Champagne bar pops off in the valley
WENATCHEE — Perhaps the one thing that could make a slice of cake better is a glass of bubbling champagne.
Cake Chic Studio introduced a champagne bar element, "Bubbly By Cake Chic," in May. The shop operated solely as a cake bakery for around 12 years, according to owner Jodi Johnston. She said she still runs the cake portion, while her daughter, Stephannie Torres, handles the champagne.
Johnston said that after closing down at their old location during COVID-19, she and her daughter wanted something new.
"I just didn't want to go back into a facility that I didn't meet with people or see people every day. All I did was work on cake, and that was it," she said. "So what can you do that pairs well with cake?"
The answer was in a family tradition, Johnston said. Every Sunday, they enjoy a champagne night, which gave them inspiration to include it in Cake Chic Studio.
The Cake Chic team moved to 614 Riverside Drive last fall, with around 1,200 square feet of space to start the champagne endeavors.
What started as a goal to have around five labels has turned into 50 different champagnes and sparkling wines from all over the world. Johnston said their selection of champagne is one of the largest in Washington, and is a one-of-a-kind spot in the valley.
Johnston said champagne can be purchased by the glass or by the bottle, with bottle price ranging from $20 to $520. The shop generally has 300 plus bottles of champagne in stock at a time.
The shop has also started carrying other types of liquor, like scotch and bourbon.
Before the opening of the champagne bar, Cake Chic mostly received clients shopping for wedding cakes. Now, Johnston said she sees customers for a variety of reasons, from birthday celebrations to a girl's night on the town.
Mission Ridge adds night-skiing lights, magic carpet tow
WENATCHEE — More night skiing options for the experts and a new "magic carpet" tow for the novices are coming this winter to Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, all part of more than $500,000 in reinvestment projects being completed this summer.
All they're waiting for now is snow.
Crews completed the installation of 42 new light poles at the top of the mountain that will expand night skiing runs off the Wenatchee Express chairlift, allowing access to the 6,820-foot level at the ski area's summit, an additional 2,250 feet in vertical rise and a 78% increase in night ski terrain from last season.
The lighting project has been in the planning and preparation stage for several years.
"It will make our night ski operation the second-tallest in the country that we're aware of," Mission Ridge said in a news release.
The night-skiing schedule — for what will now be 11 runs covering 70 acres of lighted terrain, served by three chairlifts and three surface tows — is also being expanded. The mountain will be open for night skiing from 4-9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, starting Dec. 26 and running through the end of February.
In 2019, Mission Ridge increased its night-skiing schedule from 10 nights to 32 nights. This year, the resort is offering 40 chances to ski at night.
The other big change this year is at the base of the mountain. The Pika Peak beginners area now has a carpet lift — a conveyor surface lift often called a "magic carpet." The current Pika Peak rope tow will remain in place as well, increasing uphill capacity for those in the beginner area.
Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority continues Malaga property deal for Microsoft
WENATCHEE — Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority commissioners on Aug. 23 proceeded with buying 23 acres along the Malaga Alcoa Highway, which it likely will sell to Microsoft.
The latest purchase at 5101 Malaga Alcoa Highway includes a mobile home that its current inhabitants could lease for up to two years after closing, under the purchase and sale agreement signed in April.
Marsha Hays owns the property and mobile home, which is diagonally across the street from property on which Microsoft possibly could build six buildings to expand its cloud storage system.
The company purchased 72.5 acres from the port at 5375 Malaga Alcoa Highway on June 24. It also intends to buy two adjacent parcels from the port totaling about 30 acres, as well as the Hays property. The port is buying another nearby 70-acre property where it likely will operate a wastewater facility for Microsoft. The data centers use water to cool equipment through evaporation, and the water must be disposed of properly.
In the Hays-port agreement, the port paid $34,000 in earnest money and will buy the property for $685,650.
Waterville Airport improvements planned
WATERVILLE — The Waterville Airport likely will get a $627,000 upgrade by the end of the year with help from a $513,002 state Department of Transportation Aviation grant.
The grant will pay for 90% of the project, said Stacie De Mestre, Chelan Douglas Port Authority’s public works and capital projects manager. Colvico Inc. will do the work on what is expected to be a nine-week project, she said.
