Seattle City (spot)Light: Lori Fowler

Lori Fowler has served as the Senior Gardener at the utility’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project for the past seven months. “I’m tasked with developing and maintaining our landscapes in a sustainable manner,” Lori explained. “We also ensure that our work reflects our current values while giving a nod to the historical and paying honor to what was here before.”

Lori was born in Seattle, but grew up in California before moving to Oregon. She attended Pacific North West Resource Management School and did coursework at Oregon State University. She and her husband Bruce live in Newhalem and have four children and three grandchildren. In this week’s (spot)Light, Lori talks about her career and her love of horticulture.

Lori and her husband Bruce

“I began my career in parks and street maintenance for municipalities. I took a small detour into social work, but found myself back into park maintenance with Oregon State Parks and, eventually, the City of Kent. I’ve always been interested in the horticulture aspect, and knew the more I studied, it was where I wanted to be. So, I became a Master Gardener, received my CPH – Certified Professional Horticulturist and became ecoPRO certified for landscaping design and maintenance. I also completed coursework in Permaculture and Landscape Architectural design. Being at Skagit is the job of a lifetime which I see as a culmination of both work experience and my passion and hobby.”

“We have a lot to focus on in this area. Things have fallen into disrepair around the edges, which is common when you’re backed up against national park land and the wild. The easier tasks such as planter boxes and maintenance on Main street; areas that are most visible to our visitors, long term focus will be transitioning the area beyond. We recently planted 34 trees in the east arboretum replacing trees that were invasive. We selected interesting cultivars like Korean Fir, Eddie’s White Wonder and Magnolia sieboldii—all of which will showcase variety of texture and color as the trees mature. We’re also working on a rejuvenation project for Ladder Creek Falls where we’ll plant hundreds of native plants and improve the entrance to the area.”

“I’ve always been an outdoor person. My family spends a lot of time hiking and kayaking, but it was my husband who piqued my interest in horticulture. When we bought our first home, he wanted to landscape and, well, it was addicting. I prefer Japanese style gardens when developing personal landscapes. I like the aesthetics. The Japanese maples are my favorite. They’re exquisite. Your garden is a room and should evoke feelings and styles.”

“I live in a national park and would love to visit more national parks. I’d like to return to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I also like to quilt. I think it has something to do with matching colors, aesthetics and textures which complements gardening.”

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 https://www.seattle.gov/light/damtours/skagit.asp for more information!

City Light Completes Repairs on Newhalem Penstock

A Seattle City Light contractor recently completed a year long project at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project to replace 52 deteriorating, wooden saddles that support the Newhalem Penstock. The old wooden saddles were replaced with new, cast-in-place concrete saddles that will provide structural support so that the penstock will not collapse.

Original wooden saddles (left image) that support the Newhalem Penstock were replaced with new, concrete saddles (right image).

The Newhalem Penstock is located on the south bank of the Skagit River, in the town of Newhalem, WA. The project is within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which is part of the North Cascades National Park Complex.

The penstock is a pipe that provides water from the creek to the hydro turbines that are located inside the historical Newhalem Powerhouse. The water turns the turbines, which produces electricity for City Light.

Seattle City Light thanks all campground visitors for their patience during the successful completion of this project.

Learn about this project and others by visiting Seattle City Light’s “At Work in Your Neighborhood” website.

Last Chance for a Skagit Powerhouse Insiders Tour

Summer is winding down, but you can still close it out with a scenic and historic getaway. The Powerhouse Insiders tour, found at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project in the North Cascades, never fails to delight visitors. This weekend is your last chance to explore it this season!

The tour begins with a beautiful stroll through the historic town of Newhalem. Visitors learn about the town’s unique history through insightful and entertaining tour guides. Be prepared to feel like you have traveled back to the 1920s as you explore the original construction camp for the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. During your walk, you will look on at the breathtaking Skagit River and learn how City Light promotes a healthy ecosystem for salmon.

Next, you’ll see the wonders of hydropower at work inside the Gorge Powerhouse, which is normally closed to the public. (We don’t call it an insider’s tour for nothing.) You’ll walk the generator floor and learn how City Light makes and manages power. There will be expert tour guides accompanying you, so feel free to ask questions. It’s a powerful experience.

After a full afternoon of adventure and fun, you’re sure to work up an appetite.  Don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Our cooks have been making tasty picnic lunches for almost 90 years! Enjoy a picnic lunch of chicken (or a vegetarian option) and a side of potato salad to conclude your tour.

We would love to have you along on our Powerhouse Insiders tour before it closes for the season. Don’t miss your chance! Sign up today: http://www.seattle.gov/light/damtours/skagittours.asp

Seattle City (spot)Light: Al Ferrara

Al Ferrara has served City Light the past three years as the Maintenance Manager at the utility’s Skagit Project. Hailing from Rochester in upstate New York, Al’s been an electrician most of his career. Ask him what he misses most about his hometown and he’ll quickly mention the food and the diversity. “New York is huge melting pot,” he said.

Al is also a proud father of four daughters. Since moving to Washington, he and his wife have become empty-nesters and spend their extra time wine tasting, exploring the PNW and cooking. “I love cooking pizzas,” he said. “My grill goes up to 1,000 degrees so I can cook a pie in minutes.” In this week’s (spot)Light, we chat with Al about life in Skagit and his role at the utility.

Al volunteers with the Whatcom Sheriff’s department (and, yes, he had to pass the Police Academy!)

“Part of my job is to work closely with the many country stakeholders like law enforcement, community leaders and the National Park Services. Because we’re so close to the Canadian border, we also deal with a ton of agencies, from homeland security and state patrol to Whatcom County and the Border Patrol. At Skagit, I oversee the warehouse, trades, grounds, General Store and Skagit Tours. A recent project we worked on is the bridge at Ladder Creek Falls. Our trade professionals hand-cut that bridge from cedar. The crews, the laborers, the carpenters, the right of ways…everyone worked hand in hand on that. It was a great project for us.”

“One of the perks to living here is dining at The Gorge Inn. I don’t eat there all the time, but when I do, it’s always a treat. They recently served an elk dish that was phenomenal. The Dam Good Chicken dinner is out of this world. The homemade desserts are incredible. I’ve never been too much of a pie person until I came here and tasted Washington state berries. Having our master chefs bake them in a pie has just been delightful.”

“The greatest ‘A-ha!’ for me in coming to work at City Light is the utility’s environmental impact. It’s something for which I’m very thankful—that the organization dedicates an entire division to the environment. At times, we’ll deal with things like invasive species. When that happens, our team will come in, mitigate and fix it. It’s just amazing and I get excited knowing I’m part of that team. We should be smiling about the work that we do.”

“There are great people at City Light. I try to help and mentor our employees. The piece of advice I always give is to enroll in a degree program so that when they’re done with their apprenticeship, they have that piece of paper as well. I went back to school at age 48. It was a big feat, but thank goodness I had my daughters to teach me study habits!”