Clallam PUD to raise water, sewer, electric rates

Increases for several years part of budget plan

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Public Utility District commissioners have approved 4.2-percent water rate increases and 5.9-percent wastewater rate hikes in each of the next five years.

District commissioners also reviewed Monday a $75 million proposed electric utility budget that would result in a 3.5 percent power rate increase that would take effect April 1.

Additional 3.5-percent electric rate increases are planned for 2021 and 2022, according to the budget proposal.

A final 2020 budget will be approved Dec. 9.

District commissioners voted 3-0 Monday to establish a phased one-system rate structure for each of the PUD’s nine water systems and four wastewater systems.

“The majority of the customers next year in the water department will see about a $1.46 increase in their overall (monthly) bill,” Sean Worthington, PUD finance manager-treasurer, said at the meeting.

The one-system rate structure will be phased in over five years to mitigate the impact on customers, according to a board-approved resolution.

The new rates for water and wastewater will take effect on Feb. 1 in each of the next five years.

“The weighted average increase over a five-year period across all of the district’s water systems is 4.2 percent per year,” the resolution states.

“The weighted average increase over a five-year period across all of the district’s wastewater systems is 5.9 percent per year.”

A breakdown of how the one-system rate structure impact residential and commercial customers in each of the water and wastewater systems is available below or at www.clallampud.net. Click on “Commission Meetings,” navigate to the Oct. 28 board packet and scroll down to page 17.

10-28-19_ClallamPUD_Pre-Agenda by Laura Foster on Scribd

Meanwhile, Worthington presented Monday a proposed 2020 electric system budget that would spend $75 million and generate $75.2 million next year.

The $239,877 difference would be added to a $20.2 million electric system reserve.

According to a 10-year outlook, the PUD proposes to raise electric rates 3.5 percent per year from 2020 to 2022.

Electric rate increases of 3.25 percent would occur annually from 2023 to 2027, followed by 3.0 percent increases in 2028 and 2029.

The annual electric rate increases are needed to offset the cost of purchasing electricity from Bonneville Power Administration, which is raising its wholesale rates by an average of 5.5 percent to 6 percent every two years, PUD officials said.

The proposed PUD budget will be presented at a meeting in Forks on Nov. 25, Worthington said.

PUD Commissioner Jim Waddell said the district should be transparent about its plan to raise electric rates by 3 percent or more every year.

“I just want to make sure that we’re being really up front about what these rate increases are in the next few years, given what I constantly hear is the really fine margin of profitability for a lot of the businesses here in the county,” Waddell said.

“I want to make sure that we’re really up front with this 10-year projection, because that’s the bottom line for the people.”

Waddell added that the Bonneville Power Administration is a “big place to look” for cost savings.

“Whether you’re looking at 10-year contracts or stuff that happens in the next few years, I think it behooves us to really look at that,” Waddell said.

General Manager Doug Nass said the PUD’s electric rates are competitive with other public utilities across the state.

“We’re somewhere in the middle — not high, not low,” Nass said.

“Unless we get a dam or two, we’re not going not be like Chelan or Grant (County PUDs), but we stay in line with the others.”

Nass added that Clallam County PUD is working with other public utilities that are facing similar issues.

“We’re trying to do what we can do,” Nass said.

“Ten years ago or so, we were having about 8-percent rate increases and things like that.

“We can always do better,” Nass added. “Everybody’s looking at doing better.”

Longtime PUD commissioner Will Purser said Bonneville is committed to keeping its rates down.

“Of course, you’ve heard the story, Bonneville has some mandated things that they have no control over, Fish and Wildlife, residential exchange, weather, that sort of thing,” said Purser, who also serves on the executive board of Energy Northwest.

Nass emphasized that the PUD has little control over the cost of BPA power.

“I agree that that’s uncontrollable,” Waddell said, “but it behooves us to seek the lowest possible price for power wherever we can.

“It may take a while, but that’s got to be the goal,” Waddell said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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