City Light staff share knowledge with youth



City Light staff recently got to share information about climate change and career options in the hydroelectric industry, as part of an ongoing effort to encourage interest in science, the trades and environmental issues.

On May 20, Crystal Raymond, Elizabeth Ablow, and Nancy Huizar taught a lesson on climate change and its effects on Pacific Northwest salmon to a classroom of fifth-grade students at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

Earlier in the year, these students participated in a field trip hosted by Seattle City Light at the Ron Regis Park in Renton, where they learned about the salmon’s life cycle. Following up on that, the team taught students the basics of climate change and how it will likely affect salmon at different life stages.

The team demonstrated the effects of too much carbon in the atmosphere and in the oceans by having students blow carbon dioxide in a jar of water and measuring the acidity. After the activity, they discussed ways to reduce their own impact and potential environmental careers for the future.

Last Thursday, staff at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project hosted a career day and a tour of City Light facilities for a group of Darrington High School students. The group got educational presentations, a boat ride, and toured sites like Ladder Creek and the North Cascades Institute Learning Center, with a tasty lunch at the Gorge Inn to boot.

Staff involved included Alan Ferrara, Steve McClure, Phi Trinh, Vonie Polomis and Colleen McShane.

These and other education and outreach activities are part of City Light’s commitment to providing our community with useful information to make better decisions about energy, conservation, and the protection of our environment.

Cedar Falls crews reunite lost dog with her family

Fernando Alba, Kerry, Parker and Jon Geffen, with Roxy. Photo by Rebecca Rosen.

Roxy the Blue Heeler is one lucky dog.

After running off for 12 days in the cold, wet woods of the protected Cedar River watershed, she is safely back home with her family, thanks to two alert and considerate City Light workers who rescued her from a penstock saddle near Cedar Falls.

“It’s really unbelievable,” said Kerry Geffen, Roxy’s owner. “We are so happy to be together again.”

Roxy’s not-so-excellent adventure began on April 2, when her pet sitter took her for a walk around Rattlesnake Lake. The sitter let Roxy off leash, and before long the cattle dog took off to explore the wilderness.

Roxy’s family was away on spring break. When they came back they set off a search, driving back and forth from their home in Tacoma, with no luck.

In most circumstances, that would be the sad end of this story. The upper Cedar River watershed is a protected area of 90,000 acres with bears, mountain lions and very few people – not exactly a friendly place for a lone, house dog.

But on April 13, Jason Hunter, a hydro maintenance worker at the City Light Cedar Falls powerhouse, was delivering a replacement light to a gatehouse by the huge penstock pipes that move water from the Mansonry Dam to the electrical generators down river.  Workers visit that gatehouse only a couple of times a month.

As he walked a metal catwalk between the pipes, he noticed some movement below.

“I assumed it was a raccoon or a bobcat. I looked closer and, what the heck, it was a dog,” Jason said.

Roxy must have walked along the penstocks during her trek, and somehow ended up stuck on a narrow saddle high off the ground.

Don Nation and Jason Hunter

Jason called Crew Chief Don Nation, and he met Jason at the gatehouse armed with rain gear, boots, and a rope.

“I did not want to get bitten. I had gloves on, I approached her carefully.” Don said. “She looked cold and wet, so I slipped the rope around her neck, went up the ladder with her and we all headed back to the powerhouse.”

Don fed the dog some cheese sticks and grabbed a dog leash out his vehicle. He noticed Roxy’s tag, which had a phone number.

“I called the number and a lady answered the phone. I asked her if she lost a dog and she said yes, is she OK? I said yes and she started crying,” Don recalled.

Don took Roxy home with him until he could meet with Kerry’s husband, Jon, later that evening.  In between, Roxy got a good meal and got comfortable with Don’s wife and daughter, before heading back to her own family.

Jason Hunter still can’t believe Roxy’s good luck. The dog looked like she’d spent at least a couple of days stuck in that saddle.

“It was a freak of fortune that we would be there,” he said. “It’s a miracle that the dog lasted that long in the woods.”

