Ross barge landing back in service

The barge landing at Diablo Lake – the only way to bring in heavy gear to the Ross powerhouse – has been restored to service four months ahead of schedule.

Workers are wrapping up the final details on the restoration project, including completion of the flexifloat movable ramp, adding barge landing hand rails and bumpers, completing minor road grading, and installing the National Park Service dock at the east ferry landing. Recent repair work includes installation of pre-cast panels and work on the east ferry landing.

The landing and its access road were destroyed in 2010 by a massive rockslide. In the five years since, workers and engineers have focused on stabilizing the cliff, removing materials and building a new access road.

As part of the work, City Light hired a specialist to blast more than 4,000 cubic yards of unstable rock, and to set anchors to stabilize the other layers. During cleanup and construction City Light also constructed a temporary barge landing to provide access to Skagit Project and National Parks Service sites around the lake.

City Light steps down emergency fire response

Seattle City Light is reducing its emergency response operation to the Goodell Creek fire that threatened its facilities in the Skagit Valley.

As of noon today, the utility shut down its 24-hour department operations center in Seattle and will run the disaster response out of Newhalem.

The fire is still active, but it is not moving directly against City Light facilities.

Between Wednesday and today, winds, temperatures and dry conditions forced the evacuation of the town of Diablo and the shutting down of generation and transmission.

All staff and their families are accounted for and have alternate accommodations in Concrete, Sedro Woolley, Wenatchee and Brewster. Nobody has been injured.

Two of the three powerhouses are still off line, with Gorge powerhouse running power only to Newhalem and other local facilities. A helicopter survey yesterday showed that at least six of our transmission towers and their lines were affected by the fire. We are preparing materials and staff to stabilize the terrain and make repairs as soon as it is safe.

We are actively monitoring the situation and stand ready to relocate staff to safety if the fire worsens.

For updates, follow us on Twitter at @SEACityLight

Newhalem, Diablo residents safe – Goodell Creek fire continues to burn

Seattle City Light has evacuated the company town of Diablo and reduced staffing at Newhalem to essential workers, as a lightning-sparked forest fire continues to burn out of control in the North Cascades National Park.

Fire crews are on watch to protect the Gorge Powerhouse, the closest facility to the active fire. The utility has scheduled a helicopter to aid with inspections of other infrastructure. The only significant damage so far is the loss of a local power line and a fiber-optic cable.

Our displaced workers and their families are currently sheltered in the nearby town of Concrete, and in hotels and shelters in Wenatchee and Brewster. No one has been injured. In total, we’ve relocated 13 employees from Diablo, and another 11 from Newhalem. About 49 people remain on site.

Though all the Skagit generation facilities and transmission lines have been taken off line, we maintain remote control of the dams. City Light has enough power from purchases already planned ahead of time, so our customers should not be affected by the fires. We are also in touch with the appropriate regulators, and have not experienced any electric system reliability issues as a result of this incident

The Goodell Creek fire started on Aug. 10 and spread to the woods near the Skagit Hydroelectric project on Wednesday.

City Light operates three dams and powerhouses at the Ross, Diablo and Gorge reservoirs. In 2014, these facilities produced about 20 percent of the power consumed by our customers.

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

Seattle substation upgrades make West Coast grid more reliable

From the first hydroelectric facility on the Cedar River, to the massive concrete arc of Boundary Dam, City Light is founded on a tradition of big and bold engineering.

Residents of the Central District and Capitol Hill are currently getting a peek at that tradition, as workers and contractors work on massive upgrades of the East Pine substation. The work is designed to make that facility stronger during an earthquake and more reliable as it helps to transmit power from Canada to the West Coast of the United States.

The most visible part of that project happened last week. Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 8, contractors moved a 30-foot-long, 22-foot-tall, 480,000-pound transformer from its staging location near the Port of Seattle, all the way to the substation at 1501 22nd Ave.

The machine replaces an older, smaller transformer that has served its operational life. It was manufactured in Korea by the Hyosung Corporation. It arrived by ship at the Port of Tacoma and was barged to Seattle this summer.

Moving it from the port to its final location has been a logistical odyssey. It is so heavy and unwieldy that it had to be transported in two trips, from the port to a staging area in a tandem trailer, and from there to the station in a relatively smaller rig.

Over the weekend, the transformer was slipped into position with the help of pneumatic pistons and metal rails. It will be fully assembled and filled with oil so it can go into service in November.

The rigs and moving equipment may be the most visible part of the project, but what’s under and around the new transformer is perhaps the most important.

The new transformer will sit on a base of pendulum bearings. These bearings serve as shock absorbers, allowing the transformer to glide back and forth during an earthquake. By transferring movement for force, the bearings help to keep the transformer upright and connected. It will be the third transformer in the entire United States – and the second at City Light – to use this new technology.

In addition to the gliding bases, the transformer and the equipment around it will be supported by new metal structures designed and custom built by City Light engineers and steel workers to be stronger and more resilient during an earthquake.

The structures include supports and tall pedestals shaped like mini Eiffel Towers that will hold solid conductors. They resonate at a different range of frequencies than the motion of an earthquake, so that they won’t rattle apart during ground shaking.

“To the equipment, it will feel like everything is fixed directly to the ground,” said Robert Cochran, the civil engineer who designed the new structures.

All these upgrades will make the substation more reliable. This is a critical issue for our city and the entire West Coast. The East Pine Substation supplies power to all the major hospitals on First Hill and to parts of downtown. It is also part of the Bulk Electric System that moves power from Canada all the way down to California.

High sanding and painting over the Cedar Falls

City Light workers, contractors and scientists are taking advantage of the dry, hot weather, to make good pace on the sandblasting and repainting of a trestle and truss bridges that carry the huge pipes connecting Masonry Dam with the historic Cedar Falls powerhouse.

The project started last year and involved the tricky removal and containment of toxic paint and soils inside the protected watershed of the Cedar River.

Last summer, specialized contractors completed the removal and repainting process of the Lower Truss Bridge that spans the Cedar River. This summer, the project is handling an 800-foot-long/110-foot-tall Trestle Bridge and its support towers, and a high truss bridge spanning the top of the upper Cedar Falls.

It is a massive undertaking. Because the work involves metal structures coated in older toxic paint – and soils that have been contaminated with lead and arsenic – workers must fully enclose all the structures in plastic sheeting, and contain all possible runoff from disturbed areas. The structures are in rugged terrain and much of the equipment and materials has to be delivered by hand.

Besides the logistical and environmental issues, there are also historic and archaeological artifacts near the structures. An archaeologist consultant is on site to ensure that sensitive artifacts aren’t damaged.

Workers are currently finishing the supporting scaffolding, the containment sheeting around the structures and hand cleaning all the surfaces to be treated. City Light vegetation crews have cleared branches and vegetation near the sites, and also built access staircases to make the work safer.

As work progresses throughout the summer, the structures will be sandblasted (with all the debris contained and collected) and recoated in safer, environmentally sound paints. The entire project should be complete by 2016, adding service life to the 90-year-old structures and helping to protect the quality of Seattle’s drinking water, already one of the best in the nation.