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Mar 27 , 2012
An inside look at how Avista gathers information about snowpack

Post by Brandi Smith

Snow covered trees near Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest
Avista owns and operates eight hydroelectric
dams on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers.
These facilities, together with long term hydro
contracts, make up about half of the total
electric resources available to serve our
Skiers may prefer light and fluffy snow, but heavy and wet snow contributes more to our water supply in the Northwest. Avista counts on water to generate hydropower for our customers.  Every year, Avista evaluates snowpack information in the mountains to get an idea of what spring runoff may be like at our dams on the Spokane and Clark Fork rivers. Only a select few get to see this evaluation process up close, so we took a video camera up the mountain to get you a special look at snowpack measurement.

Avista rents snowmobiles so employees can get as close to the snowpack measurement site as possible. Snow depth is measured by pushing an aluminum tube down through the snowpack and all the way down to ground surface. Both the depth and weight of the snow is recorded. An average of all samples taken is calculated and used to represent the snowpack measurement site. 

Avista measures 10 sites at Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest, which is located near the Hiawatha Trail. Once the data is collected, the Hydro Engineering team submits the data to the National Resources Conservation Service who is largely responsible for providing Avista and many other interested parties with reliable water supply forecasts.

The more gradual the snowmelt, the more Avista can maximize that water running through its dams.  However, you never know what Mother-Nature is going to do. Regardless, our customers can count on Avista to make the most out of this precious resource in an efficient, reliable and environmentally-responsible way.

If you have questions about lake and river levels, please visit our website.
Published: 3/27/2012  11:21 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 23 , 2012
46 new trail lights a result of new natural gas pipeline serving Clarkston area

Post by Dan Kolbet
Lights on the trail
The lights on the left are a few of the 46 new lights
Avista installed on the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston.
Avista recently installed the last of 46 safety lights along the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston, Wash. The new lights turn on at dusk and help illuminate the popular recreation area. The project was born out of Avista’s new 2.8-mile natural gas pipeline extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.

In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed access to land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista agreed to install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500.

“The new natural gas pipeline in Clarkston is great for the reliability of our service to customers in the area,” said Avista Regional Business Manager Mike Tatko. “But the Greenbelt Trail lighting project is another very visible benefit to Avista customers and all area residents who use the trail."

The natural gas pipeline project began in mid-July 2011 and was in service by December 2011, just in time to provide heat to homes and businesses during the colder winter months.  The lighting work began in December 2011 and was completed on March 16, 2012.

Avista owns and will maintain the lights along the trail. 

Published: 3/23/2012  9:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 21 , 2012
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Post by Dan Kolbet

Avista worked with crews for Northern Pipeline to relocate almost 2,000 feet of six-inch high pressure main in White City, Oregon over the last month. Work like this helps create reliable service for Avista natural gas customers.
This particular project, which shows your rate dollars at work, is estimated to cost around $250,000. These photos show some of the progress happening in the shadow of Mt. McLoughlin.
Published: 3/21/2012  2:52 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 20 , 2012
Post by Dan Kolbet
Today is the first day of Spring and right about the time most people start thinking about projects in the yard. (Disregard these crazy "yard work thoughts" if you saw snow in your yard today).
Before you start any project that requires digging, be sure to call 811 two days before you dig to locate underground utility lines. In 2011, there were 7.9 dig-ins on Avista’s natural gas system for every 1,000 locates, as compared to the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal for 2012 is to reduce the number of dig-ins by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce company costs.

It’s only three numbers; you can handle it – just call 811.
Published: 3/20/2012  3:24 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 20 , 2012
Click to get your Powermonger Awareness Kit

If you are into free things, and who isn’t especially in this economy, you might know about the Today Show’s blog, They frequently post information about coupons, money-saving offers, frugal deals and steals and free stuff. This month, they featured Avista’s free Powermonger Energy Awareness kit. As a result, the request for these kits has been through the roof.

