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Wildlife mitigation effort will put some lines underground in Scappoose and St. Helens

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - The Columbia River People's Utility District administrative office in Deer Island.The Columbia River People's Utility District has adopted a $41.2 million budget for 2021, which represents a decrease of $1.3 million from the 2020 budget.

According to the PUD, for the first time, the budget does not include the expense for long-term debt.

The PUD paid off its outstanding long-term debt in December.

"Rather than incurring long-term debt, the PUD plans to continue paying cash for improvements to its electric system," the PUD announced. "Doing so will help the PUD achieve its mission of providing quality services at the lowest practical cost."

As for ratepayers in the district, Michael Sykes, the PUD's general manager, said, "It's not going to be any more money for the ratepayer — probably half of our budget, or near half of our budget, is paying for power that we buy from Bonneville Power, so we're at their mercy as far as those increases go."

Sykes continued, "It doesn't look like there's going to be any real significant increases on that end. It's been a priority for a long time to keep rates low and it looks like we're going to be able to continue to sustain that."

The PUD announced that three major overhead-to-underground conversion projects are planned. These will be located along Gensman Road in Yankton, Apple Valley Road in Scappoose and Greys Cliffs Drive in St. Helens.

Moving power lines underground is part of the PUD's wildlife mitigation effort. It also improves public safety, the district noted, reducing the risk of power outages caused by falling trees or branches — as well as the risk of wildfires.


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