The Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office has closed the Pend Oreille River to recreational activities due to safety concerns about extremely high river flows and flooding, as reported by KXLY. That order includes the reservoir at Seattle City Light’s Boundary Hydroelectric Project.
Closure means no boating, swimming or other activity is allowed on the river until further notice.
Anyone planning to visit Boundary or use its campground should check with the Sheriff’s Office for updates on access to the river.
For a look at the water flowing over the spillway at Boundary, watch this video from our Facebook page.
A story in this morning’s Seattle Times about snowpack conditions in the Cascades generated several questions about the amount of snow that will eventually support Seattle City Light’s hydroelectric dams once it melts.
The key to the answer is location, location, location.
Our friends at Seattle Public Utilities collect our area’s drinking water from the Cedar River watershed east of Seattle. Snowpack levels there are significantly below normal.
Seattle City Light’s large hydroelectric dams are located on the Pend Oreille River in Northeast Washington and the Skagit River northeast of Seattle. Those dams depend on snowpack in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and the North Cascades where conditions are close to normal for this time of year.
The water year starts in October, so it is still early in the measurements. A lot can change between now and May. Remember that conditions were very dry a year ago until March brought heavy snows. Our staff monitors those conditions so we can adjust our operations as needed based on how much power we expect to be able to generate.
Here’s a look at the snowpack levels measured across the region.
Pacific Northwest snowpack levels.
Boundary Dam’s electrical generating unit 53 is back up and running for the peak generation season on the Pend Oreille River. The generator was repaired in half the time it typically takes for this type of project and $1 million under budget.
Unit 53 returned to service in the Boundary Dam powerhouse in time for the Pend Oreille River’s highest flows of the year.
On April 27, 2013, the generator experienced a severe electrical short disabling the unit right before peak generation, causing an estimated $6 million to $7 million loss in surplus power sales between April and July of 2013. Industry experts determined the unit needed a full replacement of the electrical windings in the generator core; this type of work is known as rewinding. Unit 53 was last rewound in 1982 and was scheduled for maintenance in 2017.
To uphold a commitment to serve City Light customers with low-cost, reliable power, crews, engineers and project managers prepared an emergency contract and work plan approved by General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco to bring Unit 53 back to service in time for the 2014 snowpack runoff.
Repair costs were estimated at $18 million and were paid from City Light’s capital improvement projects budget, having no effect on ratepayers.
Such projects typically take two years to complete. The dedicated project team worked diligently and strategically to complete overhaul Unit 53 in less than 12 months and $1 million under budget.
“The project is an example of how a completely focused team, with exceptional project management, can come together and rebuild a machine in half the time we would typically take,” Carrasco said.
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.