Kerry Geffen gratefully agrees.

“Now we know that when something seems impossible, sometimes it is,” Kerry said.

City Light’s Carrasco to retire, Mayor Murray thanks him for service

City Light General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco

After spending more than a decade leading Seattle City Light, Jorge Carrasco is retiring from his role as general manager and chief executive officer of Seattle City Light.

“I want to thank Jorge for his years of service in Seattle and wish him the best as he writes his next chapter,”  Mayor Ed Murray said. “Jorge brought renewed financial sustainability to City Light. Under his leadership, the utility stabilized electricity rates, cut workplace accidents in half and became the first carbon neutral utility in the nation.”

“After more than 11 years leading Seattle City Light, I’ve decided the time is right for me to retire,” Carrasco said. “I want to thank our dedicated employees who work tirelessly each and every day to provide exceptional service to our customers. My family and I feel blessed to be part of such a dynamic, progressive and compassionate city, and we look forward to continuing to serve the greater community.”

Seattle City Light serves over 400,000 customers with a staff of 1,855. Carrasco’s retirement is effective May 8. The mayor also announced that Chief Compliance Officer Jim Baggs will serve as interim CEO while a national search for a permanent CEO is conducted.

Crews overcome challenges to upgrade south-end electrical system

This map shows the area covered in the H-frame replacement project

City Light crews and contractors are putting the final touches on a project that climbed hills and crossed swamps, railroads, an interstate freeway and a state highway, all to improve City Light’s distribution, transmission and communications systems in the south end of Seattle.

These aging “H” frame structure were replaced by fewer, taller, metal monopoles.

The H-Frame replacement project, as the job has been called, was designed to replace several aging wood structures south of Boeing Field that carried lines between the Rainier View neighborhood and the industrial corridor along the Duwamish River. The wood frames are shaped like a letter “H”, hence the name.

Planning for the project started in 2011. It involved removing four wires and installing 11 more along a 1.5 mile stretch, over several wetlands, a major railroad and rail intermodal yard, a police firing range, across Interstate 5 and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and climbing a steep wooded hill to connect with the Creston-Nelson substation.

Crews installed nine 150-foot-tall monopoles.

Crews replaced 24 wooden H frames with nine, 150-foot-tall metal poles that had to be custom ordered for the job. The poles were transported in sections and assembled on site. Two of the poles were installed right in the middle of the Burlington Northern Santa Fé South Seattle train yard.

The job required two overnight closures of I-5, MLK Way and entrance and exit ramps. It also required permits, variances and clearances and agreements with Union Pacific and BNSF Railroads, Sound Transit, the Army Corps of Engineers, the cities of Tukwila and Seattle, the Seattle Police Athletic Association and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

As with all projects, crews and engineers ran into unexpected surprises, such as faulty equipment or poles, weather delays, and one freeway closure than lasted longer than planned. One of the surprises (which wasn’t even related to the project) was that a 150-foot-tall transmission lattice tower west of I-5 had gradually shifted over the years. It required special hydraulic jacks and supporting beams to bring it back up straight, which was done over one weekend.

Despite all the challenges, crews and engineers managed to complete pole and wire installation over 13 weeks, taking advantage of our short summer window. The only work left to finish includes replanting areas that were excavated, landscaping, restoring wetlands and removing access roads and construction pads. That work will have to wait for this coming summer and fall, when new vegetation can be planted and the ground is dry enough for heavy equipment.


City Light is Seattle University’s Employer of the Year

Seattle University has honored Seattle City Light with their Employer of the Year Award for 2014.

Over the past year, the City Light’s talent and workforce development teams have increased engagement with Seattle University through career fairs, internship fairs, resume reviews, and mock interviews.

In addition, City Light employees have served on the Economics Advisory Board and the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board, participated in Business and Engineering School projects, and presented during job search intensive workshops for seniors.

City Light hires multiple Seattle University students and alumni in internship, temporary and full time positions.

City Light staff will accept the Employer of the Year Award at the Seattle University’s Internship Fair on Feb. 5.