Tag Archive | "Puget Sound Energy"

Candidates Respond to Quality Bainbridge’s City Council Questionnaire

Quality Bainbridge, a Bainbridge-based political action group that started in 2013, has provided candidates for this fall’s elections with questionnaires to help define their positions. Not all the candidates responded, but the answers of the ones who did are provided below.

Candidates Ron Peltier and Pegeen Mulhern are running for the At-Large seat. Kol Medina is running unopposed for the North Ward seat. Incumbent Michael Scott is running unopposed for the Central Ward seat. Incumbent Sarah Blossom is running unopposed for the South Ward. She declined to respond to the questionnaire in a timely manner.

Quality Bainbridge asked each of the Council candidates the same eight questions:

City Council

1. What are your top five priorities that you would work to have the city accomplish during your term in office?  For each identified priority that requires the expenditure of money, please state how you would fund it.

Kol MedinaKol Medina:

Top six priorities:

1. Complete the comprehensive plan amendment process in such a manner that the comprehensive plan is strengthened in relation to protecting the City’s core environmental and other quality of life values;

2. Complete a thorough review of the City’s land use and related codes to ensure that those codes properly and fully implement the comprehensive plan;

3. Improve and, as the budget allows, enlarge the City’s human services and arts funding programs;

4. Complete the construction of a new public safety facility (assuming funding is approved by voters);

5. Find a way to significantly alleviate hwy 305 congestion without widening the highway; and

6. Continue building a culture of (a) respectful relationships between Councilmembers and between Councilmembers and City staff and (b) thoughtful, forward-looking Council decision making.

Pegeen Mulhern: 

1. Oversee and provide policy direction for the full incorporation of the updated Comprehensive Plan into the Planning Code in order to protect the Island’s livability for future generations. The Planning Code must be revised to completely implement the goals in the Comprehensive Plan: focusing growth in specific areas, conserving ecosystems and open space, protecting aquifers, encouraging resource conservation, incorporating a “green building” code, reducing traffic impacts, increasing housing diversity, and maintaining economic vitality. We need specific regulations to promote housing diversity, complete planning for neighborhood service centers and business/industrial areas, and to ensure resource protection, including a dedicated, Island-specific watershed plan. Funding should be available as an extension of the current funding for Navigate Bainbridge.

2. Provide increased parking for the downtown core. If construction of a garage emerges as a preferred approach, we should explore doing this as a public/private partnership, using City property and developing part of the structure for income-producing mixed use. Meanwhile, waterfront parking must also be addressed as part of any plans to further develop the park to add a rowing facility.

3. Reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic flow on Highway 305. This must be resolved as a cooperative effort among the City and other stakeholders, including regional agencies, the state highways, and state ferries. Funding will be from a mix of existing tax revenues, new grants, and state funding.

4. Provide safer streets to schools and improvement of the “Core 40” (identified sections of roads dangerous for pedestrians and bikes). This can be achieved with acceleration of the non-motorized projects already underway, using street funds from gas tax revenues together with traffic impact fees if the current draft impact fee ordinance is adopted.5. Implement economic development initiatives for recruiting and maintaining businesses in order to ensure a vital downtown core and sustain sufficient revenues for City for increased funding of human services, the arts, and farmland.

Ron Peltier: 

1. Planning for a Sustainable Future: There’s strong support on Bainbridge Island for stewardship, long-term sustainability, and environmental protections. These go hand in hand with a sustainable economy. Economies consist of: financial, social, and natural capital. Natural capital is the foundation: it is also the least adaptable to our needs and demands. Recognizing this, I would work to retain and strengthen our comprehensive plan’s stewardship goals and principles, then work to implement them into regulations and into the culture at city hall. This will include a long-range ground water management plan for the sustainable use of our aquifers. Bainbridge Island is the only city in Washington State surrounded by salt water and exclusively dependent upon aquifers for its fresh water supply.

2. Community Transportation Planning: As a community we need to develop plans for effectively addressing congestion on the SR305 corridor while at the same time respecting the character and needs of Bainbridge Island. We can then work with our Kitsap neighbors to find common strategies for our transportation needs. On Bainbridge Island we also need to look at how much development we can absorb and still maintain reasonable levels of service on our roads for cars, bikes and pedestrians. State law allows us to adjust our zoning to fit our financial resources and desired levels of service

3. Better Tree Protections: Our community’s commitment to stewardship includes a desire for better tree protections. Trees, and natural vegetation, provide scientifically documented health benefits to people. They also help to mitigate storm water. Penalties for illegal cutting need to be higher and need to be enforced. All development on the Island should be required to retain a reasonable number of trees and vegetation. Much more consideration must be given to impacts upon storm water that result from tree, vegetation, and soil removal. All of our tree protection regulations should be consolidated into one section of the code

4. More Focus on Water Quality: Puget Sound continues to be degraded by polluted storm water, inadequately treated sewage, and septic systems. Current regulations, state and local, are not adequate to address these impacts on the water quality of Puget Sound. I will advocate for a long-range planning to address adverse impacts to water quality Island wide. Funded, in part, by the storm water fund.

5. Foster diversity and affordable housing opportunities: Looking forward, helping to create and maintain affordable housing on Bainbridge Island will be a difficult task. I agree that diversity benefits the character of our community, but I don’t agree with trying to build our way to affordability on Bainbridge Island. We’ll need to be more creative than that. Home sharing, small accessory dwelling units, adequate human resources funding, small dwellings for farmer, are some of the other tools in our affordability kit.

Mike Scott:

1. We need to build a new Public Safety Building. I strongly support the current proposal, which will be the subject of a bond initiative in this November’s election. If approved by the voters, the proposition would authorize the City to issue up to $15,000,000 in bonds to finance the design, construction, land acquisition, and related costs of developing and equipping a new public safety facility adjacent to City Hall. The new facility will bring together the Police Department, Municipal Court, an emergency operations center, and related functions, in one central and accessible location, improving operational efficiencies and public services.

2. We need to complete the update of our Comprehensive Plan, as required by the State Growth Management Act. This process is well underway, though much work remains to be done. I see this as the most important work of the Council in 2016. Following approval of the updated Plan, we need to review our zoning code to ensure that it is consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, and amend it where it is not.

3. We need to successfully implement a new human services funding process. The City Council has commenced work on this effort, working with a citizen’s advisory committee and local non-profits. We need an effective human services funding process to (i) regularly assess community needs, (ii) evaluate local agency capabilities for delivering services to address those needs, and (iii) gauge the effectiveness of services provided through City funding.

4. We should continue to work to improve the quality of our governance, and at the same time improve public confidence and trust in our city government. The current City Council has made great strides in fostering civility in council discussions, and that has significantly improved the quality of our decisions. I am hopeful that improved civility among City Councilmembers will also foster greater civility in the public arena.

5. We need to address the lack of parking in downtown Winslow. I support the City’s involvement in the construction of parking, working either on its own or in partnership with a private developer. Funding could come from the issuance of councilmanic bonds, modest municipal parking fees, and private support.

2.  How would you improve the functioning of our city government?

Kol Medina:

I might be misinterpreting this question, but I don’t believe that a Councilmember should be focused on the day-to-day functioning of the government. That’s the City Manager’s job. In light of that, my answer to this question is that I will work closely with the City Manager to determine ways in which the functioning of the City government can be improved. I will then take those actions available to Councilmembers to assist the City Manager with the implementation of needed changes.

If it becomes apparent that there are serious problems with the functioning of the City government and the City Manager is not able or willing to work with the Council to resolve those problems, then the action available to me as a Councilmember is voting to replace the City Manager.

Pegeen-on-FacebookPegeen Mulhern:

While Bainbridge Island has recently made great progress in the healthy implementation of the city manager form of government, we have work to do in maintaining a strong City Council that is collaborative, cooperative and proactive, increasing engagement of citizens in government, and addressing the complaint that the City government is not transparent,.

