EPHRATA — Grant County PUD employees will keep working on a plan to build new transmission lines into the Quincy area. Utility district commissioners gave the go-ahead after a three-hour explanation at the regular commission meeting earlier this month.

Commissioner Larry Schaapman said organizations and individuals are working on economic development in Quincy and around the county, and that the PUD shouldn’t be a stumbling block to that work. Utility district accountants have done some analysis, and projected a project to be completed in 2026, at a cost of $139 million.

Louis Szablya, of the PUD’s “large customer” unit, said the utility has received a lot of applications for service in general and in Quincy and Moses Lake in particular. In a recent presentation, Szablya focused on general customers, as opposed to the “emerging industries” class. The emerging industries class (rate class 17) took up a lot of PUD time and attention during the last year, but Szablya said the requests that prompted the transmission line discussions are not class 17 customers.

Those requests amount to about 617 megawatts county-wide, and most, Szablya said, are from large industrial customers (rate class 15). Requests in the Quincy area would take most, if not all, the existing capacity, Szablya said. Moses Lake has more room to grow.

“You have to have a very long, forward-looking time frame.” Designing and building a transmission line takes a minimum of three years, he said, and could take as many as seven or more, depending on the project.

Utility district accountants were asked to determine the impact on the district’s finances. “The one piece that wasn’t discussed (in Szablya’s presentation) was cost,” said John Mertlich, senior manager for financial planning and analysis. The financial analysis looked at the impact if growth continued at its current pace, and if the PUD stopped growing completely.

The accountants are still trying to find all the answers, Mertlich said. When financial planners started analyzing the no-growth option, they discovered more analysis was needed, he said.

The financial analysis found that while the project would be a major capital expense, the ability to grow has long-term benefits for all customers, Mertlich said.