Waiting for the lights to come on …

Waiting for the lights to come on …

Editor’s Note: With the ongoing issue of the length of time it takes to resolve west End power outages when they are a problem with Bonneville lines, Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach contacted Mary Jane Robins at Derek Kilmer’s office to see if he could look into a remedy for this issue that residents here face. The following is a response from a BPA representative. The Forks Chamber is also looking to have a Clallam County PUD Commissioner come to a meeting in the near future to further discuss this.

Commissioner Peach and Mary Jane,

I wanted to put a few notes in writing and then I’ll call Commissioner Peach back. He and I spoke some yesterday.

Bonneville Power does have a 24×7, 365 days a year automatic notification system on our high-voltage transmission grid. We are always tracking system operations and watching for outages. We have two sets of transmission operators, one in Vancouver, Wash. and one in Spokane, Wash. to ensure reliable operations and to provide back-up to one another in the event of an emergency.

Also, Bonneville does have an operations and maintenance crew that works at a substation in Port Angeles. We have a local presence. However, they are focused on transmission operation safety and maintaining the substation operations. They do not repair lines.

We have line maintenance crews that are highly trained and highly skilled to work on the high-voltage transmission lines performing repairs and maintenance located in district offices from the Rocky Mountains in Montana, through Idaho, Washington and Oregon. The Olympic Peninsula is primarily served by the line crew out of Olympia. In the event of a storm or big emergency in one region with significant outages, we send crews from other locations to assist. There is only one transmission line to serve the remote loads in Forks and that line travels through forests and some tough terrain along the northern Olympic Peninsula from Port Angeles.

Most local utilities in Washington operate and maintain low-voltage distribution systems. There is a big difference between low-voltage lines and high voltage lines. For example, you often see tree branches growing close to or through local distribution lines. You’d never see trees growing near a high-voltage transmission line because the trees would cause a fire.

BPA did have a line outage in the Happy Valley vicinity due to high winds Thanksgiving eve. Our Olympia crew worked through the night and had power back and running by 6 a.m. Thanksgiving day. As you can imagine, our crews still had to pack up gear, drive back to the Olympia district office, ensure equipment is in ready-to-go status before heading to their homes later that day. They are always ready to serve and do so.

BPA’s vegetation management crews maintain a clear right-of-way for our transmission lines and our easement agreements provide us the authority to remove specific, individual trees that we identify as “danger trees” outside of our right-of-way. However, sometimes big trees outside of our right-of-way that look healthy can still come down in a storm and cause an outage until we can remedy the situation.

Forks is in a remote location and we do our best to keep their service operating.

Please call or write if you have additional questions.


Liz Klumpp

Washington Liaison | Bonneville Power Administration | 360-943-0157 | c. 360-485-2392