Safeguarding Skagit: Inside the Newhalem-Diablo Fire Brigade

City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project provides clean and efficient energy to Seattle’s customers, and its idyllic location provides spectacular, Instagram-worthy views of the North Cascades and Diablo Lake. Being nestled in such a remote location does have its advantages, but it can also provide its share of challenges when minutes count. During an emergency—whether someone has a bump or bruise during a dam tour or is involved in a serious traffic accident on the North Cascades Highway—a team of City Light employees take action, changing from their daily roles at the utility to act as members of the Newhalem-Diablo Fire Brigade.

For almost 60 years, this mostly volunteer group of first responders has gone above and beyond their assigned work duties at City Light to safeguard the residents and property of City Light, the Skagit Project and the North Cascades National Park. Fire Brigade Chief Cody Watson explains “the brigade fights fires and provides an emergency response like a typical fire department would; there are situations that require backup.” That’s why in 2008, a specialized group called the Skagit Technical Response Team (STRT) was created to supplement the brigade and provide aid during unusual rescue situations. Like the brigade, STRT is a team of City Light employees who are trained beyond their day-to-day skills.

In 2016, the brigade was crucial to the containment of the Goodell Creek Fire, which severely threatened the Skagit Hydroelectric Project and the surrounding communities. For Watson, an emergency of any size is important because of the brigade’s local impact.

“We have helped friends, family, co-workers and strangers who are often having the worst day of their lives,” says Watson. “The brigade provides services that no one else in this geographical area can. When the fire alarm goes off, they have to switch gears and put on a different hat. We have a pretty extraordinary team up here.”

Last November, the fire brigade added a new vehicle to their fleet, a state-of-the-art ambulance. The new vehicle replaced a unit that had been in service for nearly 25 years. Watson and the brigade worked closely with the City Light Fleet and Mobile Equipment team to build a unit that meets their unique needs. Some of the unique features include snow chains that engage with a flip of a switch, a hydraulic lift and cabin airbags to protect first responders when treating a patient.

Thank you, Newhalem-Diablo Fire Brigade, for keeping the City Light employees and its visitors safe!


Experience the majestic beauty of the North Cascades next summer on a Skagit Tour. Skagit Tours provide a fun and educational experience for people of all ages. Visit for more information!

National Electrical Safety Month: Overloaded Circuits


Did you know that 47,700 home fires in the U.S. are caused by electrical failures or malfunctions each year? From an outlet with too many plugs (remember that one scene in Christmas Vacation?) to a major appliance plugged into a power strip, overloaded circuits in your home can be dangerous.

Here are a few symptoms of an overloaded circuit:

  • Flickering, blinking or dimming lights
  • Blown fuses
  • Warm or discolored wall plates
  • Cracking, sizzling or buzzing from outlets
  • Burning odor coming from wall switches
  • Mild shock or tingle from appliances or switches

Thankfully, the Electrical Safety Foundation International has tips on how to prevent overloaded circuits, possibly reducing the risk of injury or property loss:

  • Never use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances.
  • All major appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Only plug one heat-producing appliance into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have too few outlets for your needs. Be sure to have a qualified electrician inspect your home and add new outlets.
  • Remember, power strips only add additional outlets; they do not change the amount of power being received from the outlet.

For more information on how to avoid overloading your home, visit

Women in Power Hosts Event to Press for Progress

On Thursday, more than 240 members of the City of Seattle community attended the Women in Power: Press for Progress event. This event celebrated International Women’s Day and powerful women everywhere.

The event took place in the Bertha Knight Landes Room, named after Seattle’s first female mayor. Opening speaker Mayor Jenny Durkan, the second female mayor more than 90 years later, recognized the significance of the space and the moment.

The morning panel discussion event included women from across the City of Seattle including: Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan, Interim Chief of Police Carmen Best, and Acting Director Seattle IT Tracye Cantrell. The discussion, moderated by City Light Director Michelle Vargo, surrounded the importance of mentorship and encouraged the audience to amplify one another throughout their work. Each panelist contributed their unique perspective from their experiences and departments.

