Chelan PUD Re-Energizes Fire-Hardened Transmission Line

January 2, 2022

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
January 2, 2022

Washington State’s Chelan PUD has re-energized a high-voltage transmission line rebuilt in fire-resistant steel for better reliability in the Chelan Valley.

The months-long upgrade is part of a comprehensive plan to protect customer-owners and the electrical grid in Chelan County from the growing threat of wildfire.

The transmission line powers the Chelan and Union Valley substations, which serve about 3,500 homes. The line burned down in a 2015 wildfire that blackened the shrub-steppe area. The Chelan Valley went without power for 36 hours while crews worked around the clock to rebuild the line.

As crews replaced 34 structures along the four-mile line from July to December 2021, Chelan PUD re-routed power to maintain reliable electrical service for customers in the area. The $2.7 million project was finished on time, under budget and with no outages.

The fire-hardening project is one of several by Chelan PUD to reduce fire risk and improve reliability. The utility’s wildfire risk mitigation plan calls for more frequent line inspections, hazard tree removal and fire-resistant paint.

In 2021, Chelan PUD increased its vegetation management budget from $1.5 million to $3.5 million to accomplish the work required by a more-frequent inspection and pruning cycle. By the end of 2021, Chelan PUD planned to remove about 8,000 hazard trees — a seven-fold increase compared to five years ago.

Chelan PUD is also working with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Cascadia Conservation District and other agencies to coordinate fuel reduction efforts and secure grant funding for projects that will lower wildfire risk in the county’s most vulnerable areas.