The project includes replacing the runway’s edge lighting and control system, demolishing a 50-plus-year-old hangar, installing a vault restroom and tip down rotating beacon, she said. The restroom will also house electrical equipment.
The runway is 2,530-by-50 feet, according to WSDOT’s website.
The project also includes installing a tip down pole for a webcam, an airplane counter, and adding internet service.
Peshastin water users might see $38 jump in monthly bill
WENATCHEE — About 238 Peshastin Water District customers could see their monthly water bill jump $38 due to system upgrades in a "worst case scenario," officials said.
Customers also might see about a $10 decrease in the current base rate.
The extra charge would help offset about $3.1 million in debt incurred by the Chelan County PUD, should PUD commissioners sign off on acquiring the water district later this year — and if the PUD decides to make all the suggested upgrades. The extra charge would continue just long enough to pay off any loan.
The PUD began due diligence for possible acquisition after the PWD first asked the PUD about it in 2016. The PUD already operates the Peshastin wastewater system.
PWD General Manager Steve Keene said the organization wants the PUD to acquire it because the PWD has too few customers to pay for needed upgrades, like a new well.
The $3.1 million worth of capital improvement projects would include:
- About $1.8 million for a new well to replace two of the three existing wells.
- $478,000 to replace a booster pump station.
- $356,000 to improve reservoir safety.
- $239,000 for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) improvements.
- $100,000 to replace the automatic meter reading system.
- $66,000 to improve metering distribution.
The PUD would seek grants to help offset any debt, said Ron Slabaugh, PUD water and wastewater manager, at the Sept. 19 commission meeting.
If the PUD agrees to move forward, water district customers would transition to base PUD water rates, which on average are about $10 less than what they are now paying. That does not include the potential debt surcharge.
Underwater fiber optic cable proposed for Microsoft, possibly others
EAST WENATCHEE — Intermountain Infrastructure Group (IIG) wants to submerge a 1-inch, 75,000-foot-long fiber optic cable in the Columbia River — from East Wenatchee to Rock Island Dam — to connect Microsoft's data centers in the Wenatchee Valley, according to documents.
The 466-page application for a "shoreline substantial development permit for a regional submerged fiber optic line" was submitted to Douglas County Transportation and Land Services Sept. 9, and posted on the agency's website.
The California-based telecommunications firm would own the cable, said Jeff Yount, IIG CEO. He said it will serve multiple purposes and run "right past" Microsoft's data centers.
The application states:
"This project is part of a secure and diverse fiber optic network between East Wenatchee and Rock Island Dam designed to service high availability data centers within the community. There are 2 diverse fiber networks between the data centers. The 2 proposed marine fiber cables will make up a significant portion of the routes. The end customer for the network is Microsoft Corporation... The purpose of this project is to deliver a method of reliable, fast-paced data transfer between local Microsoft Corporation data centers in the area."
The public comment period on the application began Sept. 9 and ends Oct. 10.
Visit douglascountywa.net/271/Land-Services to view the document.
The project includes laying 32,562 feet of "environmentally benign 288-count" marine fiber cable on the river bottom between 3220 S.E. Rivers Edge Court, in East Wenatchee and Rock Island Dam Chelan County PUD property. Microsoft is building a data center in Malaga and near Pangborn Memorial Airport. It already has one in Quincy.
Another 37,437 feet of the cable will run underwater, between Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park (1682 Highway 28) and the Rock Island Dam.
British Columbia-based Telecommunications firm Baylink Networks Inc. is responsible for permitting the land section from the vault to the nearest road or place of extension.
Pangborn Memorial Airport runway to temporarily close during construction
EAST WENATCHEE — Those wishing to fly in or out of Pangborn Memorial Airport will be out of luck for a few days in November.
Upgrades to the airport's lighting system — Medium-intensity Approach Lighting System with Runway alignment indicator lights (MALSR) — will be underway, causing a full runway closure Nov. 9-11.
The runway will also be closed from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Oct. 26-Nov. 8 and Nov. 12-14, said Stacie De Mestre, public works and capital projects manager for the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority. The expected completion is Dec. 2.