The afternoon panel, moderated by City Light Director Maura Brueger, featured four of Seattle’s six female city councilmembers: Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez and Teresa Mosqueda. The panelists focused on the importance of being heard and becoming agents of change within their spaces.

City Light’s Sarah Davis, who founded and chairs the volunteer Women in Power group, was thrilled with the event and is excited to see where the conversation goes from here.

“Today is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together,” explains Davis. “I hope people left the room inspired, excited, and with a desire to do something. Actually, I want people to say ‘yes’ to do two things: one thing for themselves, and a second that will benefit someone else.”

A special thank you to the committee who made this event a reality: Sarah Davis, Stefanie Johnson, Koryn Kennedy, Holly Krejci, Courtney Adams, Kathryn Mork, Bianca Smith, Uzma Siddiqi, Martha Hobson, Stefanie Guzman and Dana Robinson-Slote.

More than 200 viewers watched the event via Skype. Click here to watch the event in its entirety.

About Women in Power
Created in late 2016, Women in Power (WIP) is a City Light employee-run group whose mission is to foster professional development, better support one another, and address unique issues women face in the workplace. In addition to bi-monthly programming and the International Women’s Day event, WIP recently launched a 6-month pilot mentoring program. WIP is open to all City Light employees (both women and men).

Boundary Hydroelectric Project Receives National Historical Recognition

Boundary Hydroelectric Project from its Vista House

For more than 50 years, the Boundary Hydroelectric Project has powered Seattle with its clean, hydropower. At 340 feet tall, the concrete double-curvature arch of Boundary Dam cuts an imposing figure on the Pend Oreille River in northeastern Washington. In January, City Light submitted an application to the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for Boundary to the National Register of Historical Places. Today, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation determined that Boundary meets the National Register criteria.

“Determining the Boundary Project’s eligibility for the National Register is a requirement of our license to operate the dam, but to be listed on the National Register is an honor,” explains City Light’s Mike Aronowitz. “It’s confirmation that the history and design of Boundary deserve to be nationally recognized and preserved.”

The nomination will now be sent to the Keeper of the National Register within the National Park Service, who makes the final listing decision.



City Light announced its plan to acquire the Boundary Dam site and construct a hydroelectric power plant Oct. 27, 1953. On July 10, 1961, City Light was issued a license by the Federal Power Commission, granting the utility permission to utilize a section of the Pend Oreille River and construct Boundary Dam. Construction began in August 1963 by carving out 500,000 cubic yards of the limestone mountain to make way for the world’s largest underground powerhouse at the time. The machine hall, which houses the turbines that generate electricity, was excavated to be 477 feet long, 76 feet wide and 15 stories below the ground. The dam itself was built to an astounding 340 feet tall, 32 feet at its base and eight feet at its crest. The reservoir that retains the water from the Pend Oreille River is 1,794 acres and 17.5 miles long, roughly three times the size of Lake Union.

The 1,040-megawatt Boundary Hydroelectric Project (Boundary Project) impounds the Pend Oreille River in a rural canyon north of Metaline Falls, in Pend Oreille County (pronounced Pon-deh-RAY), Washington, and is owned and operated by Seattle City Light (City Light) under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) License No. 2144. Completed with four generation units in 1967, the multi-component facility was built between 1963 and 1967 and consists of a concrete variable-radius, double curvature, thin arch dam, an underground powerhouse, the Vista House, and other support and recreation-related built resources as were developed during the original construction period. The overall nominated district covers 167 acres, all located within the larger boundary for the FERC license.

The Boundary Project is located at river mile 17 on the Pend Oreille River in a narrow canyon in the Selkirk Mountains, in northeastern Washington, about ten miles north of the Town of Metaline Falls and one mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. Boundary is a multi-component project occupying 167-acres within the larger licensed area, and is operated by Seattle City Light under FERC License No. 2144.1 The individual resources of the Boundary Project were designed by multiple engineering firms and architectural firms as detailed below, under the direction of Herbert V. Standberg, City Light’s project engineer, with Cr. Hoidal and Robert L. Skone providing, respectively, civil and electrical engineering oversight.
The Boundary Project is documented as a “district” which includes the dam, forebay, powerhouse, transmission line, Vista House, and related recreational and support structures, tied together by the original looped road system from the controlled access point at the end of Boundary Road.

