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 14 , 2012
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.
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.
Jul 13 , 2012
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.
Jul 10 , 2012
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
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
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.
Jul 06 , 2012
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.
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 21 , 2012
Employees spring to action, save co-worker, make stretcher with sticks and a chainsaw before a helicopter evacuation
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.
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.