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!


Seattle City Light Celebrates Public Power Week


Starting Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, Seattle City Light will be joining more than 2,000 public utilities as it celebrates Public Power Week, hosted by the American Public Power Association.

Throughout the week, you will meet some of City Light’s hard-working staff, learn more about the utility’s history and find out more about what public power means to you. 

Follow the Seattle City Light Facebook account to participate in City Light’s personalized version of Public Power Week. With seven days full of content, videos and photos — the utility put together a guide (below), so you can follow along and celebrate Public Power Week!


Day #1 – “Substation Sunday”
Michael Clark, Seattle City Light’s Denny Substation Program Manager, explains how the Denny Substation is known as “The World’s Coolest Substation.”



Day #2 – “Meaningful Monday”
Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO, Larry Weis, starts the day off with an introduction of how important it is to be publicly powered.



Day #3 – “Tech Tuesday”
Meet the Seattle City Light Energy Advisors and learn more about the importance of energy conservation and other green-minded tips.



Day #4 – “Working Wednesday”
Seattle City Light lineworkers and interns share their rewarding experience of helping customers and the community while working for the utility.



Day #5 – “Throwback Thursday”
This #TBT is dedicated to the powerful history of Seattle City Light and being one of the first publicly-owned utilities in the nation.



Day #6 – “Future Friday”
Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO, Larry Weis, explains how the utility will move forward into the ever-changing industry.




Day #7 – “Safety Saturday”
It’s almost storm season, so time to brush up on your safety skills. Learn more safety tips from some of Seattle City Light’s Safety Team.



Murray nominates Austin’s Larry Weis as City Light CEO

Today Mayor Ed Murray nominated Larry Weis, general manager of Austin Energy, to become the next general manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

“Larry stood out among our many applicants from across the country,” said Murray. “He is an accomplished and recognized leader in the nation’s utility industry. In Austin, he demonstrated strong financial management skills and deep concern for the welfare of his employees. Under Larry’s leadership, City Light will continue to support a vibrant economy as the nation’s greenest utility, while providing access to affordable service to all of Seattle families.”

“I was attracted to City Light’s tremendous record as a national leader in delivering affordable, reliable, renewable energy to its customers,” said Weis. “City Light has a long heritage of developing and operating hydroelectric projects and a robust energy distribution system. As a Northwest native, I look forward to returning to Seattle.”

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. For a recent progress report from Seattle City Light, see Power Lines.

Weis was born in Seattle, raised in Central Washington and received a B.S. in Electrical and Mechanical Technology at Western Washington University. After starting his career at Snohomish County PUD, he served as general manager at Pend Oreille PUD, Turlock Irrigation District in California and finally at Austin Energy, the nation’s third largest municipally owned utility.

Austin Energy serves 1.6 million Texas residents, employs 1,800 people and has a strong reputation for supporting energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and worker safety.

With Weis at the helm at Austin Energy, the utility made dramatic increases in renewable energy generation, acquiring the largest solar projects in Texas, as well as several wind energy projects. Wind, solar and other renewable sources now represent about one-quarter of the utility’s power generation, and by 2025, half the utility’s energy will come from renewable resources.

A search committee representing Seattle energy experts, environmental organizations, energy assistance non-profits and labor unions provided input during the selection process.

“Larry’s track record as a utility executive, both here in the Northwest and down in Austin, has been impressive,” said Ash Awad, Vice President of McKinstry. “He’s led with innovation, especially on smart grid technology and energy efficiency, and I look forward to him bringing that same level of innovation here to Seattle.”

“We appreciated the opportunity for organized labor to be involved in the selection process,” said Joe Simpson with IBEW Local 77. “We are very interested in working with Larry to support the health and safety of City Light’s high-voltage workers.”

“It’s not too often that Seattle looks to Texas for environmental leadership, but under Larry Weis, Austin Energy has been among the nation’s leaders in renewable energy development, energy efficiency and electrifying the transportation system,” said Michael Mann, board chair of Emerald Cities Seattle and former director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. “We are excited to have attracted a leader like Larry Weiss to Seattle City Light.”

Weis will start at City Light on Feb.1. His starting salary will be $340,000. The Seattle City Council must confirm the nomination.

Jim Baggs, a senior leader at the utility for nearly 5 years, has served as interim general manager at City Light since last spring.

“I want to extend my thanks to Jim for his dedicated service as interim general manager,” said Mayor Murray. “Whether it was his thoughtful, caring response to a recent workplace injury or his active leadership during the windstorm last August, I could always count on Jim.”

A Call for Talks on the 50th Anniversary of the Columbia River Treaty

On the 50th Anniversary of the Columbia River Treaty, a group of 88 electric utilities, including Seattle City Light, and industry associations representing 6.4 million Northwest electric customers, is renewing its call to the Obama Administration to begin Columbia River Treaty talks with Canada in 2014 and to use the Regional Recommendation as a basis for treaty talks.  

September 16th marks the 50th Anniversary of the Columbia River Treaty and is the first opportunity for either country to seek significant changes to the Treaty.

“Any future Treaty must ensure that Northwest electric ratepayers are treated fairly,” said Scott Corwin, executive director, Public Power Council. “Currently, according to the U.S. government, Canada receives vastly more value from Treaty operations.  Our region’s highest Treaty priority must be to address this inequity.”

The current treaty uses an outdated 50 year old formula for calculating the Treaty’s power benefits or payments to Canada. The formula relies on assumptions that do not reflect current Columbia River Treaty operations.  This payment, known as the “Canadian Entitlement” is estimated to cost Northwest electric ratepayers 70 to 90 percent more than it should.  

In 2013, after a three-year stakeholder input process in the Northwest, the U.S. Entity led by the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty.

The Regional Recommendation says the “Canadian Entitlement” should be reduced and calls for a decision in 2014 to proceed with treaty talks with Canada and to complete that process no later than 2015.  The Power Group believes the Regional Recommendation should serve as the basis for treaty talks between the United States and Canada.

Last April, the 26-member Northwest Congressional Delegation sent a letter to President Obama supporting the Regional Recommendation call to address current treaty inequities that impact more than 6.4 million electric ratepayers in the Northwest.

Termination of the treaty is one option if Canada refuses to share treaty benefits more equitably with the American people.  A termination notice to Canada would trigger a renegotiation of several outdated aspects of the treaty.  The Power Group encourages the United States and Canada to launch Columbia River Treaty talks and to agree to a more equitable sharing of benefits under the treaty. 

In addition, the Power Group maintains that a modernized Columbia River Treaty should maintain flood risk management that’s similar to current levels.  Any proposals to alter flood control protection practices should be carefully considered, authorized by the Congress, with an eye toward protecting life and property. Furthermore, Northwest electric ratepayers should not be expected to bear flood control protection costs. Funding for flood risk management should be consistent with national policies of funding through the federal budget.

The Columbia River Treaty Power Group provides a forum for electric utilities, industry associations, and other entities representing an estimated 6.4 million electric ratepayers of the Northwest that depend on the Columbia River for power, flood control, navigation and other benefits.