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

Jun 20 , 2012

Aerial view of Post Falls Dam Spring 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.
Published: 6/20/2012  10:28 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 19 , 2012

Lewiston Clarkston Wall of Fame

 
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.

Smashed lunch pail
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.
Published: 6/19/2012  2:59 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 18 , 2012
photos
 
He makes stretcher out of trees, coat, sweatshirt and his chainsaw
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

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.
Published: 6/18/2012  9:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 06 , 2012
Use caution as water levels continue to change

Post Falls Dam, North Channel
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.
Published: 6/6/2012  2:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 04 , 2012

Avista

 
 
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. 

Published: 6/4/2012  4:51 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 01 , 2012

Rebates image

 
Post by Debbie Simock 
   
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.
Published: 6/1/2012  11:44 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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