The new lights will allow pilots to fly their approach when the visibility is half a mile rather than 1 mile and increase chances of landings in poor weather conditions, according to Trent Moyers, port director of airports.
He said about 60% of aircraft cannot now land in inclement weather due to poor visibility. Pilots can use instruments to guide them until they reach a certain elevation, after which they must rely more on visual aids.
Spokane-based Colvico Inc. was awarded the $3 million contract in June. The entire project will cost about $4.3 million.
Chelan County seeks tourism projects to fund
WENATCHEE — Whether it's music and song, biking and beer or something beyond, Chelan County is looking for tourism-boosting events that could use financial support in the form of lodging taxes.
The application period for the annual funding requests for events that will take place in calendar year 2023 runs through 4 p.m. Oct. 14.
The county has about $280,000 to distribute this year specifically for tourist-related programs.
Last fall, 17 of the 29 organizations that applied received a total of $222,900 in funds that are being spent this year to invite visitors to the area.
Lodging taxes are collected from guests staying at county hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals. In addition to funding tourism events, money also is set aside for capital projects, which will be the topic of a separate grant application process later this year.
Applications for both events and capital projects are reviewed by the nine-member Chelan County Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of lodging businesses and organizations that might benefit from lodging taxes. It is led by Chelan County Commissioner Tiffany Gering.
For information on the application process, go to wwrld.us/lodgingfunds.
Construction begins on new vestibule at Chelan County Courthouse
WENATCHEE — Construction started Sept. 12 on the open breezeway between the Chelan County Courthouse and the adjacent Regional Law and Justice Center, transforming it into one enclosed entryway.
Chelan County commissioners approved the $1.5 million project in August. It is expected to be completed in May 2023.
The new vestibule will be 492 square feet, made up mostly of glass and include updated security features and metal detectors among other improvements, according to the news release.
No public entrance will lead directly to the courthouse during construction. Visitors will have to use one of the two established entrances.
From the east parking lot (near the Wenatchee Public Library), use the marked public entrance near the Sheriff's Office. To access the buildings from Washington Street, use the marked public entrance near the Law and Justice Center.
Metal detectors and security officers will be set up at both marked entrances.
Davenport-based Halme Builders is the general contractor.
Coming PUD traffic load prompts changes to Olds Station roads
WENATCHEE — Chelan County PUD's new headquarters in Olds Station, and the 300 employees that will arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon, requires road construction to accommodate anticipated traffic to the area.
PUD employees won't begin relocating to the area until summer 2023, but road construction started in early September. Paving is anticipated to start in mid-October.
The first northbound Easy Street exit off of Highway 285 (North Wenatchee Avenue north of the Wenatchee River) will close for about two weeks in mid-October to allow for reconfiguring Easy Street south of Penny Road into a two-way road.
- Removal of the onramp at Olds Station Road and Easy Street, with a three-way stop sign installed at Olds Station Road and Chester Kimm Road.
- Easy Street changing to a two-way road from the Penny Road intersection south to a new extended Technology Center Way.
- Traffic signal updates at Easy Street and Penny Road.
- Technology Center Way extending to Easy Street.
- Chester Kimm Road northbound becoming right-turn only onto Penny Road 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.
The PUD budgeted $900,000 for the road project as part of the service center's $140 million capital budget, said Rachel Hansen, PUD spokesperson. Smith Excavation of Wenatchee will provide road construction and paving.
The PUD, city of Wenatchee, Chelan County and the state Department of Transportation are coordinating the road changes.
Hearing examiner OKs 200-home Peshastin development despite neighbor concerns
PESHASTIN — A proposed 200-home development in Peshastin, stalled by environmental concerns from neighbors earlier this year, has been approved by the Chelan County Hearing Examiner.
The 42-acre Pine Ridge development is on former pear orchard land and much of the surrounding area is used for agriculture.
The proposal would create 134 lots across three parcels and would include a mix of single-family houses, duplexes and townhouses for moderate- to middle-income homeowners.
The development application was submitted to the county in December 2020 by Dan Beardslee, an agent for the applicant, Bergren Tree Fruits LLC.
