Jul 25 , 2012
Montana Fish and Game Biologist Joe Huston and WWP biologist Tim Vaughn (right) prepare brown trout eggs for
planting in 1966, as part of ongoing efforts to improve local sport fishing.
At Avista we talk a lot about our legacy and commitment to environmental stewardship. Tim Vaughan, Washington Water Power (WWP) retiree who passed away earlier this month at the age of 95, was instrumental in helping to build that legacy at Avista. He also left a legacy of his own - the importance of relationships and a passion for nature and the outdoors.
Vaughan was a pioneer of natural resource protection, and has been recognized as the one of the first biologists in the country hired by a power company to address the impact of dams on habitat and fish and wildlife. After first working as a consultant to WWP during the construction of Cabinet Gorge Dam in the early 1950s, Vaughan used his relationship-building skills to successfully show WWP leadership the need to hire a biologist on a permanent basis. Thus began Vaughan’s 25-year career at Avista – first as a founding member of the Environmental Affairs department, and later as manager of the department.
Through partnerships with agencies such as Idaho Fish and Game, Vaughan worked to creatively and jointly reach resource-preservation goals. Bob Anderson, former director of Avista’s Environmental Affairs department and a long-time friend of Vaughan said, “Tim lived the example of respecting others and building collaborative relationships. That’s just how he was, and it set the stage for how we’ve carried out big efforts like hydro relicensing.”
Today, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of generating power at Cabinet Gorge, Avista employees in the Environmental Affairs department work toward the same goals Vaughan envisioned long ago. Further, environmental stewardship is deeply embedded in our company culture.
Bruce Howard, director of Environmental Affairs, expects this type of respect for our environment to continue far into the future. “Tim’s legacy is now ours to carry on,” said Howard. And Avista employees will do just that.
Jul 23 , 2012
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project
36 years ago, our nation’s bird and symbol of freedom was placed on the endangered species list. Today, the birds are rebounding again across the country and locally.
Avista’s Terrestrial Resource Specialist, David Armes, is in charge of implementing Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan – something we are required to do as part of our federal license to operate our Spokane River Project’s five hydroelectric facilities.
Our contribution to the protection of the Bald Eagle includes annual surveys and monitoring of Bald Eagle nests located near the Spokane River Project area. This includes Coeur d’Alene Lake and its three tributaries; the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers as well as the Spokane River and Lake Spokane.
While conducting surveys we look to see if the nests are occupied, evaluate the success of the nests and observe the fledging period, a time when newborn Eagles are preparing to leave the nest.
The information we gather is shared with natural resource agencies, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The information helps shape future efforts for protecting Bald Eagles in the area.
Avista is proud to support the conservation effort of our nation’s bird and will continue our legacy of environmental stewardship and reliability.
Jul 11 , 2012
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.
Jun 28 , 2012
Will summer ever get here? That’s seems to be a common question heard around the Spokane area these days and at Avista too. As you make plans for the upcoming weekends and July 4 holiday, we want to keep you up to date on changing conditions in the Spokane River as well as educate you about a project we are working on at the Post Falls Dam.
We’ve started closing spill gates at our Post Falls Dam now that Coeur d’Alene Lake is back below the maximum summer level of 2,128 feet. However, heavy rainfall throughout the month of June has slowed our process, and we’ve had to make ongoing adjustments to accommodate river flows, which have increased rapidly on a number of occasions, as recently as Tuesday, June 26.
Closing spill gates causes the river level below the dam to decrease. With this in mind, the spill gates need to be closed gradually, so that fish below the dam are not stranded in pools of water. To achieve this we close spill gates at a rate that decreases the downstream river level no more than four inches per hour, which is required by our Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.
As the river flows stabilize, we continue to close the remaining spill gates. As the spill gates are closed the elevation of the river above the dam increases, which provides additional recreational opportunities on the river. Once the final spill gate is closed, the Q’emiln Park boat launch in Post Falls can be opened for the summer season. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and mid-July. The median date for closing the gates is June 22. We don’t expect to close the final spill gate until after July 4 due to this year’s rainfall and extended high spring runoff season.
We’d like 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 on or near a lake or river at risk for hypothermia.
The best way to get the most current 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.
Avista’s summer work at Post Falls Dam
The dam needs ongoing maintenance and updates to keep it running safely and efficiently. This summer after the spring runoff season ends, Avista will be undertaking two projects to do that.
