5 Things to Explore at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project

Summer is in full swing here in the Pacific Northwest with the fall season peeking over the horizon. Before we know it, school will be back in session, leaves will start to change colors and the days will begin to get shorter. Now is the time to plan that one last road trip before Labor Day. City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project is just a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle and offers fantastic views and stops along the way! Nestled in North Cascades National Park, Skagit offers majestic mountain views, emerald waters and a rich history of providing clean energy to the Puget Sound. Here are a few of our favorite must-dos!

1) Explore the wares at the Skagit County General Store

Since 1922, the Skagit General Store has provided provisions for City Light employees and, more recently, road warriors alike. Today, employees and visitors alike can purchase milk, soda, and snacks, plus camping and picnic supplies. The store is especially known for its delicious homemade fudge! While they do offer samples, you’ll probably leave with a pound…or two.
(While you’re in Newhalem, be sure to get a selfie with Old Engine 6, the decommissioned train engine on the side of Highway 20!)


2) Feel the refreshing spray of water on Lake Diablo

Hop aboard the Alice Ross IV (named after the wife of City Light’s first superintendent, J.D. Ross) and set out on a tour of Diablo Lake. Experience parts of the lake that are typically hidden from view when traveling by highway or hiking on trails. Your tour will come alive with stories about the early explorers and settlers in the area and the challenges of dams and powerhouses in a very remote location. Skagit Tours offers lunch and afternoon tours. Between the almost-ethereal emerald waters and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, it will be a trip you will not soon forget.
Click here to register for a lake tour!

3) Climb around Ladder Creek Falls

Next to the Gorge Powerhouse flows the Ladder Creek Falls. A flight of stairs brings you close to the falls surging through imposing rock formations.
J.D. Ross envisioned and treated the Skagit Project as a theme park, and remnants of that vision are still visible to this day, specifically: the illuminated falls. At night, the falls come alive with color that change by the minute. The best way to experience falls is following Skagit Tours’ renowned Dam Good Chicken Dinner*, a meal that has been enjoyed for decades. It’s a Skagit Project essential!
*A vegetarian option is also available.  

4) Sign up for a class at the North Cascades Institute

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center’s mission is to inspire and empower environmental stewardship for all through transformative educational experiences in nature. This beautiful facility was constructed with support from City Light and is operated by the North Cascades Institute. NCI offers classes that range in age range, duration and interest.
Click here to learn more!

5) Drive (or walk!) across Diablo Dam

Last, but certainly not least, the views from Diablo Dam are not to be missed on your excursion in Skagit. Just off of Highway 20, Diablo Dam provides a 360° view of mountains and Lake Diablo. Stick around and take a lake tour or venture out one of the many trails in the area.

These are just a few of our favorite things to explore in the area. Now it’s time for you to make your own must-do Skagit Project list! Learn more about the variety of tours offered through Skagit Tours. We’re confident you’ll find a tour that will pique your interest! But book soon! Most tours run through September and space is limited.

Click here to get started. See you soon in Skagit!


City Light Crews Move to Repair Damage From California’s Carr Complex Fire

City Light crews working to restore electrical infrastructure in the Mendocino Complex Fire area successfully completed the projects assigned to them by local utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on Wednesday, August 2018.

PG&E was impressed with the quality of work and re-assigned the crews to work on restoring infrastructure near Whiskeytown, Calif., an area which suffered massive damage in the Carr Complex fire.

South Field Operations Supervisor Ed Hill of Seattle City Light was proud of the work done by City Light crews and the resulting comments given by PG&E staff.

“They’re more than happy with our work and how we adapt to their standards,” said Hill. “Our team tackled a job up a mountain to a communication tower that no one else wanted to touch because of the terrain and line complexity. The communication tower is now back on utility power.”

PG&E reassigned the City Light crews to the Whiskeytown area on Wednesday to re-install and repair transmission lines along with mutual aid crews from San Diego Gas & Electric. The crews are working from a staging area near Redding, Calif., and will also tackle distribution line repairs nearby.

City Light’s crews have been working in difficult conditions. Temperatures in the area are expected to hit triple digits for the remainder of the week, and the transmission work in the Whiskeytown area will require cross-country hiking in national forest lands.

Nevertheless, “spirits are high,” according to Hill. “The crews are holding up well with dust masks and cooling towels.”

On a call today with the mutual aid crews, Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs told the team to keep up the great work and Transmission and Distribution Officer Bernie Ziemianek urged them to stay safe.

If all goes well, City Light’s current mutual aid assignment in California will wrap up on Sunday, August 12.