Grants awarded for affordable housing projects in Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Chelan and Manson
WENATCHEE — Nearly $1 million has been awarded to three affordable housing projects and a new firefighter training center in Manson.
Chelan County commissioners awarded $923,000 to four projects via the county's Cascade Public Infrastructure Fund, a grant program in its second year.
The fund uses existing revenues from the Rural Counties Tax — a .09% sales-and-use-tax imposed in rural counties. Revenues from this tax was limited to public facilities until new legislation was signed into law in March that allowed housing authorities or housing trusts to apply for the funds.
The four projects are:
- $324,160 to the Housing Authority of Chelan County and the City of Wenatchee. The money will be used to extend sewer services to the Mountainview Housing development project on 6.6 acres on Olin Street in Entiat. The development will consist of 12 buildings and a variety of units serving low-income residents and farmworker households.
- $310,000 to Upper Valley MEND of Leavenworth to buy workforce housing units in Leavenworth.
- $189,040 to the Chelan Valley Housing Trust in Chelan to buy 1.7 acres next to the trust's development on Iowa Street. More housing will be built on the acquired property.
- $100,000 to Chelan County Fire District 5 in Manson to build a fire training center on Wapato Lake Road on land owned by the district. The training center may help reduce home insurance rates.
The fund is managed by the Chelan County Economic Development Department. The goal of the fund is to invest nearly $2.5 million into economic development projects in Chelan County between 2021 to 2023, according to a news release.
Another 44 lots approved in Sunnyslope's Pheasant Hills subdivision
WENATCHEE — The last 44 lots to be platted as part of the Pheasant Hills subdivision in Sunnyslope were approved by Chelan County commissioners Aug. 30.
The total subdivision has 94 single-family lots spread across 18.7 acres, according to county documents. The average lot size is approximately 6,141 square feet.
The Chelan County Hearing Examiner approved the phased subdivision in September 2019. The initial applicant, Danny Campbell of D&T Campbell Investments LLC, a California-based investment company, sold the development in February 2020 to Pheasant Hills Estates LLC, a Wenatchee developer, for about $3.4 million.
The neighborhood is located off Easy Street, and as part of the subdivision, follows along two new internal roads — Emma Drive and Salmon Drive.
Once the remaining 44 lots are built out, the subdivision is estimated to house about 249 people, with homes in the "middle- to high-income range," according to the SEPA checklist.
About 18 of the houses built as part of the first two phases sold in the past three months, according to Premier One Properties website. Most of these homes were listed for sale this year and sold for between $537,900 and $599,900.
Wenatchee purchases Pybus parking lots
WENATCHEE — Wenatchee is buying up the parking lots just south of Pybus Public Market.
The city council approved two separate action items Aug. 25 authorizing Mayor Frank Kuntz to sign sale agreements between Wenatchee and the owners of the lots. Altogether, the two acquisitions will cost the city $1.625 million.
Two of the three parcels — 101 and 125 S. Worthen St. — were owned by South of Pybus LLC until Aug. 22 when the company distributed the parcels to its two owners, Michael Noyd of Wenatchee's Noyd & Noyd Insurance Agency and local businessman Mike Walker. That same day, Walker transferred his portion of the property to the Pybus Charitable Foundation, which he founded in 2012 alongside his wife, JoAnn.
Noyd and the foundation are selling the two parcels totaling 1.12 acres to Wenatchee for $1.17 million. These two parcels come with a 10-year covenant for parking, only after which the city could convert them to something else.
The other transaction is between the city and ETV LLC, which Noyd also owns. The city is buying the half-acre property at 131 S. Worthen for $455,000. Executive Services Director Laura Gloria said the ETV property is also under a covenant, limiting its use to professional or commercial purposes.
The money for both of the purchases will come from Wenatchee's Local Revitalization Financing fund. Gloria said Wenatchee plans to keep the overflow parking lots as they are for now, but that could change in the future.
Douglas County PUD to buy land near headquarters
EAST WENATCHEE — Douglas County PUD commissioners on Aug. 22 approved the $800,000 purchase of nearly 4 acres across the street from PUD headquarters in East Wenatchee.