The City can instill better practices and organizational habits regarding our communication with the community at large and with specific groups. This is particularly important with regard to the numerous citizen advisory committees and the handling of citizen input. Many people have told me of instances in which there was substantial citizen involvement in creating a plan that went to the City, only to have this input dropped, ignored, or lost. (Examples have included the Island Center Special Planning Area and the Harbor commission’s original plans to improve the waterfront park dock.) In each case, informing the citizens who worked on these plans and the larger community of the reasons the plans were rejected or changed would go a long way toward building trust in government and encouraging citizens to be engaged. These goals can be further advanced by clearly and publicly articulating the mission of each citizen advisory committee, staying in touch to help each committee focus on its mission, and then communicating steps the City will take to implement (or not) the committee’s work. The role of our Community Engagement specialist should be expanded to help address this.

Although there is now a wealth of information on the City’s website, it remains challenging to navigate, with many documents (e.g. clearing permits) difficult to locate online. As we all increasingly rely on this archive, and with the better technology readily available, this resource must be improved.

Enforcement of environmental regulations and the land use code is a perennial challenge for all local governments, requiring careful prioritization, diplomacy, even-handedness, and determination. I would like to see us be a leader in establishing best practices in this area, including managing and training staff to sustain a consistently healthy enforcement philosophy.

The Council should underscore its expectation that the City administration systematically conduct “360” performance appraisals for all staff, where feedback includes observations of peers and subordinates. The Council can provide leadership and model this practice through its regular evaluations of the City Manager and by including organization-wide performance management as a consistent parameter.

Ron Peltier:

By bringing to our city council a commitment to independent and critical thinking as part of a good decision making process. In addition, we need to identify a community vision that is understood and supported by our city council and community alike. I’m a goal-oriented person. When people believe in common goals they tend to get things done.

Mike Scott:

Moving back to a biweekly City Council meeting schedule would be beneficial. It would allow more time for staff to develop higher quality materials for consideration by the Council, as well as to accomplish the other important work of City government. Such a schedule would also allow more time for Coucilmembers to study those materials, and for communications with members of the public and staff between meetings. The Council would of course retain the ability to schedule additional meetings as necessary.

3. Which of the core services that the city currently provides should be continued, improved, expanded or eliminated?

Kol Medina:

The primary purpose, legal and practical, of a municipality is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the municipality’s residents. As a Councilmember, all of my decisions will be guided by this understanding.

With this in mind, I think that the City should continue and, if needed, improve or expand, the following core services: police and law enforcement; land use planning, permitting, and enforcement (which includes environmental protection); road and public parking construction and maintenance; and water quality monitoring.

Although I did not include the sewer or water utility on my previous list, I do think it is incumbent on the City to ensure that citizens in high-density areas have access to a proper sewer utility and water utility. The City can achieve this by (a) providing the water utility and sewer utility itself (as it does now for portions of the Island) or (b) ensuring, or working to ensure, that private water or sewer companies exist and are competently providing their services.

And thus the question arises: Should the City maintain, expand, or eliminate (by selling or subcontracting) its current sewer and water utility services? Without obtaining a great deal more education about these current utilities, I am not prepared to answer that question. But I am open to the idea of the City (a) exiting the sewer or water “business” or (b) expanding its sewer and water utilities if doing either would more effectively and/or efficiently provide for the health, safety, and welfare of Island residents.

Pegeen Mulhern:

Public Works – Improve

  • Infrastructure. It is imperative that the City maintain reliable infrastructure as the Island’s economy relies so heavily on connections and mobility.
  • Transportation/roads/non-motorized transportation. Continued improvement as budget allows.
  • Utilities-water/sewer/stormwater. These utilities have substantial day-to-day and capital expenditures. Running these utilities in an environmentally-friendly way is both extremely important and expensive. The dialogue between the City and the community toward refining the balance of environmental and fiscal responsibility will need to be continued and improved as the years go by.
  • Harbors/Road Ends. These features help make Bainbridge such a desirable place to live. The City’s role in preserving and enhancing them deserves increased attention.
  • Facilities. Routine maintenance.
  • Telecommunications. The Island needs to have more reliable cellular service and, as discussed further below, enhanced internet service

Public Safety – Continue.

Planning/Development & Code Enforcement – Improve. The community needs more effective notice regarding permits in process, the permitting process needs to be fair and consistent for all applicants, and administrative enforcement needs to be enhanced.

Public Information/technology Improve. As noted above, the role of our Community Engagement specialist needs to be broadened.

Tami Meader Photography ©2015; All Rights ReservedRon Peltier:

Planning Department/Permitting: We need staff who are properly qualified to conduct environmental reviews. We also need to verify that we have staff who fully understand the SMP and are qualified to process shorelines permits.

Police: If Prop. 1 fails, work with citizens to identify a location for our new police station that best serves the community in a cost effective manner. I support continued training to help our officers better respond to calls involving domestic violence and mental illness. The creation of a “Public Safety Committee” moves in the direction of independent oversight and accountability.

Storm Water Management: Polluted storm water has a major impact upon the marine environment surrounding Bainbridge Island. Green storm water infrastructure is part of the solution. Bio-retention swales, landscape/tree buffers, rain gardens, cisterns, green roofs and permeable pavement all help to regulate and clean storm water before it reaches water ways. Low Impact Development should be required for all new development on the Island. Let’s look beyond current regulations to a serious long-term plan for protecting and restoring water quality on and around Bainbridge Island.

Transportation Infrastructure: Provide for adequate maintenance of Island roads while continuing to build non motorized facilities: sidewalks, bike lanes, separated paths. Do this in a way that doesn’t needlessly remove trees and native vegetation. Provide for transportation impact fees on new development to help pay for maintenance and improvements. Non motorized facilities benefit all users. Physically activity communities are healthy communities, with less congestion and less air pollution.

Parks: Consider turning aver all city owned parks to the Parks District which may be better suited to maintain them.

Human Services: Continue adequate funding by the city.

Sewage Treatment: Consider upgrading treatment plants to tertiary treatment to reduce pollution to Puget Sound.

Mike Scott:

I would like the City to consider the expansion of its water and sewer utilities to serve more areas on the Island. Doing so would help promote prudent water use and better protect our environment.

4. Islanders have identified water quality as a top community priority and yet a recent city study shows our streams are significantly polluted.  What ideas do you have for improving the health of island waters?

Kol Medina:

I need to provide two answers to this question. If the question is, “what ideas do I have for improving the quality of our drinking water?,” my answer is that, generally put, I don’t believe the quality of our drinking water is currently a significant issue. Unless I’m mistaken, all of the Island’s drinking water comes from groundwater. Based on what I learned at the City’s recent groundwater summit, I don’t feel that the Island has a groundwater pollution problem. The possible exception to this general statement is the threat of salinization that is potentially facing wells in certain areas on the Island. That issue, however, is very complicated and not something I am qualified to provide remedies for.

If the question is, “what ideas do I have for improving the quality of our surface water?,” the answers lie in looking at the types of pollution that were found in the recent study. If the pollution is from septic systems (such as bacteria, viruses, and nitrates), then the City needs to help the Kitsap Public Health District more effectively implement and enforce septic system requirements. Of course, putting the entire Island on a sewer system would largely cure this problem, but that is an untenable solution.

If the pollution is chemicals and minerals, it is most likely entering the surface waters as run-off from roads, parking lots, and other impermeable areas. There is no silver bullet that will end this non-point pollution, but there are many steps we can take to decrease it, including working to decrease vehicle traffic; enforcing and possibly strengthening storm water retention and infiltration requirements; and requiring greater use of permeable parking areas. Additionally, chemicals could be entering the surface waters from the use of pesticides and fertilizers. If that is the case, the City will need to take action to lessen the amount of pesticides and fertilizers being used by Island farms, especially the farmland controlled by the City. To the extent the source is home use of pesticides and fertilizers, the City could launch a public awareness initiative.

Of course, if the soil attenuation on the Island is low, polluted surface water will eventually lead to polluted groundwater. So to the extent that our surface waters do have the potential to pollute our groundwater, all of the potential solutions to cleaning up surface water will also be potential solutions to protecting our groundwater.

But having said all of that, my job as a Councilmember is not to be the City’s hydrogeologist and water quality specialist. My job is to raise substantial concerns to the Council level, to obtain the agreement of other Councilmembers that those concerns need to be addressed, to direct the City Manager to study and present solutions to the problems, and to then take those actions available to me as a Councilmember to implement the appropriate solutions.