We’re planning to sandblast, repair and repaint the south channel spill gates, something that needs to be done every 30 to 40 years. We also plan to replace the lifting hoist and old timber intake gates that let water flow through the dam to the generator turbines at Post Falls Dam with new lifting hoists and steel gates.
Normally the generator turbines can pass about 5,400 cubic feet per second (cfs). Any additional water has to flow through the spill gates.
During the work, at least two generator units must be taken offline, which reduces the amount of water the power house can pass at any one time. This means the total river flow will need to be lower than normal before we can close all the spill gates and the Q’emiln Park boat launch can be opened.
Depending on weather, this will likely be about the second or third week of July.
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. We'll be sure to keep you updated as the project reaches completion.
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.
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.
Apr 27 , 2012
Arbor Day celebrated with award and tree planting
The vocabulary word for today is arboriculture - that’s the planting and care of woody plants, especially trees.
Arboriculture is something that Avista is actively engaged in through our vegetation management program which works to keep trees clear of power lines, helping to ensure reliable service to customers. We’re also engaged in customer and community outreach programs that contribute to a healthy urban tree canopy through tree plantings and that educate customers on the importance of planting the right tree in the right place especially around power lines.
That on-going commitment has earned Avista its first Tree Line USA Award from the Arbor Day Foundation. The national program promotes the dual goals of safe, reliable electric service and abundant, healthy trees across utility service areas. Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, presented Avista with the award today at the Spokane Conservation District in Spokane Valley.
After the presentation the district planted a memorial cockspur hawthorn, the Avista 2012 Utility Smart Tree of the Year. See photos above.
Some of Avista’s programs which contributed to the company receiving the award are:
• The street tree replacement collaboration with Spokane Conservation District and the City of Spokane which removes tall growing trees located beneath power lines and replaces them with low-growing species that are compatible with overhead lines.
• The energy saving shade tree program which is a partnership with the Spokane Conservation District to help residential customers in Spokane County strategically plant shade trees to help reduce their energy costs.
• The announcement of the utility compatible tree of the year and planting of the tree in a ceremony held in Spokane
• Annual Arbor Day celebrations
Also contributing to Avista receiving the Tree Line USA Award is its commitment to quality tree care by adhering to industry standards and ensuring that employees and contract workers are trained in best practices.
What kinds of trees can be planted near power lines?
• Only plant tree species that mature at 20’ or less near power lines.
• If you would like a list of power line compatible trees please call 1-800-727-9170, Extension 8514.
• For more species selection good sources of information are the County Extension Offices, City Parks Department, certified arborists, and reputable plant nurseries.
• If planting in city strips there may be ordinances over species selection.
Apr 16 , 2012
It could be as easy as making a small commitment to energy efficiency
For a chance to win the Prius C, donated by Toyota, viewers need to watch for the daily keyword during KREM news broadcasts from April 9 to May 23, and then enter the keywords at KREM.com
. Avista customers can get two bonus entries by making a commitment to energy efficiency at everylittlebit.com
and by “liking” Every Little Bit on Facebook. The deadline for entries is May 23 with the drawing on May 31.
The purpose of the campaign is to increase customer awareness and engagement in the importance of energy efficiency. For over 30 years, Avista has been helping customers become more energy efficient by offering programs and rebates to make home improvements and by providing valuable tools such as our online energy advisor. When it comes to energy, Avista knows efficiency matters and every little bit adds up.
Our region’s energy needs are growing, but building or purchasing new sources of` power including renewable energy isn’t cheap. Energy efficiency costs half the amount of generating new power and is the best approach to maximizing our existing resources.
KREM 2 Project Green showcases the company’s concern for the environment regarding energy efficiency, recycling and transportation. Toyota, which donated the Prius C, is proud to be constantly striving to provide the best possible driving experience while using the smallest amount of our natural resources. It’s a great partnership.
While just one person will win the Prius C, everyone participating in the campaign will be an energy efficiency winner. Through KREM news coverage about the importance of energy efficiency and information on Avista’s everylittlebit.com site
about rebates and energy savings tips, viewers and customers can learn how to better manage their energy use.
Apr 13 , 2012
Wind and solar get the renewable headlines, but what about biomass and hydro?
At Avista we like to say that we were founded on renewable hydroelectricity. We’re proud of it. Even today the biggest resource percentage of generated or purchased power comes from hydroelectricity. Yet nationally, renewable energy tends to be framed around wind, solar and sometimes biomass and hydro. Where does Avista, biomass, hydroelectricity and your power fit in the renewable discussion?