Order your kit
Get your Powermonger Awareness Kit at
You can get yours too*, but you have to be an Avista customer who rents in order to receive the energy savings kit. If you fit that bill, all you have to do is “like” Avista’s Every Little Bit Facebook page at to get a free Powermonger Awareness Kit. While you’re there, you can also check out an interactive online thermostat to find out how much you could save by simply adjusting your thermostat.
The kit features include:
• Energy Use and Savings Guide
• Conserve Power Timer Socket
• Energy Saving Tip Booklet
• Fridge Reminder Magnets
• "Shower Coach" 5-Minute Shower Timer
• Switch and Socket Insulators
• Shrink-Fit Window Insulation Film

When it comes to energy efficiency, every little bit adds up. We are here to help you understand the importance of energy efficiency and provide you with tips and the resources to help make your home more energy efficient. For more information about energy savings, visit

*Powemonger Awareness kits available as long as supplies last, so what are you waiting for?
Published: 3/20/2012  2:49 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 15 , 2012
Flickr slideshow
New poles and electric lines assure an efficient electric delivery system

Reliability: Click to View Service Territory Map
As you head west on East Sprague Avenue in the Spokane Valley over the next two to three months, you may notice some construction activity with Avista Utilities trucks and crews working in the area.

In order to continue to serve you with safe, reliable electricity, we’re replacing two miles of old wooden poles with new ones. We are also replacing old, smaller wire with larger wire, which increases the efficiency of our delivery of energy to your homes and businesses. The power lines we are working on provide electricity to the entire Sprague/Appleway corridor and the adjacent areas.

The cost of delivering safe, reliable energy includes maintaining a huge system of pipes, poles, generation facilities and substations. Many parts of our system are 30, 40 and even 50 years old.

What you are witnessing in Spokane Valley and throughout our service territory are your rate dollars at work to provide safe and reliable service.

Upgrades to our infrastructure, such as this two-mile pole and wire replacement project, make up around 40 percent of your bill – the cost of delivering energy, serving our customers and energy conservation. The other 60 percent is the cost of the energy itself – the cost of generating or purchasing electricity.

So the next time you see projects like the one on Sprague, you’ll get a up close and personal view of the kind of work we do all the time to make sure you have safe, reliable and efficient energy to your home or business.

For more stories about reliability, renewable energy, the environment, community, rates and more, visit us here at the Avista Blog often.

Much of this blog post was originally posted on Feb. 15, 2012.

Published: 3/15/2012  2:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 15 , 2012

Post & video by Dan Kolbet
Reliability: Click to View Service Territory Map
When the lights flicker or go out, you expect someone at Avista be working on getting that power back on, and rightfully so. Often our crews are working on your power down the street or somewhere out of your view and you don’t get the chance to see their work, other than when the lights come back on. On a very windy February day, we rode along with an electrical crew that was restoring power to show you some of the work that goes into a typical restoration.

The video shows that a tree branch came into contact with a power line, damaging some overhead equipment. Crews made a temporary fix and routed power around the damaged insulator, then moved on to the next outage. A permanent fix for the insulator will occur after winds calm. If we had made that longer repair first, the crew wouldn’t have been able to move on to the next outage so quickly, potentially lengthening another customer’s restoration time.

Our crews do this work for you, regardless of weather conditions. A neighboring homeowner even brought out a plate of treats for the crew - very nice of her.
The video is set to the tune of "Dust in the Wind." A sad song, but fitting for such a windy, dusty day!

For more stories about reliability, renewable energy, the environment, community, rates and more, visit us here at the Avista Blog often.

Much of this blog post was originally posted on Feb. 24, 2012.
Published: 3/15/2012  2:09 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 15 , 2012
Crews brave the cold to bring reliable service to you in $1.4 million project
Post by Dan Kolbet

Reliability: Click to View Service Territory Map
If you’ve traveled along Highway 95 in North Idaho by Silverwood this winter, you may have seen Avista natural gas crews working alongside the busy highway. We wanted to let you know what they are up to. Our crews are relocating and increasing capacity for six miles of natural gas pipeline to accommodate a newly constructed highway.

The Idaho Department of Transportation is reconstructing a portion of Highway 95 from approximately Chilco to Athol.  The highway will expand from two to four lanes, which is great for safety and traffic, but means Avista’s existing 3-inch natural gas pipeline needs to move to a new right-of-way on the east side of the road.

Avista is expanding the capacity of the pipeline from 3 to 6 inches too. Expanded capacity helps serve existing customer needs and helps prepare our infrastructure for the future. The estimated cost for this project is around $1.4 million. Part of our requests for customer rate adjustments typically includes infrastructure work like this project.