Pegeen Mulhern:

As an initial step, the City should undertake, perhaps in partnership with our excellent schools, a community education program to provide people of all ages with basic information about the Island’s aquifers and ways to make more sound use of our surface and groundwater. Second, as part of the revisions to the Planning Code, the City must require that in areas of increased density, such as neighborhood service centers or business/industrial areas, the construction of sewer or community septic systems using best available technology.

Ron Peltier:

As a decision maker I would first want to see reliable information and data regarding pollution levels in our streams that also identifies the sources. If septic systems are polluting our waterways we need to discuss better treatment options. One source tells me that the major contributors to the pollution of Puget Sound are contaminated storm water and under treated sewage treatment effluent. Let’s consider upgrading our sewage treatment plants to to tertiary treatment? Contaminated storm water runoff from roads and parking lots can be addressed to some extent with Low Impact Development techniques, and green infrastructure, such as bio retention. Better tree, vegetation, and soil retention requirements will also help. We need to develop a long-range plan for improving water quality on and around Bainbridge Island.

Michael ScottMike Scott:

The State of the Island’s Waters (2012) identified significant pollution problems, but also reported some encouraging success stories. I will work to ensure the City’s water quality monitoring program is fully funded and well staffed, and will also support vigorous enforcement and clean-up programs. Such programs should fully implement the solutions identified in the 2012 report. I believe such efforts should be among the highest priorities of our City government.

5. How do you think growth (economic and population) on the island can best be managed?

Kol Medina:

I think the City has done a good job of managing the growth required by the Growth Management Act. However, as we move forward I would like to see the City place an even greater percentage of the future population growth in Winslow and high-density neighborhood centers (higher than the targeted 50%). In other words, I think the best way to manage future population growth, and all of the potential environmental and infrastructure impacts of that growth, is to focus that growth in current high-density areas.

I’m not sure what the question means when it asks about managing economic growth. My overriding impression about economic growth on the Island is that there is not enough of it. So the problem doesn’t seem to be that we need to manage economic growth, it seems to be that we need to encourage and support economic growth. Some major issues related to that are alleviating the congestion on hwy 305; alleviating the lack of sufficient parking in the downtown area; assisting KPUD with the expansion of broadband internet access on the Island; ensuring that our zoning designations include sufficient land zoned for business use; and supporting tourism on the Island.

Pegeen Mulhern:

The Island needs to manage growth by balancing the protection of our resources and the special character of the Island with development that meets high environmental standards and traffic concerns. In order to do this it is essential that the City incorporate the clear goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan into the City’s Planning Code.

Economic development should center on local businesses that are well-suited to survive and grow in our community and the arts, which are a vital part of our economy. The City must actively recruit and work to retain businesses that will meet the needs of the local population and should stimulate and support businesses that will create a vibrant arts/cultural and economic climate. Local businesses can be supported through community partnerships, strategic incentives, and a cultivation of a business-friendly government.

Ron Peltier:

By making a commitment to the wise and sustainable use of our finite environmental resources. This means respecting limits to growth. Here are some of our tools for determining the carrying capacity of Bainbridge Island:

  • A groundwater management plan that includes contingencies for unexpected conditions: drought, sea level rise, and other.
  • Capital Improvements planning that balances levels of service for roads with funding and zoning (can our roads support development allowed by zoning while maintaining desired levels of service? We have the option of reducing zoning densities.)
  • Better tree protections: Trees provide scientifically proven health benefits to people. We need to do a better job of retaining them when development occurs. This may require limiting development density.
  • Better storm water management: this will require better tree and native soils retention and less intense development.

Mike Scott:

Growth can be managed best through thoughtful, timely, and consistent implementation of our Comprehensive Plan. Following the Comprehensive Plan should lead to growth consistent with our community values, including protecting our fragile water resources, fostering diversity, and considering costs and benefits to property owners when making land use decisions, and promoting sustainable development.

6. Do you feel that cellular internet coverage is a problem for the city government to address?  If yes, what would you do to forward that goal?

Kol Medina:

I do not feel that City government needs to address cellular internet coverage. It does not fall into the City’s core purpose of protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare. If a private group were to take the lead on this initiative, I think the City should be open to supporting that effort, but the City should not expend a substantial amount of its own funds on this.

Pegeen Mulhern:

The City must address cellular coverage as a matter of public safety and is in the process of adopting an ordinance to bring the Island in compliance with current federal requirements. I support this ordinance, which would permit building of additional relay structures, revise the current limitations on placement and height of existing facilities, and consider permitting additional facilities using a variance process.

Ron Peltier:

Our city council has approved ordinance 2015-23 to expedite installation of wireless communications facilities. The new regulations are mandated by Federal statute and take into consideration the more compact and less intrusive profile of cellular installation equipment. Now it’s up to providers to take advantage of the new regulations and upgrade their coverage facilities on the Island. As a council member I would only support additional measures to improve cellular coverage if they do not pose adverse environmental impacts.

Mike Scott:

Cellular internet coverage is a problem and priority on Bainbridge Island. We’ve recently taken a long overdue and important step forward by revising our Wireless Cellular Facilities code. We now need to work with carriers to build out the wireless cellular network. The incentives to do so are probably already there for the service providers, but if progress turns out to be slower than anticipated we should take other steps to encourage the development of the network, including possible tax incentives.

7. There are emerging efforts on the island to create a local public utility to purchase the assets of Puget Sound Energy and provide the power locally. What are your views on this effort?

Kol Medina:

I place a high value on the Island’s electricity becoming carbon-free. This is an extremely important issue to me. I see two ways to do this: (1) implementation of the current “Island Power” plan or (2) working with Puget Sound Energy to ensure that all electricity provided by PSE to the Island is carbon-free electricity.

Because of the serious financial and other risks involved in the City or a local public utility running our Island’s power, I would prefer for the Island to use its leverage to force changes in PSE. I think leveraging changes at PSE has the potential to not only provide carbon-free energy to the Island, but to push PSE to provide much more carbon-free energy throughout its entire system. In other words, the (a) significant downside risks of the Island “going solo” on its power coupled with the (b) upside potential benefits to the Island and beyond of leveraging change at PSE makes me (c) think we should focus on leveraging change at PSE.

If PSE refuses to find a way to provide carbon-free power to the Island, then I would support the Island Power initiative (or some version of that initiative). The bottom line is that I want to move the City to carbon-free power.

Pegeen Mulhern:

Island Power has identified very laudable goals, including purchasing power from renewable, carbon-free sources, providing additional jobs on the island by hiring locally, and establishing democratic control of this utility.  However, at this point there are many unknowns and questions to be addressed in order to determine whether this is appropriate and feasible for the City to undertake. Key issues: a) Puget Sound Energy is currently the City’s largest taxpayer; what would be the options to replace this revenue? b) What would it cost to purchase the existing distribution infrastructure from PSE? and c) What would be the availability and cost of purchasing power directly from Bonneville or other renewable power sources?

Ron Peltier:

I support “Island Power’s” stated goals for a local power utility that promotes renewable energy and gets us off coal fired electricity generation.   I favor allowing Island voters to weigh in on a plan to replace Puget Sound energy with a publicly owned electric utility.

Mike Scott:

The Island Power discussion raises important issues of environmental protection, resource conservation, reliable utility services, local control, and economic vitality. To fully evaluate and consider the possibility of a publicly owned electric utility will require substantial expenditures, so I’m in favor of the concept of putting an initiative on the ballot to assess public support before committing City funds to consider the possibility.

8. Kitsap PUD is soliciting indications of interest in expanding broadband access to neighborhoods on the island. What should be the role of the city in assisting with this expansion?

Kol Medina:

I think the City should provide facilitative assistance as requested by KPUD but should not itself become a financial partner in providing or managing broadband access on the Island.

Pegeen Mulhern:

The City should cooperate and assist with Kitsap PUD’s efforts to greatly expand the fiber optics network. Availability of reliable, high speed internet service is vital to Bainbridge Island’s economy. Not only do businesses and telecommuters rely on these connections, they are also becoming increasingly important for public safety, education, healthcare, and other essential services. There are two low-cost ways the City may be able to assist. First, we could revise our Planning Code to increase the amount of conduit in the community for future expanded service by adopting an ordinance that would require placing conduit and leaving it open and available for telecommunications, whenever a street is opened up for repairs or a new development builds a street. Second, where the “trunk lines” already exist, either the City or Kitsap PUD could expand open-access mesh wireless by installing antennas.