City Light Crews Working to Repair Damage of Mendocino Complex Fire

On August 3, 2018, Seattle City Light sent 19 employees and support equipment to California to assist in restoring the electrical infrastructure damaged by the Mendocino Complex fire. Four four-person line crews, three operators, a supervisor, a safety manager and a fleets manager departed from the South Service Center in SODO with large bucket trucks and digger derrick trucks that dig holes for setting utility poles. The crews are trained in construction methods for both transmission and distribution work.

Since August 5, these City Light crews have been working to restore power to homes and cellular phone towers impacted by the fire, which is now the largest in California history. They are working in mountainous terrain with narrow roads. Downed trees and other debris have made travel difficult at times. Working in smoky conditions, the crews have been using moistened cooling cloths as bandanas to filter out the smoke.

The crews start their day at 7:30 a.m. with a tailboard meeting that provides any updates on the fire. Next, they have a safety meeting. Then they receive their work assignments for the day, collect materials and supplies for the crew and depart from their staging area in Lakeport, California.

“We have enough personnel. We have enough equipment,” said South Field Operations Supervisor Ed Hill. “It is a godsend having a mechanic with us.” The mechanic has been able to make repairs to vehicles in the field, saving the crews time and getting them back to work faster.

Crews have been warmly received to the area. Along with signs thanking firefighters and first responders, they spotted one that said, “Thank you, linemen.”

PG&E, the local electric utility, has told the crews to plan to stay for at least four more days. They still want to make repairs in a neighborhood called Spring Valley, but that area is not yet safe to work in because of the fire.

Seattle City (spot)Light: Will Andersen

Will Andersen has worked at City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project since August 2016. He joined the utility as a Generation Supervisor of Skagit Operations and is now the Sr. Operations Manager. “I’m responsible for the Operations and Maintenance of the Skagit Project,” Will explained. “My duties cover Hydro Operations & Maintenance, work planning, budgeting and capital improvements projects as well as ensuring reliability, availability and compliance. I lead my management team to shape Skagit’s future.”

Originally from New York state, Will was born in Long Island and grew up in the mountains just south of Montreal, Canada. Will’s managed a portfolio of hydroelectric projects for 18 years, including 12 hydroelectric projects across New York, California and Washington. “I came to Washington in 2014 on assignment with ENEL Green Power and lived in North Bend,” Will shared. “I love the PNW vibe; it seemed like the best place to raise my daughter.”

In this week’s (spot)Light, Will talks about life in the Northwest and what he enjoys about the Skagit.

Will snaps a selfie in front of Ross Dam

“I split my time between Newhalem and the Fairhaven/Bellingham area. Bellingham offers so much, but still feels like a small town. It’s on the ocean and is full of good food and activities. The San Juan Islands is my favorite place to visit; sailing the islands is breathtaking.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more beautiful state than Washington. I love the nature. The trees, mountains, rivers, Lake Whatcom and the Puget Sound. Places like Artist Point on Mt. Baker stand out in my mind, especially when you can see views of Mt. Shuksan. Washington’s micro climates are unique and something you don’t find on the east coast. In a short drive you can experience ocean margins, rainforests, mountains and deserts.”

“I love to travel, hike and sail. I’m also a boat builder and build wooden boats in my spare time. And, of course, I love spending time with my daughter. She’s six-years old and just graduated kindergarten.”

“Midway in my career I decided that I wanted to manage a project like Skagit. I liked the idea that Seattle was largely powered by renewable hydroelectric energy. I liked the whole Pacific Northwest package. Seattle is a great small city and I wanted to be a part of it and the Skagit Project. When you’re in Seattle, you’re on the ocean and 30 miles from the mountains. What more could you want? The Skagit Project is a great place to be. What I love most is working with my team, crews and colleagues. It an honor to work with such fine people.”

Seattle City Light Crews Head to California for Wildfire Recovery Effort

Early this morning, Seattle City Light sent 19 employees and support equipment to California to assist in restoring the electrical infrastructure damaged by the Mendocino Complex fire.

Four four-person line crews, three operators, a supervisor, a safety manager and a fleets manager are being sent along with large bucket trucks and digger derrick trucks that dig holes for setting utility poles. The crews are trained in construction methods for both transmission and distribution work.

“In the wake of these devasting wildfires, City Light is committed to supporting our fellow utilities to repair the area’s infrastructure,” City Light Interim CEO and General Manager Jim Baggs said. “We are proud to send our crews to California and look forward to their safe return.”

The crews will be in the area for at least two weeks. We will post updates from our crews as we receive them.