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 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.
Jun 01 , 2012
Receiving a rebate from Avista for the energy efficiency improvements you’ve made around your home just got a lot easier – no envelop, no stamps, no hassle.
Now you can submit your rebate information online at www.avistautilities.com/resrebates
, scan in your receipts and hit send. It’s faster so you receive your rebate sooner which everyone likes. If you’re thinking about improvements to your home, you can also find out more about the Avista energy efficiency rebates for which you may qualify at www.avistautilities.com/resrebates
In 2011 Avista customers received over 43,000 rebates and incentives totaling almost $16 million for energy efficiency improvements made to their homes and businesses. The energy savings are enough to power over 5,300 Inland Northwest homes for a year and serve 2,300 homes with natural gas for a year. The most popular energy and cost-savings measures for residential customers were purchasing Energy Star® appliances, installing high efficiency natural gas furnaces and upgrading insulation.
Check those energy efficiency projects off your to-do list and start saving time, money and energy.
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 11 , 2012
Spokane River and Clark Fork River work targets fish survival, habitat and doing the right thing
If you’ve ever dipped a fishing rod into any of our local lakes or rivers you’re already aware of the great natural resources we enjoy in the Northwest. Because Avista operates hydroelectric facilities on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers, we’ve made a commitment to the environment as part of our daily operations throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Two great examples of Avista’s commitment to environmental stewardship are reducing invasive lake trout in Lake Pend Oreille and studying rainbow trout spawning on the Spokane River. These projects were featured in a 2010 “Safekeeping” segment of the Columbia Country television program which aired on Fox stations.
Clark Fork River
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. Since this program’s inception more than 139,000 lake trout have been removed from the lake.
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 rainbow trout spawning study on the Spokane River, part of our 50-year operating license for the five hydroelectric developments that make up Avista’s Spokane River Project. The spawning study is part of a 10-year collaboration with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) 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.
In each of the last two years, in partnership with WDFW, we’ve captured and tagged more than 800 rainbow trout in the river below the Monroe Street Dam downstream to the Nine Mile Reservoir. This part of the 10-year study is to understand how many trout are in the Spokane River and the habitat they use. We will capture and tag rainbow trout again this October.
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.
May 10 , 2012
Avista is disappointed in the article that ran in today’s Spokesman-Review titled “Avista gives cash to oust two North Idaho incumbents,”
regarding Idaho legislators and our contribution to political campaigns in Idaho. We believe the article is misleading, and want to set the record straight about our intent and practice of engaging in policy discussions and issues on behalf of our customers and communities.
Public policy participation
Avista actively participates in local, state and national legislative and governmental activities. We work to develop relationships with elected and appointed office holders in order to understand the complexities of public policy affecting our company and be at the table on behalf of our customers and communities.
“It is appropriate and responsible for the company, through shareholder dollars and the employee-funded political action committee, to make political contributions as part of a comprehensive government relations program. Customers’ rate dollars do not fund these activities,” said Avista Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Morris.
“As an energy company, Avista and our customers, communities, employees and shareholders are affected by the decisions made by federal, state and local officials,” Morris said. “It is essential that we have a voice in the public policy arena and that we participate in the process for the benefit of all our stakeholders.”
Avista has supported many bipartisan and partisan efforts with clear benefits to our customers and communities. These include:
• Recent passage of SB5575, which will allow power from Avista’s Kettle Falls Biomass plant
to qualify as renewable under Washington State Renewable Portfolio Mandates. Passage of this bill will help preserve rural jobs and is expected to save electric customers hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary capital spending on new renewable energy resources.
• Washington State University Spokane’s Biomedical and Health Sciences Building on the Riverpoint campus
, which broke ground in fall 2011 and will provide long-term economic benefits to our region as part of the comprehensive Academic Health Science Center project.
• Washington HB 1489, signed in 2011, which bans phosphorus in lawn fertilizers. Avista worked with a coalition of business, agriculture and environmental groups to help find an approach to reduce phosphorous loading into Washington lakes and rivers, improving water quality.
• Legislation to create in Pierce, Idaho, the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a multi-phase youth intervention program intended to improve the education, life skills and employment potential of enrolled high school students in the state of Idaho. (HB 662, 2012)
• Community investments made through corporate and Avista Foundation giving (not included in customer rates). Avista Corp. and Avista Foundation donations and grants in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon totaled $1.47 million in 2011.
Avista has a long history of supporting both Democrats and Republicans for election.
Avista is legally prohibited from contributing directly to political candidates for elected federal offices. In 2011, we contributed $75,770 in the states where we serve customers and where such contributions are allowed.
In Idaho in 2012, Avista has made a total of $20,250 in direct contributions to 37 candidates in 24 of the state’s 35 legislative districts. Each of these are limited to a total of $1,000 or less per candidate per election. In Washington, direct contributions to candidates total $3,450 in 2012, and in Oregon direct contributions to candidates total $5,500 in 2012. Our contributions support incumbents, challengers, and new candidates who are running for open seats. Separate contributions to political action committees in Idaho and Oregon in 2012 totaled $20,000 and $1,500 respectively.
Avista also has a voluntary, non-partisan committee for non-craft-member employees called the Avista Employees for Effective Government political action committee. Through the Avista Employee PAC, our employees have contributed $5,640 to federal candidates and political organizations in 2012.