At present, the law only allows the PUD to provide non-retail services (such as serving community and wholesale networks). Once the fiber optic is run to residential areas, the City could assist by supporting nonprofit co-operative retailers of broadband services.

Ron Peltier:

The city should assume a leadership role working with KPUD in identifying the best way to provide high quality and reasonably priced broadband internet service to the Island. This should take into account the most cost effective deployment options. We should not rule out working with a private provider. High quality, and reasonably priced, Broadband service has the potential of significantly increasing our productivity as an Island of artists, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

Mike Scott:

I would like the City to support legislation to allow Kitsap PUD and other PUDs to provide retail broadband services. The City can also assist the expansion by allowing Kitsap PUD to use City right of ways where appropriate.

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Photos courtesy of the candidates.

Posted in Don't Miss This 4, Government, News, Politics, SliderComments (1)

Waypoint power lines

Letter to the Editor: Bury the Wires

I think the money for art at Waypoint would be better spent putting the utility poles underground at that intersection. The first thing one notices coming off the ferry is the incredible array of wires that obscure anything happening in the park or museum. Perhaps Puget Sound Energy could make that a public relations contribution . . . then both could happen.

—Jim McNett, Bainbridge Island

Waypoint power lines








Related Stories

Photos courtesy of Jim McNett and Google Earth.

Posted in Art, Community, Culture, Don't Miss This 3, Letter to the Editor, SliderComments (2)

Power lines

Island Power or PSE? Parties Weigh in Before Tonight’s Council Discussion

Island Power is a local nonprofit that wants to switch Bainbridge Island off from Puget Sound Energy and onto our own publicly owned utility district. At tonight’s (October 6) City Council meeting, the Council will discuss the possibility of “placing an initiative on a future ballot to authorize the City to explore the feasibility of establishing an electric utility.” Because Bainbridge has no referendum process, only the City Council can place a proposition on a ballot for voters to consider.

Before tonight’s meeting, PSE and Island Power weighed in on the matter. PSE’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs Andy Wappler and Island Power co-founders Jane Lindley and Steve Johnson shared their thoughts with IB on five specific issues.

Getting Away from Coal

One of the stated goals of Island Power is to free Bainbridge from a reliance on coal-powered energy. About that Lindley said, “Burning coal is not consistent with our values. If everyone said no to coal-generated electricity, coal plants would close. We know we’re just a small part of that puzzle but already PSE is hearing our message. And that’s what needs to happen for real change. Without it, it’s business as usual.”

Wappler said that at PSE “We share concerns about carbon and coal.” He said PSE has “done a lot with wind power” and “done a lot on the Island with the green power program. We’re excited Bainbridge is a green leader in the service area and that the Council has stepped up on that. But there’s more we can do in the future.”

Wappler explained that PSE is regulated by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission and is bound by principles of “least cost” and reliability. He said that to retire the coal plants, PSE needs to show that the power can be replaced reliably by other means without affecting customer bills too much. He said that the regulation framework was not originally built with the understanding that a type of fuel, such as coal, might go away one day. State legislation aimed at making the transition possible for PSE did not pass this year, but Wappler said they will try again next year.

Wappler was concerned that one of Island Power’s messages is “If you don’t creat a utility there will be no pathway off of coal. That is false. We’ve been building it for a decade.”

Lindley countered, “Of course there is a pathway for PSE to get off of coal. We never said there wasn’t.” She said, From everything I’ve read, PSE is looking to buy the entire Colstrip coal plant—they own half now—in Montana and over 25 years close down two of the four units, but it has no plans to close down the entire plant. Coal is still one of the least expensive forms of power, as is fracking for natural gas.”

She added, “PSE is an investor-owned utility. As such, they have a lot of pressure to show a profit, whereas a nonprofit municipal electric utility would not.” She quoted a Seattle Times article: “Retiring and replacing Montana’s Colstrip Generating Station, an important supplier to Puget Sound Energy, could be distressingly complicated and costly, public officials and energy executives are finding.” She said about Island Power, “We would have more flexibility to fill our grid with energy sources that are as earth-friendly as possible.”

But, Wappler, argued, buying power from the Bonneville Power Association, as Island Power intends to do, would not in fact make the Island 100 percent coal free. BPA is only about 85 percent hydroelectric.” Lindley said BPA’s mix is 89 percent hydro, 5 percent nuclear, 5 percent market purchases, and 1 percent wind solar and biomass. PSE’s mix, on the other hand, is 32 percent hydro, 31 percent coal, 28 percent natural gas, 1 percent nuclear, 1 percent other, and 7 percent wind.” She said she prefers “owning our grid and having control over how we fill it in the future. No energy system is perfect, but as the Union of Concerned Scientist says, ‘Coal plants are the nation’s top source of CO2 emissions, the primary cause of global warming.’ So, we want to reduce our reliance on coal and other fossil fuels (like natural gas) as much as possible, and BPA offers a great starting point.”

The Jefferson County Experiment

In 2012, Jefferson County switched to a PUD. There has been quite a bit of discussion on Bainbridge about Jefferson’s experience and how it informs the situation here.

Lindley acknowledged that “Jefferson County’s new electric PUD may have been experienced some growing pains initially, which are helpful to us so we can see where their sticking points are and hopefully avoid those pitfalls as we move forward.” But she said that “the The Port Townsend Leader reported after a year and then after two years that overall people are very happy with the more reliable service and with the living-wage jobs in the county, which are now almost one-third of the $33 million dollars that used to leave the county to pay PSE.”

Wappler questioned the choice of Jefferson as a role model. He said that the consultant on the project told voters there “they’d enjoy a 20 to 30 percent cost savings. The rates so far have been even.” Wappler said the consultant promised the PUD would hire about 70 people. “But so far, they’ve hired 20.” He said that  Jefferson keeps the basic charge to customers just a little bit lower than what PSE can offer. “But to do so, they took out the capital plan from the budget. They’ve taken depreciation out of their budget. They’re operating on a cash basis to keep the rates low.”

Emergency Service Capability

Wappler cautioned Islanders about a PUD’s efficacy in times of emergency. He said one of the claims of Island Power is that if the Island had its own utility crews, we could restore power faster after an outage. “But,” he said, “in a major storm a local utility can afford to have only one or two crews.” PSE, on the other hand, “has had as many as 30 to 40 crews here at one time” working to restore power. He said, “You need crews and resources from off the Island.”

Lindley emphasized that PSE “has no line crews based on the Island. When outages occur, PSE’S POTELCO contract crews have to come from off Island. In the event of an earthquake or major emergency, the bridge may be blocked.” She added that “PSE deals with major storms by deploying contract crews to restore the most populated areas first, which may leave our Island at the bottom of the list.”

Island Power, countered Lindley, “would have three to four line crews based on the Island who would be able to deal with outages from the instant they occurred. Bainbridge’s line workers would be restoring their friends and neighbors.” Plus, she said, “All the public power utilities in Washington have a ‘mutual aid’ agreement to assist each other in emergencies. Bainbridge would be able to draw on emergency crews from Seattle, Tacoma, Jefferson PUD, and Mason PUD—in fact, all of the states 62 public power systems.” She cited a Port Townsend Leader article about the PUD’s ability to handle a large outage in 2014: “The largest wind-related power outage Jefferson County Public Utility District has dealt with here was Sunday, Feb. 17, but most of the several thousand hook-ups affected were restored within two hours and the longest took about four hours.”

The Financial Cost of Switching

Wappler warned that switching to a PUD requires a lot of up-front costs but that Island Power is not being up front about that. He said, “If you form a municipal utility, you’re looking at 20 to 30 years of paying off debt. We’ll be off coal before that.” He said that to make the switch Jefferson spent $115 million, including $103 million that went to PSE to purchase the infrastructure. “If you scale to the size of Bainbridge Island, you’re looking at $70 to $90 million. Is this a $70 to $90 million problem? Are there other things that need to be done first?” He pointed out that the large sum of money would in fact “go to pay for something you already have.”

