrived on scene, which was down a steep wooded embankment, they carried him to a Trooper/SnowCat and evacuated him to a landing zone for MedStar.
I'm working on a full video and of the event to show the entire scene and effort.
Avista creates these mock scenarios to test our employees, emergency procedures and first responders to make sure that when an accident happens – we’re all ready for action.
This was an intricately planned mock accident and no employees, customers or first responders were in any real danger at any time. The ATV was also drained of all fuel and oil prior to placement. The accident location was in rough country under a power line that feeds a mountaintop communications facility, which must be frequently accessed by Avista crews.
It was an amazing scene and the impromptu stretcher was genius.
Jun 12 , 2012
Coyote Springs 2 is combined cycle generation plant that uses natural gas and steam
Avista’s generation unit at Coyote Springs has been disassembled since May 4 as major overhauls take place for the first time since the plant was built. The springtime timing is beneficial, since the maintenance requires the combined cycle plant to be offline during work.
Coyote Springs 2, near Boardman, Oregon is a combined cycle generation facility because it has a gas turbine that exhausts waste heat into a heat recovery steam generator, which provides steam to a steam turbine. Each turbine has its own generator that sends the electricity produced to the generator step-up transformer.
Portland General Electric Company owns Unit 1 and oversees daily general operations and maintenance activities for both units. Avista owns Unit 2 and does special projects and major maintenance for Unit 2, including this one.
The project involves overhauling the natural gas and steam turbines in Unit 2 as part of scheduled major maintenance work, required at regular intervals in the plant’s life. Avista’s thermal engineering group is coordinating the project and some of the work is being performed by Avista’s mechanical structural crews.
“This is the first time some parts of the steam turbine have been disassembled since it went in service on July 1, 2003,” Andy Vickers, Manager of Generation & Substation Support, said.
See photos of the dissassembled steam and natural gas unit in the slideshow above.
Reassembly is taking place over the next couple of weeks, and the unit is expected to be back online by the end of June.
Jun 08 , 2012
Avista is powering a future workforce through construction and training at Jack Stewart Training Facility
Shown above is employees at Avista
preparing for the installation of the
pad mount switchgear, which will
energize the training substation at the
Jack Stewart Training Facility.
Avista employees have been hard at work building a new training substation at Avista’s Jack Stewart Training Facility scheduled to go online in August. Just last week, they reached a major milestone in the project when they installed an on-and-off switch to energize the substation. These updates to Avista’s facilities will prepare our current and future workforce for the technology they will need to maintain and operate the smart grid of the future.
The future substation will energize Safety Town at Jack Stewart. Safety Town is a small, 10-building lot representing a typical residential neighborhood. Safety Town prepares gas and electric apprentices, journeymen and pre-line school students for real-life scenarios they would encounter while working on distribution service.
The connected facilities will create an authentic training environment that will simulate outage conditions, and test smart grid devices used to isolate different sections of the electric system – all with the goal of minimizing power outages and improving reliability.
An Interactive Curriculum
Part of the Workforce Training Project includes developing a web-based, interactive curriculum. With the help of Avista’s subject matter experts, the updated curriculum will include smart grid features and practices our industry workforce will need to learn.
About the Workforce Training Project
Shown above is a switch
mechanism on the junction box
which will simplify some steps to
energize the training substation
being built at Jack Stewart.
The Workforce Training Project is part of the triad of smart grid projects Avista has been working on over the past few years after being awarded matching stimulus grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. The other two smart grid projects are Spokane Smart Circuits and the Smart Grid Demonstration Project in Pullman.
The Workforce Training Project was made possible thanks to a partnership between Avista, the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy Smart Grid project, along with several utilities and colleges in the region. The partnership was infused with a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop the Workforce Training Project.
As our industry continues to evolve, new “smart” technologies will present challenges and opportunities for the existing and future workforce. New jobs and skill sets will emerge. Thanks to the Workforce Training Program, Avista has positioned itself to train this workforce of the future.
Jun 06 , 2012
Use caution as water levels continue to change
The North Channel of the Post Falls Dam.
Because of the recent heavy rainfall in the North Idaho mountains, Avista has been actively opening spill gates at our Post Falls Dam. Over the past several days, river flows and lake levels have risen steadily. The St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers, which feed Coeur d’Alene Lake, have been rising for almost a week and continue to do so. Coeur d’Alene Lake reached summer elevation of 2,128 Wednesday, June 6 and continues to rise as flows into the lake exceed the amount that can flow out of the lake into the Spokane River.
Once Avista begins controlling the level of Lake Coeur d'Alene each spring, we are required to open the spill gates at Post Falls to prevent the lake from going above its summer elevation.
There is still above-average snowpack in the high mountains for this time of year, and the National Weather Service is predicting higher than normal precipitation and cooler temperatures for the month of June.
