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 Project Earns Seattle U Engineering Team National Award

In 2016-2017, a project team of four of Seattle University students took on an engineering challenge from Seattle City Light to determine the capacity of the Ross Dam Intake Access Bridge at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, an essential structure to conduct maintenance operations at Ross Dam. Last month, Seattle U was selected as one of this year’s National Council of Examiners for Engineering Surveying (NCEES) Engineering Education Award recipients for their work.

The project team: Front Row L-R: Chris Belson, Yashar Zafari, Delton Oki (students)
Second Row L-R: James Esteban (student), Josh Pugh Ph.D., PE (faculty advisor)
Third Row: Dan O’Sullivan (City Light)

 

The Seattle U Engineering Design Team was tasked by City Light to determine the current capacity of the bridge as well as to design an economical solution to strengthen the bridge to safely carry the types of vehicles typically needed by City Light to conduct maintenance, such as a large crane. The team of civil engineering seniors and their faculty advisor Dr. Joshua Pugh met and collaborated with City Light’s Dan O’ Sullivan and Dave Rowan throughout the academic year to determine possible engineered solutions to address the issues with the bridge. The students then presented the solutions to City Light for consideration.

“The year-long project with City Light is an excellent opportunity for Civil Engineering seniors to work on a real-life project under the mentorship of City Light engineers,” explains Dr. Nirmala Gnanapragasam, associate professor at Seattle University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The City Light engineers help the students learn how to apply the technical knowledge gained through coursework to analyze the problem and develop a solution while developing important professional skills before entering the engineering workforce. The engineers from City Light, specifically Robert Cochran, Owen Kohashi and Dan O’Sullivan, who sadly passed away, have been dedicated mentors to our students and have developed strong relationships with our civil engineering faculty.”

Another project team from SU was also recognized by NCEES for the design of a culvert replacement in Snohomish County making it fish passable. Click here to learn more about Seattle University’s NCEES awards.

 

 

 

Innovative Pilot Project Seeks to Grow a Forest More Resilient to Climate Change

An innovative pilot project will replant portions of logged land now owned by Seattle City Light to grow a new forest that could be more resilient to climate change.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its partners – City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Northwest Natural Resource Group — received a $140,000 grant to reforest portions of the Stossel Creek area in the Tolt watershed northeast of Carnation. The grant money is being provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund, a program supported and established by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“Stossel Creek presents a unique opportunity to test innovative, new habitat restoration methods designed to increase resiliency to climate change for Western Washington forests,” said Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Greenway Trust.

A volunteer from Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust clearing invasive brush.

Trees on the 154-acre site were harvested by a private land company in 2012. Since then, the site has experienced new plant growth, but with few trees. Invasive species have taken hold in some areas. City Light purchased the land in 2015 as part of its Endangered Species Act Early Action Plan to conserve and enhance habitat for steelhead.

Crews and volunteers will reforest the site with native conifer species, such as Douglas Fir and Western redcedar. Instead of using only subvarieties that are native to Washington, this project also will include trees sourced from southwestern Oregon that are better adapted to warmer temperatures and drier summers.

“The climate of the Stossel Creek area is projected to be similar to southwest Oregon’s by the end of the 21st century,” explains Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist who helped secure the grant while she worked for City Light. “Therefore, the trees adapted to southwestern Oregon are expected to be better suited to the Stossel Creek site as the climate warms. By increasing the tree genetic and species diversity, the site’s resiliency to climate change will increase over time.”

Work to control invasive plant species and site preparation at Stossel Creek will begin this spring and planting new trees will begin in the fall. After planting, the team will have several opportunities to monitor success and share lessons learned from the project.

This pilot project will inform future climate-adapted restoration practices for lands owned by City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and other owners in the region. The long-term goal of the reforestation effort is to establish a diverse forest that will be adapted to the climate of the mid to late 21st century.

Recently, KING 5 visited the site to cover the project. Click here to watch the story featuring City Light’s Denise Krownbell.

Skagit Tour Season Kicks Off With Familiarization Event

The beauty of our national parks can be a highlight to any summer. Our Skagit Tour season kicked off in late June with a familiarization event, framed by the stunning North Cascades National Park. That’s a long title for hosting a diverse group of media, agency representatives, and social media influencers who in turn post or publish to promote the tours. The 15 participants were treated to a hybrid version of our Skagit Tours and, as you can see from the photo, captured some great weather and material for their posts.

Get a first-hand familiarization yourself! Our boat-based tours provide a wonderful way to experience the majestic mountains of the North Cascades and glistening Diablo Lake with views that are not accessible by foot or car. Our land-based tours feature the beautiful simplicity of hydropower, the amazing history of our company town, and a lighted waterfalls walk with a famous chicken dinner. Register today at: skagittours.com or (360) 854-2589.

Photo credit: Nathan MacDonald, Seattle City Light

 

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!