Lindley countered that “A nonprofit electric utility will be financed with revenue bonds. The nice thing about revenue bonds is that they are paid for with ratepayer fees instead of a tax. That means the bond would be paid off over a period of time, probably 30 years, from the fees generated by providing electricity to the businesses and citizens of Bainbridge Island.” She added, “It’s like buying a house. It seems like a big cost upfront, but actually it’s a really good investment.”

The Issue of Customer Rates

Wappler said about comparing providers in terms of customer rates that “Rates are a red herring. Customers pay bills, not rates. PUDs have lower rates, but almost all of them have higher customer bills.” He explained what he was talking about by comparing PSE to the Grays Harbor PUD. He said the PSE monthly basic charge is $7.87. The customer bill for 1,000 kilowatts per hour is $105, which includes the $7.87. The Grays Harbor PUD basic charge is $40.54. The customer bill for 1,000 kilowatts per hour is $107, which includes the $40.54. If you want to conserve, Wappler explained, “you want a low basic charge and have people see the maximum change from conserving energy.”

Johnson fielded the rate issue for Island Power. He said, “This rate business is really subject to manipulation. The average house on Bainbridge uses more like 1,500 kilowatt hours per month.” He also thought that Jefferson PUD’s rates and bills, not Grays Harbor’s, were most relevant to Bainbridge, as Jefferson is the newest public power system. He added, “They kept in place PSE’s rates when they went into business two years ago, and because of the sale proceeds PSE then dropped a little under the PUD. Today, however, PSE’s rates and bills are higher than Jefferson PUD because of rate increases.”

Lindley jumped in: “Rates are of course not the only or even most important issue. Dealing with climate change and local control are important to this community. If you go on PSE’s website, they say their lowest cost power source is their Colstrip coal plant in Montana. For me and other Islanders, continuing to burn coal in the face of global warming is not acceptable.”

She added, “We’re not running this campaign on rates. While we would hope that rates would decrease over time like with many other public power utilities, our main points are local control, economic benefit of bringing a large business to the Island, and greener/cleaner power.”

Final Thoughts

Lindley brought up the PSE Green Power program. She said that PSE has been running ads that say “if you buy green power you can have 100 percent green power, which is not exactly true unless they’re running direct lines from their wind farm to your house.” She added, “There is a lot of confusion around PSE’s Green Power program. Many people think it means PSE is filling the grid, our grid, with more renewable energy. It does not. Money is used to invest in renewable energy, and that’s great but it doesn’t change PSE’s energy resource mix.”

Instead, Lindley explained, PSE uses the funds collected from the Green Power Program to purchase renewable energy on Green Power Program customers’ behalf, to educate customers about the program, and to administer the program.” In sum, she said, “It’s a way to subsidize renewable energy.”

Wappler said PSE is striving to achieve two goals for Islanders. Reliability is “job one. The last few weeks and the summer have been tough on that. We’re going to do more on that front, tree trimming, adding tree wire, undergrounding wires, and bigger picture items like rebuilding the Agate Pass connection and enhancing the Port Madison Tap.”

The second goal is to “get greener and cleaner.” He said they want to hear from customers, and the company wants to know “what can we as PSE do better for the Island? We’re proud to serve and have for about 100 years. We’d like to continue to be a great partner to the Island.” He also cautioned Islanders to consider the issue of switching carefully: “It’s a very different thing to have a public utility than to go out and create one.”

Tonight’s Council discussion is scheduled for about 9:30 in Council Chambers.

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Photo courtesy of Karim D. Ghantous.

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power crew

PSE Explains Recent Outages, Takes Steps to Improve Conditions

Ray Lane, the Media Engagement Lead for Puget Sound Energy, acknowledges “it has been a frustrating late summer” for PSE customers on Bainbridge. He’s referring to the four major outages affecting the Island in recent weeks.

This past Sunday, September 27, a red alder fell onto the Foss Corner-Port Madison transmission line on Miller Road. That’s one of two transmission lines that feed power to the Island. Usually, the Port Madison Tap, the other transmission line, would back up the system. But that line was being upgraded at the time, and so it was not energized.

On September 20, another Sunday, a branch broke off a Douglas fir and fell onto one of the transmission lines that feed power to the entire Island from the mainland.

In addition, the Winslow substation has gone offline twice since mid-August. The cause? Lane says, “Brittle, dried-out trees hitting transmission lines.”

According to Lane, the drought has created many power problems throughout the state. He said, “Our very hot weather and drought conditions this year have put added stress on trees, causing them to topple over or snap apart more quickly. We clearly saw the effects of that all across Western Washington during the late August wind storm.”

Lane apologized for the inconvenience. He added, “We understand it’s a pain when the power goes out. We make every effort to get it restored as safely and quickly as possible, but it can be aggravating for those waiting at home or at their business as we work on restoration efforts.”

PSE’s work on the Port Madison Tap is happening at night. Workers are replacing and reframing poles between 8 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. That’s because the 115 kV transmission line is reaching its capacity limit, which decreases the system’s ability to provide customers with reliable power, especially during times of high energy usage or during a line outage. By rebuilding the lines with larger wire and replacing some existing wood poles with taller poles, PSE hopes to reduce the likelihood of power outages. Lane explained that “With larger wire, any future outage to one line will allow the other line to continue providing uninterrupted service to our customers.”

PSE also plans to replace about 3.5 miles of existing overhead distribution line with specialized tree wire, which is coated and therefore strong enough to withstand a tree limb fall. Construction started on the Kitsap side of Agate Pass in May. Work on Bainbridge started on August 10.

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Photo courtesy of PSE.

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Fallen tree by Luke Carpenter

A Few Bainbridge Customers Still Without Power

Puget Sound Energy is confident that the few Bainbridge Islanders still without power today, August 31, ever since Saturday’s storm will be back in the light by some time tomorrow evening or night. PSE reports many damage points to the grid from the storm—about 900—spread out across hundreds of square miles. On Bainbridge the few remaining outages are affecting no more than 3 customers each for a total of about 9 households.

As of 4:30 today, there were still 21,000 PSE customers without power. The majority of remaining outages are in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. The company promises that the nearly 500 crew members in the field will continue working until power is restored to everyone.

Meanwhile, Olympic National Park, which rangers closed during the storm because of high winds, is slowly getting back to normal. Roads and campgrounds in the Hoh and Quinault Rain Forests reopened today, and Kalaloch Campground is scheduled to reopen tomorrow.

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Featured photo of Madison at Eric Avenue by Luke Carpenter.

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Power Blows on Island

Puget Sound Energy reports 223,899 customers are without power so far across the region as a large wind and rain storm presses north and east. Of those customers, more than 5,500 are on Bainbridge.

The outages seemed to be spread across the Island—north, central, and south—in mostly small pockets, likely caused by fallen branches and trees. The two major outages are in the North Madison area, near Roberts, and near Lynwood Center along Point White. There are also many—more than 50—small outages in the downtown core.

PSE reports they’ve opened six of their storm bases, allowing them to respond more quickly to localized restoration efforts. They say their Emergency Coordination Center has also been activated.

They warn that “Additional outages may occur, even as our field crews bring other customers back on line. High winds and debris on roadways is preventing our crews from safely assessing damage, which is the first key step before restoration work begins. At times, our crews may need to temporarily stop work if the weather conditions are too dangerous; safety is a top priority.”

PSE is attributing the widespread power outages to the “earlier-than-usual wind storm for this time of the year,” which means “most trees still have their leaves.” They add that many trees “have been stressed by the drought conditions, making them more susceptible to snapping or falling over in strong winds.” They report “receiving damage reports over a wide region.”

Emmy's by Rick HauptmanReader Rick Hauptman reports that “With power out all over the island, Emmy’s Veggie Hut rules them all! Since they cook with propane and take only cash, it’s business as usual at 5:30 p.m. Saturday!”

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Photos courtesy of Shawn Carpenter and Rick Hauptman.

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PSE’s Energy Efficiency Advice During Heat Wave

Puget Sound Energy has more than 1.1 million electricity customers. As temperatures climb into the 90s, the company is encouraging those many customers to be energy conscious.

PSE reports that excessive heat puts extra demands on the power grid but says our region uses more energy on cold winter days than we will during this heat wave. The company says the one-hour summer record for power usage was set on July 27, 2009. On that day, as temperatures reached into the 100s, 3,430 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity were used between 7 and 8 p.m. PSE customers’ all-time one-hour high for power usage was 4,906 MWh set on Dec. 15, 2008, during a major cold weather event.

