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2020 fiber plan reviewed

by Cheryl Schweizer
Staff Writer | January 30, 2020 12:36 AM

Expansion scheduled for Quincy, Ephrata areas

EPHRATA — Grant County PUD’s fiber optic network is scheduled to expand around the city of Ephrata in 2020, and along Northeast Road J (Stratford Road) to the town of Stratford, and along Silica Road near Quincy. Some projects scheduled for completion in 2019 should be finished in 2020.

Russ Brethower, senior manager of the PUD’s fiber division, gave a year-end report to utility district commissioners Tuesday. Brethower said the fiber system met the target set for potential subscribers in 2019. However, the fiber program fell short of its target for completed projects in 2019, Brethower said.

Obtaining required permits from the Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Parks delayed expansion in the Coulee City area and around Blue Lake-Park Lake. Some of the permit requests are still pending, and as a result there’s no completion date, Brethower said. Once the permits are received, the construction will take about four weeks.

Construction currently underway in the Ancient Lakes area near Quincy, along McConihe Road north of Moses Lake and on Kittelson Road is scheduled for completion in April and early May, Brethower said. Delays in delivering materials slowed down those projects.

Expansion for 2020 is planned between the Ephrata city limits and Rocky Ford, near Electric City, along Silica Road around the Cave B winery southwest of Quincy, south of Ephrata to the PUD substation, Road 9 Northwest near Quincy and the Gloyd townsite to the town of Stratford.

The fiber optic program met and surpassed the goal set for adding customers who have access to fiber, Brethower said, with 57.45 percent of potential customers being part of the network. The network offers high-speed internet service through retail providers.

Costs for expansion were lower than anticipated in some areas, higher in others. The project was more expensive than budgeted at Sunland Estates and in the Beverly Schwana area. But construction was cheaper than anticipated along Patton Boulevard, McConihe Road and Kittelson Road.

Brethower said getting the necessary permits probably will continue to be a challenge in 2020. With more customers and more traffic, some parts of the network are getting crowded during peak usage periods, he said, so utility district officials will have to start planning how to accommodate that use.

Fiber access was available to about 70 percent of the PUD’s customers before 2018, and commissioners decided in late 2018 to finish the buildout within five years.