Okanogan County PUD receives over $30 million from USDA to improve fiber operations

This will significantly improve broadband access to the Nine Mile, Molson, Chesaw, Havillah and Siwash Creek areas.

USDA ReConnect4 $30.17 million grant project area. Source: OKPUD No. 1.

USDA ReConnect4 $30.17 million grant project area. Source: OKPUD No. 1.

OKANOGAN – Okanogan County PUD has received a $30 million grant from the USDA that will allow the district to greatly expand access to broadband services to the more rural areas of the county, including the Okanogan Highlands.

The grant is part of the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service ReConnect Program. The substantial grant, exceeding $30 million, has been awarded to Okanogan PUD to facilitate expanding and enhancing broadband service access to nearly 750 residences and 21 businesses within rural Okanogan County, according to the PUD

“The generous allocation of $30 million is a significant stride towards enhancing accessible, cost-effective internet connectivity for the residents of rural Okanogan County,” said the PUD in a news release.

The proposed project will span over 300 square miles in northeastern Okanogan County, encompassing the area from Highway 20 north to the Canadian border and from the Okanogan River to the easternmost edge of the PUD’s service territory near the Ferry County border. This will significantly benefit the communities of Nine Mile, Molson, Chesaw, Havillah and Siwash Creek, states the utility.

“At the heart of this groundbreaking venture lies the construction of over 245 route miles of fiber optic cable, strategically woven throughout the designated project area. This deployment will empower Okanogan PUD and our partner Retail Service Providers to offer broadband access to the 745 residences and 21 businesses located along the route,” the district says.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2024 and the multi-year initiative is “poised to revolutionize broadband accessibility” in the region.

“Okanogan County PUD is committed to providing safe services to our community members. In furtherance of our mission, Okanogan County PUD will implement additional pole replacement services and vegetation mitigation strategies for the new and existing infrastructure in the project area,” says the public utility, which provides electric and broadband services to approximately 20,500 customers throughout Okanogan County.

Currently, the district has a 150-mile fiber optic backbone that runs along the Hwy. 97 corridor from Pateros to the Canadian Border, up the Hwy. 153 corridor from Pateros to Twisp and over Hwy. 20 from Twisp to Okanogan.

There are fiber optic distribution networks in many of the towns within the county including Oroville, Tonasket, Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Pateros and Twisp. Distribution supports many of the retail businesses, medical clinics, hospitals, libraries and schools in these communities. Services are also extended to residential locations.

For more information, visit https://www.okanoganpud.org. Any questions can be directed to the Broadband department at Okanogan County PUD.