Nevertheless, the company has “been seeing more power consumption during the summertime as customers add some form of air conditioning in their homes.” PSE estimates that about 11 percent of residential electric customers currently have AC. To combat the energy consumption creep, PSE offers the following advice: 

  • Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible. For those with central air or air conditioning, PSE recommends no lower than 75 degrees. Customers can save up to 5 percent on their electric bill by taking that step.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the indoor temperature while you’re away.
  • Use fans to help circulate the air. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room, make sure to turn off the fan.
  • Make sure to close window blinds and curtains to block direct sunlight. In the evening, open windows for cross ventilation.
  • Switch out any conventional light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs, which produce 70 percent less heat.
  • Run appliances such as dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers at night. A hot dishwasher sends heat throughout the house.
  • Run dishwashers only on full loads and use the “no heat” option for the drying cycle.
  • Consider cooking a later dinner or grilling outside to prevent any additional heat buildup.

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Photo courtesy of cat’s_101.

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Do You Support Public Power? Island Power Wants to Know

In 2008 Jefferson County voted for public power. Five years later, they flipped on the switch. Now a group of people on Bainbridge is trying to follow in their footsteps and begin the long, complicated process of working toward a publicly owned power utility. Island Power, the entity behind the move, just took the first step, getting their Certificate of Incorporation as a nonprofit from the State.

Jane Lindley is the Co-Chair of Island Power. Lindley said the purpose of going public with power is to support “reliable, local, renewable energy” and offer “democratic control of our energy system.” One of her personal goals is to reduce our reliance on coal: “I want to send a message to our energy industry that we don’t want to rely so much on carbon. The parts per million are too high in our atmosphere.”

She said that NOAA just reported that in May we exceeded 403 ppm of CO2 at the Mauna Loa observation station. NASA researcher Dr. Charles Miller explains that “Current [atmospheric] CO2 values are more than 100 ppm higher than at any time in the last one million years (and maybe higher than any time in the last 25 million years). This new record represents an increase of 85 ppm in the 55 years since David Keeling began making measurements at Mauna Loa.”

Lindley argued that “Consumer-owned utilities . . . provide lower-cost, cleaner, and more reliable power than Puget Sound Energy (PSE).” She said that more than 50 other Washington communities have adopted public power including Ellensburg, Port Angeles, Centralia, and Seattle.

Lindley and Johnson

Lindley and Johnson with certificate of incorporation

The Process of Going Public

Lindley also explained how the public power process works. Because Bainbridge doesn’t have the power of initiative or referendum, Island Power can’t simply petition to put a measure on the ballot. Instead, the Council must vote to add a measure to the ballot.

But even a passed measure wouldn’t mean we would have public power on the Island. Councilmember Val Tollefson said he believes that a passed ballot measure would simply be giving “permission to the City to pursue public power if it appears to be the right thing to do. It can’t compel the City to adopt it.”

Lindley agreed that, if the Council added a ballot measure and if it passed, the City would merely have the right to run an electric utility. The vote would have to be followed by a “multi-year process of feasibility studies, discussions with the community, purchasing the infrastructure from PSE,” and “signing up with Bonneville Power to receive about 89 percent hydro, 11 percent nuclear, and a splash of market purchases.” Then, Lindley said, the City would finally be able to flip the switch.

Tollefson said “From the City Council standpoint we’re not devoting a lot of energy to thinking about it at this point. We’re waiting to see what kind of public support there is.”

For that reason, Island Power is gathering signatures to show support for the move and to encourage Council action. Their last meeting, held at the Grange on May 9, was attended by Councilmembers Anne Blair, Sarah Blossom, Michael Scott, Roger Townsend, and Tollefson as well as about 75 other people.

Several people spoke at the May 9th meeting, including Bob Titus, the former Special Projects Manager for the City of Ellensburg and Director for the City of Port Angeles; Lindley and Co-Chair Steve Johnson, who is the former executive director or WA PUD Association; and Scott Wilson and Marcus Perry from Bonneville Power.

Island Power meeting at the Grange

Island Power meeting at the Grange, May 9

Green Power v. Public Power and Costs

When asked to compare the City’s recent decision to buy 100 percent green power from PSE and going with public power, Tollefson said that the two things are “completely different. Green power from PSE is kind of a symbolic thing. I have a hard time translating that program into meaningful action on the ground.”

On that point, Lindley said that PSE is somewhat constrained by being required to offer the lowest-cost electricity. Coal still represents one of the least expensive sources. PSE shows that it currently gets 32 percent of its energy from hydro, 31 percent from coal, 28 percent from natural gas, 7 percent from wind, and 1 percent from nuclear.

When asked then how an Island public power agency could prevent our own costs from skyrocketing, Lindley said that Bonneville is offering tier-one pricing, their lowest, to any purchasers of the 250 megawatts they’ve set aside for public power entities. Currently, with other municipalities going public, that set-aside amount is down to 190 mw. Lindley said that Portland is considering going public with its power, which could deplete that remaining amount. Bainbridge currently would only need about 50 mw.

Lindley said if we could lock in at tier-one pricing, Bonneville would not be able to raise us to the next tier of pricing unless, for example, Bainbridge doubled in size and did nothing to curb energy usage. Lindley also said that we could backfill on our energy usage with locally supplied energy, such as from solar or wind.

When asked why a Bainbridge public power utility couldn’t buy its power from PSE and even exclusively from PSE’s green power program, Lindley wasn’t sure that it couldn’t. She said that Seattle City Light buys its power from all over. She thought the only barrier to Bainbridge doing that at first would be knowledge. Once we had experience and knew what we were doing, theoretically we could shop around for our power, she said, and one of our choices could be whether or not it was “green.”

Tollefson said that he finds public power “interesting” but is “not convinced one way or the other yet.” He said he expects “that it’s going to be popular with a lot of people on the Island, also for symbolic reasons.”

He said he is aware of some potential economic benefits to the Island with public power and some risks too with being “solely responsible for that infrastructure and managing it properly.” The Jefferson county experience “answers a lot of questions. It appears it is practical,” he said. “Their problems would be great teaching tools for us.”

You can read about the Jefferson County experiment in a Port Townsend Leader editorial.

To sign the Island Power petition, click here. Island Power will also be collecting signatures downtown on the Fourth of July.

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Featured photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives. Photo of Lindley and Johnson by Marketplace Barista. Other photo courtesy of Island Power. 

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PSE Rewards Local Sounders’ and Mariners’ Fans with Energy Upgrades

What do local sports have to do with energy efficiency? Not necessarily anything, but PSE wants to make a connection. This Sunday, May 31, as you head off on the ferry to see the Sounders pummel the New York Red Bulls or the Mariners give it to the Cleveland Indians, PSE reps clad in yellow will be looking to give you Golden Upgrade Tickets.

The tickets are your chance to win prizes ranging from LED light bulbs and water-saving showerheads to energy-efficient TVs and washer/dryer sets valued at over $2,000 each. You redeem your tickets at the PSE booths at the stadiums for prizes. Every ticket wins.

The Energy Upgrades campaign will continue through September at various events throughout PSE’s service area. At all the events, PSE will showcase and give customers a chance to win ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances from Whirlpool and LG Electronics, Kohler high-performance shower heads, and Greenlite™ LEDs.

Dennis Rominger, energy efficiency expert at PSE explained that that it’s all about increasing energy efficiency. As an example, he said, “LED bulbs from Greenlite™ use 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. The average household can save $150 a year in energy costs by replacing the 25 most frequently used lights in the home.”

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Photo courtesy of Tiffany Von Arnim.

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Puget Sound Energy Work Will Cause 305 Slowdowns

Port Madison Tap 115 kV is the name given to the Puget Sound Energy project that will be happening along 305 over the summer. Lane closures on 305 will largely happen at night between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until about mid-June. There will also be daytime closures on Komedal Road after that.

The main power line that runs from the South Keyport Junction Substation to Foss Corner has one line, the Port Madison line, that taps off of it and feeds Bainbridge customers after crossing Agate Pass. The only other line serving Bainbridge Island comes directly from Foss Corner and also crosses at Agate Pass. The Port Madison line is reaching its capacity, meaning that during an outage or high power usage it might fail to deliver.