A purchase and sale agreement, which is part of the process, also will be drafted for the 3.92 acres, according to the resolution.
PUD general manager Gary Ivory said the PUD hopes "the city will be amenable to us to develop it (the land) for our needs."
The PUD was not actively searching for property when the parcel at 1301 N. Arbor Terrace came on the market earlier this year, PUD spokesperson Meaghan Vibbert wrote in an email.
The PUD's main offices are at 1151 Valley Mall Parkway and south of 13th Street N.E.. The PUD already owns about nine parcels totaling 14.26 acres in that area, according to the Douglas County Assessor's Office website.
Fees go up for Chelan County road-related permits
WENATCHEE — Fees collected on permit applications for things like new addresses, driveways connected to county roads, land use permits and events using Chelan County roads increased Sept. 1
The Chelan County commissioners approved the fee changes in July based on the average time spent to process and review permit applications, said Eric Pierson, Chelan County Public Works director and county engineer, in a county news release.
A couple of additional fee categories were created or were separated out into different fees. Find a copy of the new fee schedule at wwrld.us/fee.
Some examples of the changes include an increase to the fee collected for event permits from $100 to $250. Event permits are required for any organized activity like parades or street fairs that include the use of county roads.
The initial fee on a short plat with road improvements went from $400 to $1,790, according to the fee schedule.
The fee increases are meant to cover about 75% of costs associated with the application, which include reviewing applications and, in some cases, field inspections Pierson said. Before the changes, the fees were only covering about 30% of the costs, he said.
Pierson said the department last adjusted fees in 2014.
Confluence Health hospitals and clinics getting new names
WENATCHEE — Confluence Health — the region's largest health care provider — announced Aug. 19 plans to change the name of several of its hospitals and clinics to present a more unified identity.
Central Washington Hospital, as it has been known since the 1970s, will be renamed Confluence Health Hospital Central Campus. It is located at 1201 S. Miller St.
Wenatchee Valley Hospital, at 820 N. Chelan Ave., will become Confluence Health Hospital Mares Campus.
The name changes are coming sometime in summer 2023 and are meant to make it easier for patients to understand that the two hospitals are part of the same system, according to a Confluence Health news release.
The two hospitals have been operating under separate licenses but will soon unite under one license, technically one hospital at two locations.
In Omak and Moses Lake, Confluence's clinics will be referred to as campuses — the Confluence Health Omak Campus and the Confluence Health Moses Lake Campus. All other rural health clinics, including the Confluence Health Methow Valley Clinic, will continue to be referred to as clinics.
NCW Tech Alliance relocates to Pybus Public Market
WENATCHEE — After three years of calling The Mercantile at 14 N. Wenatchee Ave. home, NCW Tech Alliance has a new main office.
The nonprofit announced Aug. 24 it has moved its headquarters to the Technology Incubator Space within Pybus Public Market, which is run by the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority.
NCW Tech, which provides resources for technology, entrepreneurship and STEM education throughout North Central Washington, is also seeking new board members for next year. Interested applicants can visit the website at wwrld.us/NCWTech.
T-O Engineers merges with Ardurra Group
EAST WENATCHEE — Tampa-based engineering and consulting firm Ardurra Group Inc. has acquired and merged with Boise-based T-O Engineers Inc., which recently opened an office in East Wenatchee.
T-O Engineers has several contracts with the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority for projects at Pangborn Memorial Airport. The full-service engineering firm, which specializes in aviation, transportation, public works, water and wastewater projects, has about 200 employees in nine offices across Idaho, Washington, Utah and Wyoming.
According to a press release, T-O Engineers will serve as a platform for Ardurra Group's expansion in the aviation market and geographically in the Northwest region.
Grace City Church appeals permit conditions for new building
WENATCHEE — The addition of a 12,000-square-foot "children's training space" on Grace City Church's 10-acre campus was approved by the city in August, but the attached conditions aren't sitting well.
The church filed an appeal in Chelan County Superior Court Aug. 31 disputing conditions placed by the Wenatchee hearing examiner that include staffing a complaint line during construction and limiting the operation of the facility to only Sunday service.