In 2013, City Light was issued a new license to operate Boundary through 2055. With the new license comes several important recreation developments that will directly benefit the local community and promote economic development. Improvements are already underway at the Forebay Recreation Area. Other enhancements are slated for Metaline Waterfront Park in 2018, followed by two new spectacular viewing locations and a portage trail for kayakers around Metaline Falls in 2019. A new hiking trail on the east side of the reservoir will be added in 2020.

How to Stay Safe and Warm During a Winter Power Outage

Here we go again…

This weekend’s windy, snowy and yes, even stormy weather could cause short and long-term outages in our area.

When outages occur, City Light’s response prioritizes life safety first, followed by emergency services and then by repairs which will bring the largest number of customers back into service.

In the event of widespread outages, repairs can take hours, and significant events can take even days.

Here are some tips to help you be prepared and stay safe during a winter outage:


  • Report the Outage – If you experience an outage, please report it by calling City Light’s Power Outage Hotline at (206) 684-3000. Remember to give us your name, address, phone number and describe any unusual circumstances that could help us identify the problem. You can also visit the Seattle City Light Outage Map to get updates on restoration work, as well as following City Light’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.


  • Have Your Phone Ready – Cordless phones will not work without electricity. Have a corded or cell phone available. If your cell phone is your primary phone, make sure it is charged, and you have a phone charger ready. It’s a good idea to keep external batteries charged too.


  • Stay Away from Downed Power Lines – Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you come across any downed lines, do not approach or touch anything in contact with the wire as it could be energized and live. If you see a downed power line, call 911 or (206) 684-3000.


  • Keep Warm and Bundle Up – Try to retain as much heat as possible. Close windows, curtains, unused fireplace dampers, and have blankets ready to conserve body heat. Cold weather is especially hard on infants, children and the elderly. Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, covering the head, feet and hands.


  • Have Your Emergency Kit/Plan Ready – Prepare an emergency kit if you haven’t already. Some ideas to include are a working flashlight, glow-in-the-dark stick lights, wind-up clock, portable radio, manual can opener and mylar blanket. During a major storm, have a plan for locating family members if you are not with them. For more information about emergency kits and plans, please visit


  • Use Hot Water Sparingly – Most hot water tanks will retain heat for up to 24 to 72 hours.


  • Close Your Refrigerator/Freezer – Keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible. A full refrigerator will maintain safe temperatures for up to six to 10 hours; a full freezer is safe for up to 2 days. In most cases, food should be safe if refrigerators and freezers remain closed while the power is out. When in doubt, throw it out.


  • Unplug Electrical Appliances – If you experience a prolonged outage, be sure to turn off electrical appliances to prevent fires and equipment damage. Some electrical appliances to consider unplugging before a storm hits include computers and televisions.


  • Be Cautious with Generators and Grills – Use generators with care during a power outage and always use portable generators outside in well-ventilated areas. Never plug a generator into your home circuitry. Instead, plug in appliances directly into the outlets on the generator. When it comes to the grill, do not use barbeques indoors.


  • Be Fire Safe – Do not use candles as a light source nor any open flame as a heat source.


  • Electric Garage Owners – Know how to use the manual override of your electric garage door if your power goes out.


  • Remember Your Pets – Household pets such as cats, dogs, fish and birds may require special care. Contact your veterinarian for more information.


  • Life-Support Customers – If you rely on electric life-support machines, make sure you have emergency power and know how to operate it. Make sure your system has an alarm to alert you if the power goes out.


If you experience an outage, please report it by calling (206) 684-3000.

Don’t forget to visit the Seattle City Light Outage Map to get updates on restoration work, as well as following us on  Twitter and Facebook.

For more information on how to prepare for this winter’s weather, visit