So PSE is rebuilding 6.7 miles of the existing line from Lemolo Shore Drive to the Port Madison substation with larger wire. Crews will also be replacing 58 wood poles with taller poles. In addition, they will replace approximately 3.5 miles of overhead distribution line with tree wire, a specially coated overhead wire strong enough to withstand a tree limb falling into the line.

Prot Madison TapLarger wires increase the likelihood that during any outage to one line the other line will be able to continue providing uninterrupted service. That’s because the larger wire is more reliable, explained PSE Project Manager Barry Lombard.

Lombard said that the work on the other side of the bridge has already begun on Suquamish Way. This week, workers will begin to turn their attention to 305, also on the other side of the bridge, and nighttime drivers can expect some delays, maybe for as long as two or three weeks.

Port Madison Tap Map Legend

The work on Bainbridge won’t begin until late July or early August, Lombard said, although it will be preceded by some tree trimming. He also said that one lane on 305 won’t need to be closed as most of the Bainbridge work will happen on Komedal. Workers will try to keep one lane open at all times but there may be occasions when the road will have to be closed and drivers will be routed around.

He said they hope to finish by the end of October.

To stay up to date on the project, text PMTAP to 555-888. That will subscribe you to text message alerts on your cell phone.

This project is distinct from the Agate Pass Bridge repair project happening this weekend. The work is intended to repair damage caused by a one-vehicle accident on May 5.

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Photo courtesy of PSE.

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green power

Bainbridge Leads County by Choosing 100% Green Power

In a split decision at the April 28 meeting, the City Council decided that 100 percent of the electricity used to power City facilities will be offset by power generated from Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power Program. Bainbridge is the first city in the County to do so and only the third in the State.

The decision represents a big change over last year when the Council decided to purchase just 13 percent of its electricity from the Green Power Program, for about $3,000 per year. The new decision means the City will pay out about an additional $14,000, although the actual cost depends on energy usage. The City is trying to reduce that usage by replacing 80 percent of City-owned lightbulbs with LEDs.

Before the vote, Councilmember Michael Scott said, “I think it reflects the values of our community to support non-carbon-based energy sources,” and he said he was in favor of going with a 100 percent green power purchase. Councilmember Roger Townsend agreed but wondered if the cost could be paid for out of all the funds: the General Fund, Sewer, and the other funds using electricity.

Councilmember Val Tollefson, who also supported purchase of 100 percent green power, wanted it paid for out of the General Fund. He said he thought it was “a completely discretionary decision on our part, and I think it would be a complete miscarriage to impose this discretionary expenditure on customers of the utilities on the island.”

He said he was convinced that the reason the number of islanders who buy Green Power for their personal use is low is that it’s difficult to understand the money doesn’t just go to PSE and fall “into a black hole.” Tollefson said PSE gets audited annually to determine the money is being spent properly. He said another reason for low public participation is that “The City hasn’t led.”

Councilmember Steve Bonkowski said he agreed “you’re getting what you pay for” with the program, and he said he personally has signed up for the Green Power Program. But he cited low Island participation in the program as the reason he wouldn’t support the 100 percent purchase.

Tollefson then moved that the City purchase 100 percent green power and do so by using the General Fund. Scott seconded the motion but said in the future he’d like to see the purchase be supported across the funds.

Bonkowski and Councilmember Sarah Blossom were the two nay votes.

Puget Sound Energy explains on its website how its Green Power Program works. The City’s decision means that PSE will buy clean energy on the City’s behalf from independent producers of solar, biogas, or wind in our region, making “it possible for these energy innovators to secure funding, sustain their businesses, and create jobs.”

You can find out more about purchasing Green Power for your home or business by clicking here.

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Photo by Derek Gavey.

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Bainbridge Celebrates Earth Day with Green Home Fair and New Community Center Solar Array

Tomorrow afternoon, April 22, the City of Bainbridge Island is celebrating a new solar installation at the Waterfront Park Community Center. The 5-kilowatt solar array has been funded in large part by a $20,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy.

The City of Bainbridge won the grant as part of the PSE 2013 Green Power Challenge. The Challenge put cities in friendly competition with each other to see if the cities could meet their goals of getting citizens to enroll in the Green Power Program. The program gives electric customers a way to guarantee some or all of the energy they use is matched with clean, renewable energy sources from the West. All of the renewable energy in PSE’s Green Power Program is generated by independent producers of renewable power; it’s separate from the wind resources owned and operated by PSE.

COBI set a goal of 1,250 Green Power Program converts. With Sustainable Bainbridge leading the effort, the goal was exceeded by nearly 100 people: 1,326 Bainbridge Island residents enrolled. Four other cities competed in the Challenge: Anacortes, Kirkland, Snoqualmie, and Tumwater. All cities met their individual goals, and Snoqualmie won the Challenge overall with the most signups, earning a $40,000 grant.

The average PSE residential customer can purchase 100 percent green power for approximately $10 to $12 a month based on their actual usage. Or they can buy a specific amount with a minimum purchase of $4 per month for 320 kilowatt hours (kWh). They can buy additional green power in increments of $2 for 160 kWh. Business customers can also participate at rates specific to their situations.

To celebrate the grant, COBI is inviting citizens to the Waterfront Park Community Center tomorrow, April 22, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. for the official dedication of the solar panel. Mayor Anne Blair will speak briefly. PSE reps will also speak, and local Sierra Club representative Erika Shriner will talk about the importance of green power to our community.

The City will also be hosting a Green Home Fair at the Community Center. Representatives from A&R Solar, Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, and Puget Sound Energy will be available to talk about energy efficiency and solar for your home. Industry experts will discuss solar incentives and financing available from the State of Washington. You will have the opportunity to sign up for Green Power and to participate in a raffle for LED light bulbs and other home energy-efficiency items.

City Manager Doug Schulze said about the City, “It’s our turn to lead. We believe that by taking an active role to make our facilities more sustainable, we can help encourage others in our community to do the same.”

The Waterfront Park Community Center is at 370 Brien Avenue SE. Click here for more information on Green Power.

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Photo courtesy of COBI.

Posted in Don't Miss This 3, Environment, Green LivingComments (0)

12th Man flag by Andy Karmy

Small Power Outages All Over the Island

As of 9 a.m. this morning, January 18, Puget Sound Energy was reporting outages across their service area caused by “damaging winds.” At 8:30 a.m. there were still 234 outages affecting 29,000 customers. Kitsap County has been the hardest hit.

On Bainbridge, many of the current 42 outages are small, affecting a single customer here and there or small groups of a dozen or two. But a few are having a wider impact. An outage near Baker Hill includes about 400 customers. Nearly 200 customers in the Battle Point area are without power.

PSE reports crews have restored power to more than 62,000 customer so far. They promise to have crews “assessing damage and restoring customers as quickly as we can,” recognizing the importance to Seahawks fans of being able to watch the game today. At 9 a.m. they issued a message reading, “If you’re currently without power, we recommend making alternate plans for watching the Championship game today.”

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Uh Oh: Just Before Seahawks Game, NWS Predicts High Winds

Photo by Andy Karmy.

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Waterfront Community Center

Waterfront Community Center Goes Solar

Last week, the City began installing a solar panel system at the Waterfront Park Community Center. The system will include sixteen solar energy panels with the ability to produce up to 5,070 kilowatt hours of energy per year, the energy equivalent of burning 3,755 pounds of coal.

The project is partially funded through a Puget Sound Energy Green Power Program grant. In 2013, the City was awarded the $20,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy for its participation in the Take Charge Green Power Challenge. The challenge consisted of convincing 125 PSE electric customers on Bainbridge to enroll in PSE’s Green Power Program in 2013, to qualify the City for the grant to fund a community solar photovoltaic project. Sustainable Bainbridge led the Green Power Program charge, and the community succeeded in meeting the challenge, raising the number of Green Power Program enrollees from 1,125 to 1,250.

In February of this year, the City of Bainbridge also enrolled in the Green Power Program when the Bainbridge City Council approved Resolution 2014-01, authorizing the City to buy a limited amount of green power. Specifically, the City Council voted to designate $3,000 a year toward this effort, representing about a one-third greater commitment to green power than that made by Bainbridge citizens, only 15-20 percent of whom subscribed to it at the time. Installation of the panels is expected to continue through the end of the year, with work happening between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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 Photo courtesy of COBI. 

