Jul 31 , 2012
Avista
 

Today Avista filed several requests with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to decrease natural gas and electric prices for our customers in Idaho. If approved, natural gas prices would decrease by an overall 8 percent and electric prices by an overall 2 percent for our Idaho customers beginning Oct. 1. This would be the second natural gas price reduction for our customers in Idaho this year. Read more about these filings in the press release we just issued

Each year, we propose to adjust rates our customers pay so that customers’ bills reflect our actual costs of purchasing natural gas and generating and purchasing electric power. Today’s requested rate reductions are due to, among other things, lower natural gas prices and lower power supply costs, which is good news for our customers. Learn more about Natural gas prices.

You may recall the commission in Idaho approved our request to reduce natural gas rates by an overall 6 percent in March. If today’s requests are approved, natural gas rates will have decreased by more than 14 percent overall for Idaho customers in 2012.

Today’s requests include two electric rate adjustments and two natural gas rate adjustments:
• Avista’s annual Power Cost Adjustment (PCA)
• Avista’s annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)
• Electric and Natural Gas Energy Efficiency Tariff Rider Adjustments (Tariff Rider)

Post Falls Dam
Post Falls Dam - a hydroelectric
facility in Idaho.
Electric
The major portion of an Avista electric customer’s bill, about 60 percent, is the cost of generating or purchasing electricity to meet customer needs. These costs may fluctuate up or down. The proposed PCA rebate would pass through reduced power supply costs during the twelve-month period that ended June 30, 2012.

We also filed a request with the IPUC to reduce the electric Energy Efficiency Tariff Rider Adjustment (Tariff Rider). The Tariff Rider is the rate paid by customers that funds the company’s energy efficiency programs.

The two proposed rate decreases will be offset partially by the expiration of an existing refund rate being passed through to customers.

If today’s requests are approved by the commission, the monthly bill for a residential electric customer in Idaho using an average of 939 kilowatt-hours per month would decrease from $80.55 to $79.46, a decrease of $1.09 per month, or 1.4 percent, beginning Oct. 1.

Installing new gas pipelines.
New gas pipelines being
installed new Highway 95 in
North Idaho.
Natural Gas
The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and transporting it to Avista’s system makes up about 55 percent of an Avista natural gas customer’s bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. Avista does not mark these costs up. Read more about this in our Avista Blog series Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 1: Wholesale Prices.
 
The annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) is a true-up that balances the cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount already included in customer rates. Abundant supplies of natural gas and continued soft demand for the commodity have continued to keep wholesale natural gas prices at lower levels over the past year.

Our second natural gas rate request filed with the IPUC is to reduce the natural gas Energy Efficiency Tariff Rider Adjustment (Tariff Rider). Similar to the electric Tariff Rider for energy efficiency, the natural gas Tariff Rider is the rate paid by customers that funds the Company’s natural gas energy efficiency programs.

If our requests are approved, residential natural gas customers using an average of 60 therms a month would see a $4.42, or 7.9 percent, decrease in their monthly rate for a revised monthly bill of $51.36, beginning Oct. 1.

Please share your comments, concerns and questions with us: visit www.avistautilities.com/Blog, or email us at conversation@avistautilities.com.
Published: 7/31/2012  1:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 26 , 2012
Using an auger to place a pole. Bedrock make that a tough task
Last week, we began work at Paradise Path to
replace about 22 miles of electric lines. While
digging 22 feet into the ground, we hit bedrock,
which slowed progress down slightly. This picture
shows an auger being used to place a pole.
Bedrock makes it a tough job.
Post by Sarah Richards

We’ll have to close Paradise Path along Berman Creek Park and Styner Ave. in Moscow, Idaho for a couple extra days – July 30 – 31 – because of an unexpected turn of events. We’re in the process of replacing the power poles and wires connected to the Moscow City Substation.

Like any construction project, things can go smoothly until you hit rock, which is what happened – literally.  About 22-feet into the ground, we hit bedrock. It will take some more time and effort than a normal dig to power through the solid rock, but we’ll be hard at work improving the reliability of service for our customers in the area.

It’s all part of a $7.5 million, three-year project to replace approximately 22 miles of electric transmission lines running from the Moscow City Substation south toward Lewiston.

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: 7/26/2012  1:43 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 23 , 2012
Video
 
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project

Post by Brandi Smith

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.
Published: 7/23/2012  2:32 PM | 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 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 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

Jun 28 , 2012

Post Falls Dam

 

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.
Published: 6/28/2012  12:18 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 21 , 2012
ATV w/out HTTP
 
Employees spring to action, save co-worker, make stretcher with sticks and a chainsaw before a helicopter evacuation

Post by Dan Kolbet

The ATV was drained of oil and fuel prior to placement.
Matt trims the wood stretcher pole to fit in the transport vehicle.
MedStar crews and Deary EMS help the victim.
When the lights go out, you expect someone from Avista to have your back and get the lights on quick. It’s commonplace to have outages occur in heavy rain or snow and in rough country where long stretches of power lines travel. So who has the crew’s back when they’re out on the job – especially in rural areas?

That was the key question asked in late June when Avista staged a mock ATV accident in the wilderness near Bovill, Idaho. The scenario went like this – two linemen on ATVs were servicing a power line that feeds communications and other equipment on a remote butte that can’t be reached by traditional vehicles. One of the ATVs couldn’t navigate a turn and rolled down a heavily wooded embankment. One of the men was seriously hurt. He wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.

What would you do?

Avista Journeyman Lineman Matt Anderson was put on the spot to rescue his fallen co-worker, Journeyman Lineman Marc Gaines. Anderson had about three minutes to prepare for the scenario.  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 additional co-workers arrived on scene they carried the victim to a Trooper/Snowcat and evacuated him to a landing zone for MedStar where he was met by the helicopter crew and Deary, Idaho EMS. An Avista employee used spray paint, normally used to mark underground lines when you call 811, to mark the landing zone. The large “X” was painted in the gravel in between the words “LAND HERE.”

“We expected the scenario to take about two and a half hours, but Matt and the crew did such an awesome job, it only took about one hour,” said Mark Magers, a Journeyman Lineman/Meterman who organized the event and coordinated with local first responders.

The Avista electric line crew that arrived on scene to help Anderson consisted of Chris Ball, Dan Flanagan, Bryant Maupin and Chad Steinbruecker.

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.

I was lucky enough to video the incident and I hope you’ll watch the recap above. It was an amazing emotional scene to watch my co-workers put all their skills into play. There was no hint of “pretend” on anyone’s face. Saving a life, through any means available, was the goal and the employees’ dedication shows clearly on the video.

While the event was a mock scenario, the training of Avista’s crew was on full display. Several observers watched the incident and will present any findings or recommendations.

As one observer said when the MedStar helicopter took off and the scene was cleared, “If I ever get hurt, I sure hope an Avista guy is around to help me.”

That statement says it all. Nice work guys.
 
Also Read
Published: 6/21/2012  1:08 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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