Blue Mesa Dam drilling through Oct. 2

Bureau of Reclamation drilling crews began working on the crest of Blue Mesa Dam, Sept. 12, continuing through about Oct. 2. Workers will drill three sample holes and install equipment in one of the holes to monitor dam activity.

The information gleaned from the core samples and equipment will be used by Reclamation for consideration of short and long-term performance of the dam related to dam safety and security measures.

Blue Mesa Dam is the first of three dams, including Morrow Point and Crystal Dams, which create the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project from which Western markets hydropower. The drilling will not impact hydropower generation.

Deputy Secretary of Energy Poneman stops by Western

Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman talks with Western employeesIn a spontaneous visit to Colorado Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman made a quick stop by Western’s Corporate Services Office in Lakewood, Sept. 14, sandwiched between two other meetings in the area.

Opening with “I’m not really hear to talk; I’m here to answer any questions you have on your mind,” Poneman said in his video conference with several hundred Western employees. Read more »

Western Operations Study presented

Western hosted a webinar for customers Aug. 16—after posting the report a week earlier—to allow its consultant, Miracorp, to discuss the process they followed to create the report and also define Western’s next steps. Learn more about the study on Western’s Opertions Study page.

Photo of the day

Ron Miller performs simulated rescue atop a power poleIn a job where high-risk tasks are a daily business, training is vital. Especially when we talk rescue training.  On an annual basis, maintenance crews at Western are required to perform fall protection training to be a “qualified” climber.  In this photo, Ron Miller, Rocky Mountain Region lineman performs a simulated poletop rescue during training.

Western supports developing alternative for Glen Canyon Dam Operations

As part of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, the seven Basin States (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming) are developing an alternative for the Long Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (LTEMP EIS). The EIS examines how to operate Glen Canyon Dam to protect downstream resources and maintain water deliveries and power generation. Western is supporting the Basin States by facilitating participation of scientists who are experts in key resource areas, by collecting scientific information and drafting key policy and scientific information in a format that will serve as an alternative for the LTEMP EIS.   

The Resource-Targeted, Condition-Dependent Strategy described in the alternative focuses on three key resources: 

  1. Recovering the endangered humpback chub
  2. Improving the trout fishery at Lee’s Ferry
  3. Improving or protecting key  sediment-based resources (camping beaches, backwater habitat and archaeological site protection) in the Grand Canyon

The Basin States  briefed officials of the Department of Interior and delivered this alternative to the co-lead agencies, Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service  on July 2. Western, the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association and the Basin States hope that this alternative will be selected as the preferred alternative and ultimately be implemented.

Workshop participants get hands-on experience ‘seeing’ energy loss

Brad Riser presenting to workshop participants

Brad Riser with FLIR presents operation of infrared cameras

Cosponsoring the Infrared Thermography: Hands-on Training for Utility Systems & Customer Service Applications, Western joined the Clean Energy Ambassadors and Montana State University in Billings to teach MSUB students and other professionals about infrared cameras.

Twenty students who came in on their school holiday joined by 20 employees of publicly-owned electric cooperatives from around Montana to learn about infrared cameras.

The cameras can be used in home energy audits to indicate air leaks or uneven insulation. The cameras also can be used to show hot spots along utility lines or at substations that might indicate a problem to repair.

Hoover Dam Bypass: An award-winning bridge

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge was honored this week with the American Society of Civil Engineer’s 2012 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement award March 22. At nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River and 1,900 feet long, the Hoover Dam Bypass helps to protect the security of the dam by removing through traffic from US 93. The structure was constructed in a harsh environment where temperatures reached triple digits during the day. The structure is the highest and longest arch concrete bridge in the Western hemisphere and features the world’s tallest concrete columns.

The project was recognized not only as a significant contribution to both the civil engineering profession and society as a whole but also emphasized environmental and cultural stewardship. The highway underpasses were built for endangered desert bighorn sheep, native plants in the construction corridor were preserved and replaced, and Native American cultural properties adjacent to the site were protected.

Western staff joined with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service and the states of Arizona and Nevada to build the bridge across the Colorado River, bypassing the highway that spans the crest of Hoover Dam.

Read more about the OCEA award and Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge at the ASCE’s news release.