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Light bulb by Achi Raz

Storm Aftermath

Puget Sound Energy crews, in anticipation of last night’s (December 11) wind storm, positioned themselves at the ready in the areas most likely to be affected. The strategy seems to have paid off. This morning all Kitsap substations are back on line and there were only 21 “outage events” remaining as of 4:30 this morning.

On Bainbridge, out of the thousands of customers who were without power during the evening and night, only about a hundred are still in the dark.

Parts of downtown Poulsbo are still without power.

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department had a few calls for trees into wires and the Christmas truck malfunctioned, affecting the schedule.

Photo by Achi Raz.

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damaged home

Generator Cause of House Fire; Family Dog Likely Died in Blaze

by Julie Hall and Sarah Lane

[This story was updated at 9:57 a.m. November 17.]

The fire that incinerated a Port Madison home this morning began when the homeowner attempted to start his generator after an outage left about 4,000 Puget Sound Energy customers without power.

According to Bainbridge Fire Marshal Luke Carpenter, firefighters have searched the wreckage and found no evidence of the resident dog. Carpenter explained that the intensity of the fire would likely have destroyed any body remains.

The 1,300-square-foot wood house built in 1936 is entirely destroyed.

port madison house fireBIFD firefighters are collecting photographic evidence and will overhaul the site today to put out any remaining hotspots.

Kitsap Fire and Rescue from Suquamish was the first to arrive at the scene. Carpenter said that the BIFD would have been the first to get to the fire had Station 23 been staffed.

Despite requests from the BIFD, the north end of Bainbridge Island remains vulnerable to delayed response times due to a lack of funding to consistently staff the station on Phelps Road.

Should Fire Station 23 be staffed? Take our poll.

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Photos courtesy of BIFD.

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Fallen Tree on Point White Leads to 9-Hour Outage: PSE Explains Why

Yesterday, August 4, sometime after 1 p.m. a large tree came down on Point White Road, knocking out power to over 300 residents of the area. By around 2 p.m., emergency responders had announced the closure of the road. One Point White resident contacted IB this morning to say her power didn’t come back on until 10:15 last night.

Bob Tulp, the Puget Sound Energy Electric First Response Supervisor for Kitsap, explained what took the repair crew so long. Tulp said the tree was so large the PSE team needed two and a half hours just to clear it. He said, “Vegetation is always a challenge on Bainbridge.” When the tree came down, it took four strands of wire with it, and those had to be removed from the vegetation before they could be reconnected to the lines above.

The PSE crew also had to make sure that private generators were isolated so that no power would feed back to the wires, putting the workers in peril. Tulp explained that, when people install “co-gens” (PSE jargon for private generators), they are supposed to notify the power company. At that point, the generator gets added to a map, enabling crewmembers to know where they are so the transformers can be isolated. But sometimes people bootleg the co-gens, so workers also listen for the familiar rumbling sound. Tulp said they make sure there is “no possible way for any induced voltage to come back on the line they’re working on.”

Once the transformers were isolated and the vegetation cleared, the crew began to reconnect the wires. By then, the light was fading for the day, which necessarily slowed down the work.

Another time lag, ironically enough, were the many questions from residents directed to the team. Tulp said the job’s foreman made a point of personally answering all questions to ensure that customers got the latest information. He said there were easily over 60 customer visits to the site. Since the foreman has to oversee everything on a job site, the interruptions added to the repair time.

Tulp said customers used to “bake pies for power crews and now they bring questions.” But, he said, this is a different world we live in: “We’ve become a community very in tune with what’s going on with technology. People need to know when to transfer perishables out of the freezer. When to hook up their generators. When to find a room at a hotel.” Tulp said customers ask “good, genuine questions.” For this reason, he said, PSE is weighing the possibility of putting a PR person on site for major repairs.

But that’s farther down the road. For now, the outage will serve as a good reminder to Islanders to prepare for the upcoming winter weather with drinking water, flashlights, and other emergency supplies, including a non-electric phone so they can call PSE for updates instead of stopping by to ask the crews on site.

Here’s the number to call when you see a downed power line: 1-888-225-5773. (Stay away from the line.)

Here’s the number to call to report an outage: 1-888-225-5773.

To see the outage map online (on your phone) click here.

Is your generator safe? Click here to get more information.

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Photo by Marion Doss.

Posted in Community, Emergencies, Emergency Preparedness, News, Popular 3Comments (0)


After Some Bainbridge Input, State Commission Asks PSE to Reexamine Its Position on Colstrip Coal

In its 2013 Integrated Resource Plan released last May, Puget Sound Energy argued the long-term economic viability of relying primarily on power generated by its Colstrip Coal Plant in Montana, writing that “Colstrip reduces cost and market risk in most likely scenarios.” But just last week, February 6, the State’s Utilities and Transportation Commission said the “plan fails to answer questions about the future financial viability of the older Colstrip power plants in coming years.”

The Commission’s announcement came after some members of Coal-Free Bainbridge along with former City Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos testified at the UTC hearings about the Colstrip Plant, urging PSE to replace coal with renewable fuel sources such as wind and solar. Erika Shriner, a founding member of CFB, reported that Bainbridge Islanders made over 1,100 written comments to both the UTC and PSE in support of replacing coal with greener alternatives.

The UTC instructed PSE to do a better job exploring “potential cost impacts, including the likelihood of higher carbon costs and tougher federal environmental regulations, as well as projected natural gas prices and demand for electricity.” The UTC’s Chairman, David Danner encouraged “the company to continue its analysis, perhaps in the context of a more formal proceeding, in order to better answer the cost-effectiveness questions.”

In its plan, PSE reported that Colstrip saves “customers about $131 million per year. Put a different way, replacing Colstrip with another resource would result in approximately a 5 percent annual rate increase, apart from any other rate pressures.” State law requires PSE to update its plan every two years. The plan helps inform the UTC in its regulatory function.

The Colstrip power plant consists of four units, and PSE owns 50 percent of the two oldest ones, which were built in 1975-1976, and 25 percent of the two others. PSE obtains about 30 percent of its electric power from the Colstrip plants to provide power to 1.1 million customers, most of whom are in the Puget Sound region.

CFB’s main concern about PSE’s plan was Colstrip’s effect on the environment. Shriner said Colstrip “is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in our part of the country. It is also a source of other toxic pollutants, and it has been estimated that the plant is responsible for 31 premature deaths each year. It has polluted the groundwater of local residents for which it paid $25 million to settle a lawsuit in 2009 and other lawsuits are currently pending.”

But CFB’s arguments to the UTC weren’t just about the pollution produced by coal. Representatives also argued for the greater cost effectiveness of alternatives to coal. Co-Chair Wendy Jones said that, “given the dramatic drop in prices of wind and solar, coal simply doesn’t compute financially as an energy source. Additionally, the job potential in the clean energy sector for Washington residents is good news for workers and our state’s economy.”

Coal-Free Bainbridge is part of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which, Shriner said, has been instrumental in the retirement of 162 coal plants.

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Photo of Colstrip by David T. Hanson.

Posted in Business, Community, Dont Miss This 4, Green LivingComments (11)

Geek Out Graphic: Bainbridge Power Grid Map

Here is a detailed map showing the Bainbridge Island power grid.

According to Puget Sound Energy media rep Ray Lane, during the outages on November 7, 2013, the affected areas were basically in the lower two-thirds of the Island: the four circuits WIN-12, 13, 15, and 16 and the blue circuits (including MUR-15).


Bainbridge power grid map

Bainbridge power grid map


Bainbridge power grid key

Bainbridge power grid key














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Images courtesy of PSE. 

Posted in Community, Don't Miss This 3, NewsComments (1)

Kitsap County Courthouse

Power Outage Shuts Down Kitsap County Courthouse Until Noon

Puget Sound Energy hopes to have their work completed by noon today, August 19. But until the repairs on two major transformers are completed, a power outage in Port Orchard means the Kitsap County Courthouse, Administration Building, and Public Works Buildings will be closed.


Photo by Julie Hall.

Posted in Emergencies, News, SliderComments (0)

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