The property at 277 Melody Lane contains a main church building, a separate wedding chapel and another multi-purpose building. The new facility would be the fourth structure on the property.
One of the objections is the hearing examiner's view that the conditional use permit is considered an amendment of two previous permits, one approved in 2015 for the "place of worship" and one earlier this year for a daycare.
The hearing examiner's decision, published Aug. 3, tacked the conditions of approval from the two previous permits onto the newest permit.
The conditional use permit from 2015 allows the applicant to build up to 40,000 square feet of floor area on the property. With the new building, the facility will be close to its square-foot limit, according to the project narrative.
Another of the church's objections is the requirement that this new training space be used exclusively for children of members of Grace City Church on Sundays during regularly scheduled church services.
A member of the public submitted a public comment noting that the church had received a commercial building permit for a storage building in 2021. In 2022, the church applied for and received a "change of use," turning it into a multi-purpose building.
Their concern was that a similar change could happen with the new facility.
Neighbors spoke at the public hearing addressed ongoing concerns about traffic, parking and noise.
The phone line, another condition the church is disputing, would require a staff member to be on call at all times to address public complaints during construction.
The requirement, according to the church's appeal, is "unreasonable, arbitrary (and) capricious," and violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law that protects religious entities from certain zoning laws.
The city has 20 days after being served with the appeal to respond, or a default judgement could be entered, according to court documents.
COVID-19 emergency officially over Oct. 31
WENATCHEE — The state's COVID-19 state of emergency officially ends Oct. 31 along with the vaccination requirement for health care workers falling into the hands of employers, following an announcement from Gov. Jay Inslee on Sept. 8.
"Ending this order does not mean we take (COVID-19) less seriously or will lose focus on how this virus has changed the way we live," Inslee said in a statement. "We will continue our commitments to the public's well-being, but simply through different tools that are now more appropriate for the era we've entered."
Inslee said he was choosing to lift the state of emergency now, in part, because of the wide availability of new COVID treatments and people's "ability, to a significant degree, to protect themselves."
The state had already rolled back most COVID-19 orders before the governor's announcement, including canceling indoor mask mandates and loosening vaccine verification requirements.
A state Department of Health order requiring face coverings in health care and long-term care settings, as well as some correctional facilities, will remain in place.
Vaccination will remain a condition of employment for most state agencies, according to the news release.
Vaccination requirements for health care and education workers will end along with every other COVID-19 proclamation, but employers can still require them if they choose, according to a news release from the governor's office.
Link Transit begins search for new general manager
WENATCHEE — Link Transit has begun the process to replace its longtime General Manager Richard DeRock, who's retiring next year.
Link's Board of Directors authorized staffers on Sept. 20 to issue a request for proposal to find a national search firm,.
The search firm will solicit candidates to succeed DeRock as general manager. The process is expected to take six to eight months.
DeRock has led Link for about 20 years — a little less than half of his four-decade career in public transit. In late June, he was sworn in as Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority commissioner, representing Chelan County District 3.
Chelan County PUD commissioners agree to fund seven community projects
WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD commissioners agreed to fund seven community projects for the Public Power Benefit Program in 2022-2023.
The seven chosen so far include:
STEAM-based activities added to the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center Coyote’s Corner for children 6 and younger. The project is estimated at $460,000.
Expanding the PUD’s broadband with $2 million.
Resurfacing existing courts and adding a new standalone basketball court at Walla Walla Point Park for $500,000.
Supporting employment for people with cognitive disabilities. The project has occurred for several years. The $140,000 supports it for five more years.
Contributing $100,000 toward a planned community park in Chelan.
Assessing near-shore water quality degradation, nutrient sources and algae growth at Lake Chelan by the Lake Chelan Research Institute with $270,000.
Getting more students engaged/showing job opportunities at the PUD’s Jobs Awareness and Readiness project for $250,000. The five-year proposal would focus on utility-specific outreach, mentoring, education and more, and be geared toward teenagers and community college students.
PUD pens letter to give Horan Natural Area special noise category
WENATCHEE — Chelan County PUD is moving forward with trying to give the Horan Natural Area a special noise classification.
The classification would help keep the noise level low and dictate what mitigation measures would need to occur with the city of Wenatchee's Confluence Parkway project, such as making sound walls higher.
