Irrigation districts, Grant PUD discuss 2-year contract

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EPHRATA — Electrical transmission line charges that eventually are paid by irrigators will remain unchanged through 2020. Grant County PUD commissioners were updated on the contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Columbia Basin irrigation districts at the commission meeting Tuesday.

The contract replaces a different contract originally signed in 1976 that expired in 2016. The PUD had paid the costs of transmitting electricity for some operations of irrigation districts as part of the original contract. The cost is estimated at about $800,000. The districts had to pay somebody for the electricity, either BPA or another supplier, but didn't have to pay for transmission until the contract expired in 2017.

The PUD is working on analyzing the cost of providing the electricity, as part of a larger cost analysis of all PUD operations, said Jeremy Nolan of the PUD's accounting department. The results of the analysis will be the basis for rates going forward, said Rod Noteboom of the PUD.

The existing contract expires at the end of the year, Noteboom said, but the fees for the next two years will remain the same. After that, the PUD must notify the BPA and irrigation districts by Sept. 1 of any rate changes for the following year. Most of the affected customers are part of the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District and the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District.

In answer to a question from commissioner Bob Bernd, Noteboom said the BPA and the districts had been charged about $130,000 per year under the old contract. That paid for some electrical transmission not covered by the contract, and some capital expenses.

There was discussion of phasing in the new charges, Noteboom said, but in the end irrigation district operators decided against that approach.

The review of the line transmission rates is part of a larger study of rates and the cost of providing service to all PUD customers. Nolan said at earlier meetings that it could result in revision of some rate classes.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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