House approves California water bill

On Feb. 29, the House of Representatives passed HR 1837, also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, which will create more water storage capacity in the state of California. If enacted as written, the proposed bill would result in a number of changes, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • the existing environmental regulatory baseline under which the Central Valley Project is operated
  • the list of scientific and fish and wildlife management agencies which would  responsible for assisting the Secretary of Interior in determining what would constitute reasonable in-stream flow requirements
  • potential increases in both project use and Base Resource allocations

However, the biggest impact to Western will be the portion of the bill that relates to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. These impacts would result from resetting the existing environmental regulatory compliance standards to a previous one (i.e., the 1994 Bay-Delta Accords). As proposed, this bill would assure transparency of CVPIA Restoration Fund expenditures by creating an oversight expenditure board, enact a sunset date as to when the Restoration Funds may be reduced as stipulated in the original act, and capping contributions to CVP power preference users as is the case for CVP water users. Because preference power customers pay CVPIA Restoration Fund assessments as an additive to their cost-based Base Resource allocation, these actions will ease some of the cost burdens currently faced by Western’s Sierra Nevada customers.

The bill faces a somewhat more problematical future in the Senate as the measure is opposed by several environmental groups. Stakeholders are also concerned that parts of the proposed new legislation could be separated and attached as amendments to other legislation being considered by Congress.

Plan to improve fish population

To better manage fishery related actions at the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon National parks, the National Parks Services held a public meeting in Page, Ariz., March 5. Participants who attended the meeting, including Western staff, are working to develop a single–planning effort that will better coordinate projects aimed to protect and restore endangered, native and sport fish populations..

The goal is to create a plan that covers both parks and gives NPS the ability to implement actions and ensure compliance coverage. The main objective of the collaboration is to restore the river eco systems to a pre-human state by removing non-native fish from some zones so the native species can rebuild. Other zones will keep non-native fish for sport fishing and will continue to hold non-native fish such as brown trout.

 The next step is to schedule pre-scoping meetings to get information out to park guides, hotel owners, anglers, rafters and other stakeholders. As a stakeholder Western will be a part of the scoping process and will provide input when the environmental assessment is out for comment.

DSW makes power lines more visible to protect wildlife

Seeing a flock of birds on a transmission line can be an amazing sight, and although birds can perch safely on electrical wires, colliding with them can cause injury or death. When power lines are near lakes and ponds, the risk of collision increases. This is the case of the birds of Lake Watson in Prescott, Ariz.

Desert Southwest Apprentice Lineman Horacio Adriano installs bird diverters on Western’s Prescott-Pinnacle Peak 230-kilovolt line.

Desert Southwest Apprentice Lineman Horacio Adriano installs line-marking devices on Western’s Prescott-Pinnacle Peak 230-kilovolt line.

In January, a five-man Desert Southwest maintenance crew, led by Foreman II Lineman Ronnie Martinez, installed line-marking devices, or LMDs, on Western’s Prescott-to-Pinnacle Peak 230-kilovolt line. “This is the first time DSW Maintenance crews took on a project like this so it was a good experience for all involved,” said Line Crew Foreman III Mark DePoe.

DSW installed the LMDs because residents of Lake Watson were worried that the birds using the lake were colliding with the overhead ground wires, and asked Western to help. Although there was no evidence of bird collisions near the lines, DSW’s Environmental group decided to install the devices. “Our power lines run east and west in that area and pass just southwest of the lake. Although we haven’t seen bird causalities in the area, we agreed to install the LMDs before anything hap-pened. We pride ourselves on being good neighbors and environmental stewards,” explained DePoe.

Before installation, the line was de-energized, and crew members thoroughly inspected the overhead ground wires for damage as a safety precaution. ἀe devices are staggered 50 feet apart  on each of the overhead ground wires.

DSW installed LMDs that clamp onto overhead ground wires. They are made of light plastic and reflective tape so they can easily swivel in the wind, and since they are not stationary, they are more likely visible to birds. “The birds will see [the devices] and not collide with the overhead ground wires,” said DePoe.

Although Lake Watson residents have not experienced an outage from bird collisions on the Prescott-to-Pinnacle Peak line, animals are one of the main causes of power outages in Western’s territory. Biologist Misti Schriner shared, “Western is actively involved in Avian Power Line Interaction Committee efforts to under-stand and educate the utility industry and conservation groups about the nature of power lines and birds.”

Western’s proactive approach to the situation, coupled with the collaborative effort between Maintenance, Environment and the community, created a win-win situation for everyone.