The PUD is working with the city to ask the Federal Highway Administration to list the wetland as an area where "serenity and quiet are of extraordinary significance and serve an important public need."
Michelle Smith, PUD director of hydro licensing, said Sept. 7 that the designation would go to the eastern part of the Horan that parallels the Columbia River, where no motorized vehicles are allowed. The Horan includes some areas outside of that, for which the PUD is not seeking special classification.
The letter will be included in a packet submitted by the Washington State Department of Transportation to the Federal Highway Administration in the next couple of months, Smith said. The WSDOT submits the application as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process specifically requesting the noise designation. The city requested the PUD provide the information to share with WSDOT, which will also receive other documents from the city and the PUD.
The federal agency has the final say on Horan's noise category, which could come in February.
Construction on the Confluence Parkway project is expected to begin in 2025.
Chelan County organizations receive state pandemic relief grants
CHELAN COUNTY — Washington state is granting almost $65,000 in pandemic relief to local organizations across Chelan County, part of the $3.3 million in tourism relief grants being distributed to 300 community festivals, organizations, and events across the state.
All of the recipients are "legacy-level," meaning they've been held in the community for five years or longer. They're all in communities of fewer than 100,000 residents, and they each showed financial loss due to COVID-19.
Fiestas Mexicanas, the Wenatchee Downtown Association and the Wenatchee River Institute (WRI) will receive a combined $22,000 in grants while the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce in Chelan will receive $17,500, and Leavenworth's Icicle Creek Center for the Arts will receive $25,000. Altogether, the five organizations will receive $64,500.
Chelan County PUD begins air-lubricated turbine project
ROCK ISLAND — A first-of-its-kind in Washington state is coming to Rock Island Dam's Powerhouse 2 — with the refurbishment and/or replacement of its eight horizontal bulb turbine hubs.
The Chelan County PUD is replacing the more than 40-year-old parts with air-lubricated turbines and refurbishing salvagable parts of the old mineral oil-lubricated ones.
The $456 million project is expected to be complete around 2030 and is completely funded by the PUD.
Temporary structures began being placed alongside the dam in late August to house turbine parts from each unit, with disassembly expected in November. The parts will be inspected and refurbished or replaced, and combined with new turbines beginning in 2023.
The PUD began several years ago shopping for replacement options for the dam's aging parts, said Brett Bickford, PUD managing director of transmission and generation. Water- and air-lubricated turbines emerged in Europe, he said, as he attended different forums and learned about it. But it took until around 2016 for the technology to evolve enough for it to last longer than 20 years, which was what the PUD needed, he said. Most oil-lubricated turbines have a 40-year or so lifespan, he said.
The dam's Powerhouse 2 was built between 1974 and 1979 with the Columbia River's only eight horizontal bulb turbine generators. The 500-ton apiece units came up the river on barges from France.
Wear on the turbine parts makes it more likely for the mineral oil lubricant to leak, said John Sagerser, manager of engineering and project management. A couple hundred gallons of oil have escaped since the dam's beginning in 1933, when Powerhouse 1 was built, he said.
Each turbine hub holds about 1,500 gallons of mineral oil, which "is checked for cleanliness, viscosity, and other criteria about every four years," Sagerser said. "The oil is cleaned up (and reused) and/or replaced as necessary depending on the results of these inspections."
One brand new hub's creation began in Turkey in 2021, and will be shipped to Quebec for re-assembly and testing, he said. That hub will be swapped with an existing hub, after which the old hub will be modified for air. That includes adding bushing material needed, teflon/plastic, and discarding the old metal bushing. A leftover hub at the end of the project will be discarded.
Using air instead of mineral oil as lubricant decreases the chance of oil escaping into the Columbia River, which is more environmentally friendly.
Two new 250-ton capacity cranes — which replaced the old bridge crane at the dam this year — will help lift those turbines and pieces out. The cranes are needed for the giant turbines and generators, as well as other parts. Lifting giant turbines out is a very precise process, with pieces moving within inches of the units' hatches.
