By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Water & Light to seek BPA extension

At stake is the share of low-cost hydropower the utility is allocated from Bonneville.

It was originally based on 2010 consumption, but BPA extended it to 2012 for industries like Cascade on the grounds the 2010 figure was artificially depressed. Water & Light is hoping to secure an additional extension for the mill because it has still not regained its footing.

Otherwise, if and when Cascade does recover, Water & Light will have to buy additional power at higher open-market rates and pass them on. And neither party wants to see that happen.

The appeal process promises to be costly and time-consuming, General Manager Kem Carr warned commissioners. For one thing, it involves asking other utilities in the region to support Water & Light’s request.

“We have probably about a 50-50 shot, but it is such a big impact to Cascade that we feel it’s worth it,” Carr said. He said asking the mill to cover the legal costs seemed only fair.

Representatives from Cascade Steel agreed, although they told the commission they only had authorization to commit to paying the costs for the first phase. They said information gathered there will enable the company to decide whether it’s worth continuing the process.

Water & Light Commissioner Tom Tankersley worried that might leave Water & Light in the uncomfortable position of having to call in favors,  potentially for naught, or pick up the costs itself.

Carr, however, supported Cascade’s position. “If we get through phase one, I would be very surprised if there were a lot of contested issues,” he told commissioners.

Commissioners also passed a resolution authorizing burial of another section of downtown power lines and relocation of electric meters along the block of N.E. Galloway between Third and Fourth streets.

The KAOS Wine Village hotel construction project spurred the decision. It requires burial of 270 feet of overhead power lines and one transformer, to comply with the National Electric Safety Code, according to Engineering and Operations Manager John Dietz. Developers will cover the cost of that portion, but if the utility joins in, it can convert another 260 feet of primary conductor, 320 feet of secondary conductor and 500 feet of Comcast cable to underground, allowing it to remove one more power pole in the process.

The utility would like to bury all of its lines eventually, but the process is slow and expensive. The element cited in conjunction with the KAOS project would run an estimated $45,000 by itself, Dietz told the commission.

Noting the utility currently has $419,000 in its conversion fund, the commissioners granted their approval, with Tankersley abstaining due to a conflict of interest.

In other business, the commission:

n Authorized Carr to negotiate terms to purchase a piece of property, following an executive session.

n Learned that, according to one local contractor, it is about 10 percent cheaper to crush rock on site for road-building than to haul in crushed rock. The contractor’s estimated price will be compared to bids for rock hauling, when they arrive in May.

n Briefly reviewed a draft of a new contract for allowing other companies to connect to city power lines, for services such as telephone and cable.

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