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 23 , 2012
It’s an exciting time for Avista’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project in the Pullman area.
We’ve spent the last two years building the foundation to create two-way, real-time communication between customer meters and Avista. Now that the infrastructure is in place, we’re recruiting customers to participate in Avista’s Smart Thermostat Pilot.
What’s the Smart Thermostat Pilot?
Pullman customers who meet specific criteria can volunteer to participate in the pilot and receive a free thermostat with advanced capabilities. This thermostat lets participants actively monitor and manage energy usage online and make more informed decisions about how to use energy.
As part of the study, pilot participants allow Avista to remotely adjust their smart thermostat within a range of two degrees, for a period of ten minutes to a maximum of 24 hours. This study will help us understand how to balance power supply and demand within the region.
People are signing up
Avista recently held a focus group to share information about the Smart Thermostat Pilot. At the end of the meeting, half of the attendees signed up on the spot to participate. Others wanted to participate, but couldn’t due to various personal reasons.
Why did they agree to participate? Here’s what they said:
“This totally makes sense. It’s going to enable us to monitor
our energy usage and look for ways to fine-tune things. We
don’t want to waste energy.” Cherise Lloy, First participant to
“It’s nice that the thermostat has software to get a better
handle on energy use. I’d like to use less energy.” Jim
Bonner, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
“We’re very budget oriented and don’t want to waste. We’re
also fascinated by how the research will be used to inform
what the future holds.” Judi Dunn & Jeff Gray, Smart
Thermostat Pilot participants
“We’re so spoiled with abundant hydro-electricity. But
demand for electricity keeps growing. I’m curious to look at
my usage data. I think we have to manage electricity.”
Madeline Martin, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
As you can see, people have different reasons for participating. Recruitment efforts are continuing as we work toward September, when Battelle NW begins testing the technology to show how the electric grid can react to sudden changes in power supply and demand.
Through studies like this, Avista can assess how smart grid technology will enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional level and how customers and the utility will interact with new online energy usage information.
Jul 06 , 2012
In early May, First Wind officially broke ground on Palouse Wind, a wind farm near the town of Oakesdale, Wash., off of State Route 195. First Wind created above video at the event, which captures the sights and sounds of the event, while setting the stage for the project.
The first of 58 towers is expected to be erected very soon. When we get more information, we’ll update the blog.
Last year Avista signed a 30-year power purchase agreement for the renewable wind power that will be generated at the site once it’s completed later this year.
The wind farm is expected be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with 58 turbines and the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes.
The power we get from Palouse Wind will be part of a diverse, responsible energy portfolio that includes renewable resources generated right here in eastern Washington. In addition, the project is helping Avista invest in our infrastructure through the transmission upgrades we’re making so we can connect the power to our system. Palouse Wind will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while meeting renewable portfolio standards in Washington.
The groundbreaking ceremony included speakers from Avista, First Wind, Vestas, as well as several elected officials from Whitman County and the surrounding area who discussed the benefits of the project to the area’s economy, the surrounding communities and Avista’s customers.
Check back with us for more updates.
Jul 02 , 2012
Natural gas rates were lowered 6.4% in Wash., 6% in Idaho in March
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.
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.
Jun 08 , 2012
The gray skies and damp days have certainly been a bummer over the last few weeks. Isn’t summer supposed to happen around June? But, as a signal to some light at the end of the tunnel, a huge rainbow spread across the Northwest yesterday. Avista’s Michael Williams happened to be at Riverfront Park last evening and snapped the image above.
The rainbow looks to be sticking out of our Upper Falls power house, which generates hydroelectricity for downtown Spokane. Clean, renewable and cheap hydropower is certainly a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for our region.
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.