Jefferson PUD seeks to return to hydrant maintenance

PORT HADLOCK — The Jefferson County Public Utility District is looking for new ways to work with local government and fire districts to ensure that fire hydrants are kept in working order.

That could lead to a rate hike for customers.

Hydrants are tested during firefighter training, but otherwise are not maintained, PUD manager Jim Parker told commissioners Monday.

That’s been the case since a 2008 state Supreme Court decision in Lane v. the City of Seattle, which made it illegal for agencies to charge for maintenance on fire hydrants because hydrants were a “general benefit to everybody” and maintenance must be funded by a city or county general fund, Parker said.

Around this time the PUD obtained the Kala Point and Coyle water systems, but could not legally maintain or improve those fire systems since the money couldn’t be taken from customer rates.

However, that changed in 2013, when a new law allowed the PUD to charge customers for the maintenance but also clarified that they aren’t responsible should a hydrant not work.

The PUD hasn’t updated its plan for hydrant maintenance since the 2008 decision, and commissioners felt the issue should be revisited.

“It makes sense,” Parker said. “Why wouldn’t we want to keep those systems in check?”

Prior to 2008, the PUD worked under a coordinated water system plan, an agreement with area fire districts to perform maintenance on fire hydrants and share the cost.

“We’d like to maybe work with the fire districts since that worked well prior to 2008,” Parker said.

The total cost of PUD maintenance of the hydrants, pipes and pumps needed for fire suppression would be roughly $90,000 to $110,000 annually, with a potential rate increase of $2 to $3 per month, Parker said.

Parker estimated that the PUD could be responsible for maintenance on roughly 500 hydrants, which need to be maintained to keep them accessible, painted to keep them visible and tested to ensure they work in case of an emergency.

Parker said the commissioners agreed to schedule a workshop meeting July 17 to discuss their options.

“We could hire someone to work internally, but that could raise rates slightly,” Parker said.

A time and place for the July 17 workshop hasn’t been scheduled yet but is expected to be posted on the PUD’s website, http://www.jeff, by Monday.


Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or

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