How does it all work?
You may wonder why river levels drop above Post Falls Dam when Avista opens the spill gates. In the summer, when all the spill gates are closed, the river is filled with water and acts more like a lake. Levels are held at a level very close to that of Coeur d’Alene Lake. But when we open the spill gates (some of which open all the way down to the river bed), the river flows naturally and the elevation of the water drops to river level. This is naturally much lower than it is when the gates are closed and the water is stacked up behind the dam - in fact, when all the gates are open, the elevation of the river above the dam is eight vertical feet lower than the summer level when the gates are closed.
We want to remind you to always exercise caution on the water, as river and lake levels can change at any time depending on weather and other factors. The water is still cold, which puts those who are recreating in a lake or river at risk for hypothermia.
Call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line for information regarding anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River.
In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043.
Jun 04 , 2012
Severe weather can strike at any time, which may have you wondering what you can do to prepare your home or business for a power outage. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe during a severe weather event:
Know how to report an outage.
If your power is out, call us right away at 800-227-9187 or report it online at www.avistautilities.com.
We have a mobile version of our site, which makes reporting easy for mobile device users. You can also track power outages online or on a mobile device.
Stay away from downed power lines. If you see a downed line, consider it to be energized and stay away from it. Call us right away to report any downed lines.
Remember your appliances. Turn off all the appliances you think were on before your power went out.
Unplug. Unplug your electronic equipment, including computers.
Keep it closed. Keep your refrigerator or freezer door closed as much as possible to keep the cool air inside.
Don’t grill indoors. Never use a grill indoors to prepare food.
Give yourself a visual cue. Leave a light or radio on to let you know when you have service again.
More safety tips can be found online at www.avistautilities.com. Rest assured that during an outage event, Avista will be working day and night to restore your power.
May 30 , 2012
Over the past few years, we’ve heard from our customers and employees that they want more information on how we do business in areas like utility operations, environmental stewardship and our community impact. We’re glad you asked!
That information and more is available in our fourth annual report on our performance, “Together We Will Build Shared Value,”
now online at avistautilities.com.
Our primary mission is to provide the energy you need for your life. The back story is all about what goes into providing that energy and how often this has additional benefits to the customers and communities we serve. That’s shared value.
In this year’s report, we tell many stories of how shared value is created throughout our business. For example, in the Utility Operations section we talk about how Avista must meet state-mandated energy savings targets. As part of our sustainable business practices, the report is published online
We’ve made PDF files available of the entire report and four of its sections for your convenience in sharing the report with others.
Shared value is at the heart of what Avista does every day. We hope you’ll take the time to read this year’s report and give us your feedback
. We want to hear from you about how – together – we can continue to build shared value.
May 23 , 2012
Post By Brandi Smith
The 811 Call Before You Dig, Damage Prevention Bike made its way through Spokane on May 18 and 19 to help us spread the word about the importance of calling 811 before you dig. The custom chopper revved up a lot of attention as Avista, in partnership with One Call Concepts and the Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council featured the bike at three important community events. The Spokane Shock game on Friday night (congrats Shock on a nice win!), the Lilac Festival Annual Car Show and the Torch Light Parade in downtown Spokane on Saturday night.
One Call Concepts, Inc. commissioned Paul Jr. Designs to build the 811 Bike to help promote awareness of the importance of preventing damage to underground facilities. In 2011, for every 1,000 utility locates performed in Avista’s service territory, 7.9 instances of utilities being dug into occurred. This is much higher than the national average, which is 3.7 per 1,000 utility locates. Avista’s goal is to reduce the amount of dig-ins to our underground lines by 10 percent. Help us continue to spread the word about the importance of calling 811 before you dig.
May 17 , 2012
|The photo on the left was taken last week at our Mission Campus, while the photo on the right was taken 25
years ago on Spokane's South Hill. A retiree saw the photo on the left on Avista's Facebook page and dug
into his photo archives for the image on the right he took 25 years ago. Cool connection.
Earlier this week Avista employee Scott Steele snapped the photo on the left of a bucket truck at the Mission Campus testing its boom. Our electric crews do this test each morning before heading out to a job site for safety. We posted the picture on the Avista Utilities Facebook
page that same day and received more than a dozen likes (thumbs up) on the picture in just a few hours.
The picture reminded Washington Water Power/Avista retiree Dick Waitt, a frequent Avista Facebook contributor, of a photograph he took about 25 years ago. That photo is on the right. Waitt took the picture as a WWP crew was making final adjustments to one of the line switches in the tap to the Glenrose Substation on Spokane's South Hill.
Pictures of bucket trucks (even these nice ones) are pretty common, but the story of sharing them through a social network is pretty new and, you have to admit, pretty cool too.
These sort of photographs tell a story that we just can’t say in words. It’s our employees working to serve you now and for more than 120 years.