You can see from the video that the crews are clearing a pathway, laying down 40-foot lengths of yellow plastic pipe, fusing them together and then burying the pipeline with sandy soil. The sandy soil protects the pipeline from being touched rocks or hard objects that could put pressure on the new pipeline. After the line is in place it will be pressure tested before being brought into service.

The project started in mid-December and should be completed by the end of March. One of the biggest hurdles the crews had to overcome in January and February was snow and frost. At times crews had to dig through 12 to 24 inches of frozen ground to make a trench that goes much deeper. Typically large projects like this aren’t completed during winter months, but Avista and other utilities agreed to do the work now to accommodate the Idaho Department of Transportation’s aggressive schedule. Snow means everything gets covered and can slow progress, but our crews are used to working through it.

For more stories about reliability, renewable energy, the environment, community, rates and more, visit us here at the Avista Blog often.

Much of this blog post was originally posted on Jan. 6 and 18.
Published: 3/15/2012  1:42 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 14 , 2012
Facebook picture
Facebook picture
Please “like” Avista Utilities on Facebook 
and get the conversation started

Post by Dan Kolbet
If you’re reading this post, you’re one of the thousands of people who stop by the Avista Blog each month. Yes, I wrote “thousands.” We’ve been at this blog thing for quite some time now. We launched in June of 2009 and have maintained a steady following here, on YouTube and Twitter. And we appreciate each and every one of you. But now we’ve added another channel – Facebook.

We’re a tad bit late to the game on Facebook – just ask one of the 845 million people already using the site. Yet, I think we have some great content and stories to share that will make your experience on Facebook unique and informative, otherwise we’d be just another bland Facebook page. And that’s just not Avista.

Here are a few examples. When your lights go out during a storm and you’re sitting in the dark (briefly), you want to know that a crew is working on your restoration. We’ve created some videos to show what it looks like for a typical outage. What really goes into that process? On the natural gas side we’ve created videos and slide shows that feature our crews building new pipelines that serve you. These are projects you probably wouldn’t see any other way, but can get an up close view through Facebook.

But Facebook isn’t just about Avista showing you what we’re working on. You can ask general questions, make comments, share or like posts. It’s an ongoing conversation.

Brandi Smith (@AvistaBrandi) and myself (@AvistaDan) monitor the page and post content Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. If you use Facebook, you already know how this works and I encourage you to like our page and get the ball rolling.

“Like” Avista Utilities
To “like” Avista Utilities, Facebook users should go to and click “like.” It’s that easy. 

Like Avista

Published: 3/14/2012  9:49 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 08 , 2012
Kettle Falls Generation Plant
On Wednesday, March 7, 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 Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant will qualify to meet our renewable requirements in Washington beginning in 2016.

The bill recognizes what Avista and many of our customers already know. As one of the first biomass plants of its kind in the country, Kettle Falls has been generating renewable, dependable energy for more than 25 years. The plant pioneered a technology that has been replicated around the world and represents Avista’s culture and leadership in advancing renewable energy. We’re pleased that this resource will be given the recognition it deserves.

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.
The bill will also save customers money, because Avista can use existing renewable power to meet some of our state mandates, which reduces the need to buy renewable energy credits or invest in development of new renewable energy resources.

Avista proudly remains one of the greenest utilities in the country. We’ve been working since 2008 to get the energy generated at Kettle Falls recognized in Washington state as renewable. The passage of this bill is an example of how Avista engages in policy-making at local, state and federal levels to advocate on behalf of our customers. Biomass is an important part of Avista’s diverse energy portfolio, and the recognition of the energy generated at Kettle Falls as renewable helps us continue to provide reliable, responsible energy while meeting mandates and being good stewards of our customers’ energy dollars and the environment.
Washington RPS info:
While meeting our customers’ energy needs, Avista must comply with renewable portfolio standards detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act and must use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both to meet the following annual targets: 3% of energy used to meet customer demand by January 1, 2012, 9% by January 1, 2016 and 15% by January 1, 2020.
• To meet the 2012 targets, Avista has added qualifying renewable generation capacity with upgrades at its hydroelectric projects.

• With the passage of the bill, the energy from Kettle Falls, in addition to the recently signed 30-year power purchase agreement with Palouse Wind, will help Avista to meet targets beginning in 2016.
Additional information about the Kettle Falls Generation Plant:

This blog post contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the blog post and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011.
Published: 3/8/2012  11:49 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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