Let’s start with hydroelectricity. Unlike much of the country, the Northwest benefits from having abundant hydroelectric resources. It’s good for all of us, because it’s in our backyard. It’s pretty tough to get a new hydroelectric project started in the United States, so the growth in this area generally comes from modernizing generation to make it more efficient. For the past decade or more we’ve been doing just that on the Clark Fork River
at our Noxon Rapids and Cabinet Gorge dams.
Some of our hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River
are more than 100 years old, and since we need to keep those dams running responsibly and reliably, we’re always looking for ways to improve them. This year, we’re looking at upgrading parts of our Post Falls and Little Falls hydroelectric facilities. There’s no doubt about it, hydroelectricity is an important renewable resource.
Biomass is another example of renewable energy that doesn’t get much of the spotlight. Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant
was the first electric generating station of its kind constructed within the United States for the sole purpose of producing electricity from wood waste. It opened in October of 1983 – roughly 29 year ago. That’s a long history of renewable generation. Beginning in 2016 Washington will officially recognize its operations as a renewable resource for the purposes of meeting Washington state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
Now for the hip, cool kids – wind and solar.
|A small solar array is affixed to the top of our
corporate headquarters today. It helps offset the
power we use to charge the Avista Sun Car.
Let’s talk solar first. Sure, the sun is free, but equipment involved in generating and delivering that power to the grid isn’t free - not by a long shot. In our area, given our other resources (like hydro), utility scale solar power isn’t in the cards, at least not today. We’re always on the lookout for proven resources, so that may change in the future, in fact a small solar array is affixed to the top of our corporate headquarters today. It helps offset the power we use to charge the Avista Sun Car.
Last, but certainly not least in this renewable roundup, is wind. Today Avista doesn’t generate any of its own power via wind, yet we’ve had a long-standing contract to buy wind power from the Stateline Wind Project on the Washington/Oregon border. Soon a new wind farm called Palouse Wind will come online near the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 on the hills surrounding Naff Ridge. The project is being developed by First Wind, but Avista has secured the rights to its electrical output for next 30 years. Avista has been thinking about how to incorporate wind into our generation mix for several years, so it’s certainly on our minds.
As you can see, from hydro to biomass, and wind to (a little) solar, we’re all over this renewable thing.
For another look at Avista’s power generation and planning for the future, check out our Electric Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)
. The IRP analyzes and outlines a strategy to meet projected demand and renewable portfolio standards through energy efficiency and a careful mix of qualifying renewable and traditional energy resources
Renewable energy and you
Avista launched a Buck-A-Block
voluntary rate program for customers in 2002. The program is still going strong today with thousands of megawatt hours of emission-free wind being purchased annually. Nearly 4,000 customers participate. When you sign up for Buck-A-Block
, you make a voluntary payment above and beyond your normal rates. Avista makes no profit from that additional money, which goes to support the renewable energy many of our customers prefer by purchasing environmental offsets from renewable energy generation.
Apr 13 , 2012
Washington provides renewable designation after nearly 29 years of clean operations
You probably don’t hear a lot about Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant. You also don’t see much about it or smell much of it either. You see, Kettle Falls pretty much keeps to itself, steadily cranking out electricity. But recently the plant was given a distinction that many people assumed all along – Kettle Falls and its biomass operation will be recognized as renewable by the state of Washington.
Earlier this month Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB5575 into law. The bill qualifies legacy biomass energy projects (built before 1999) as eligible renewable resources for purposes of meeting Washington state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). As a result of the bill’s passage, the energy generated at Kettle Falls will qualify to meet our renewable requirements in Washington beginning in 2016.
This passage of the bill is good news for our communities, particularly those in and around Kettle Falls. It will promote employment and preserve jobs at a time when rural economies are suffering. Avista employees at Kettle Falls are members of and contribute to their local communities, and Kettle Falls provides work to local sawmills, fuel delivery businesses, transportation companies and forest workers.
Kettle Falls and biomass: How’s it work?
Wood waste – called “hog fuel” – is fed into a seven-story furnace/boiler and burned, creating heat. The walls of the furnace/boiler consist of pipes filled with water that are heated by the burning hog fuel. The optimal burning temperature is 2,000 degrees, resulting in a steam temperature of 950 degrees. The heated water generates stream and pressure that drives a turbine, which turns a generator, creating electricity.
So, while you might not hear, see or smell a lot about Kettle Falls, now you know it’s cranking out renewable energy.