Public power at work

Opinion by Steve Houston, President; Ernest Boltz, Vice President; David Womack, Secretary

The Carlton Complex Fire, burning more than 256,000 acres (400 square miles) of land and destroying approximately 300 homes, was the worst firestorm in Washington State history. For Okanogan PUD, the fire destroyed 341 miles of distribution infrastructure, 60 miles of fiber and 22 miles of transmission infrastructure. Power outages in the south end of Okanogan included the towns of Pateros, Twisp, Winthrop and surrounding areas. Approximately 3,600 Okanogan PUD customers and 3,500 Okanogan Electric Cooperative customers were without power. Clearly, this was one of the worst disasters to ever hit Okanogan County.

During the first six days, Okanogan County PUD line crews and support personnel, along with line crews from Chelan PUD, Douglas PUD, Ferry PUD, Grant PUD and BPA, reconstructed 12 miles of transmission line and about 100 miles of distribution line in order to restore power to approximately 80 percent of the customers affected by the outage. During the following two weeks, through excellent coordination and the unwavering sense of urgency of all PUD line crews and support personnel, the remaining distribution facilities were reconstructed and power was restored to everyone affected by the outage. Virtually 100 percent of Okanogan PUD employees and 45 employees from our neighboring Public Power Utilities worked tirelessly to make sure power was restored as fast and as safely as possible.

This is Public Power at Work. The commitment to serve, and the dedication and spirit that brought electricity to our farms and rural communities in the 1930s, is alive and well in 2014. It is that same commitment, dedication and sprit that we see demonstrated not just in emergencies but on a daily basis within Okanogan County PUD, and those same values being shared by our neighboring PUDs, that make us proud to be a PUD commissioner. October 6th – 10th is Public Power Week. Please take a moment and reflect on what our lives would be without electricity. Life in Okanogan County is truly better because we are served by Public Power.