The new equipment began development in 2021, with the PUD contracting with GE Renewable Energy. It's expected to take about two years from making the first turbine to installing and testing it, with commercial operation starting in mid-2024.
Chelan County PUD to add water to new turbines
WENATCHEE — A $26 million pilot project to refurbish and upgrade two of Rocky Reach Dam's 11 Kaplan turbines from mineral oil to water lubrication could begin in November.
Some of the dam's 11 turbines began cracking in 2013, said George Velazquez, PUD engineering and project management manager. Some of those were fixed, he said, using the normal mineral oil lubrication system, but two, C-10 and C-11, were not. The PUD around the same time was looking at new technology, like air and water lubrication, he said.
The dam's construction started in 1956, with commercial operation in 1961 on seven generators. Four generators were added between 1969 and 1971.
Since then, the PUD has repaired turbines in stages.
Rock Island Dam's Powerhouse 2 is getting air-lubricated turbines and refurbished salvagable parts of the eight old mineral oil-lubricated, horizontal bulb turbine hubs.
The $456 million project is expected to be complete around 2030 and is completely funded by the PUD.
Voith GmbH & Co. KGaA was working recently with the PUD and suggested the PUD use its water-lubricated products and design at Rocky Reach Dam.
The first turbine, C-11, will be taken apart by PUD crews, with its hub sent to Pennsylvania, where Voith will refurbish and change out parts like the bushings. Those will go from metal to things like synthetic Orkot Marine Bearings, which don't need lubrication, Velazquez said.
"One of the things we're focusing on is reducing oil in the hydro projects," he said.
This eliminates the risk of oil spilling into the river, which could harm certain species and wash up on riverbanks, although he said the oil is fish-friendly.
The state Department of Ecology in February 2021 fined the PUD $1,500 for a 2019 hydraulic oil spill at Rocky Reach Dam, according to World archives. An assessment by dam employees determined 208 gallons of hydraulic oil were released into the Columbia River between Jan. 2 and Feb. 19, 2019.
A small amount of oil was released into the river in March 2018 from a Rock Island Dam turbine being prepped for repair, according to World archives. The oil created a sheen, which was cleaned up with absorbent containment booms and an oil skimmer.
Each turbine holds about 2,500 gallons of oil at any given time, Velazquez said, but there likely will be less with water-lubricated turbines.
C-11's 145 megawatt generating capacity will be offline for around 16 months while it's refurbished, Velazquez said.
Eager, cautious officials explore proposed regional aquatic center
WENATCHEE — Enthusiasm and caution filled the air Sept. 16 during a discussion among city, county, regional port, sports and other officials about a regional aquatic center.
The center, which would replace Wenatchee's aging public pool, could bring economic and quality-of-life benefits to the Wenatchee Valley, said state Sen. Brad Hawkins, who is proposing state legislation that would allow a regional aquatic district to form. Sales tax would be collected from inside the district, providing revenue for the center.
Hawkins suggested Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority take the lead on starting the project.
Jim Kuntz, port CEO, said he would talk with port commissioners about hiring a consulting firm to study whether the community could support such a facility. The analytical study could include how much revenue might be generated from a one-tenth or two-tenths of a 1% sales tax, but details were not finalized.
The center could include a 50-meter Olympic size pool, indoor or outdoor, splash pad, zero-entry children's pool, water slides and picnic area. It could be on 283 acres in the Wenatchi Landing at Odabashian Bridge and Sunset Highway.
Hawkins' legislation says entities can decide whether they want to join the district. If all of unincorporated Chelan and Douglas counties, and 10 incorporated cities within the counties, collected a two-tenths of a 1% sales tax, nearly $6 million could be raised in fiscal year 2024, according to a handout from Hawkins. He said he got the information from the state Department of Revenue. The tax could bring in about $10.6 million in fiscal year 2025, and $12 million in fiscal year 2029.
However, if some cities, like Leavenworth, opted out of the regional aquatic district, far less funding would be available. Additionally, some cities may be prohibited from collecting two-tenths, because they're already collecting one-tenth, so Hawkins said he would get more information.
Dorry Foster, Wenatchee Valley YMCA CEO, and Steve Robinson, YMCA board member and capital project chairperson, reminded the group of 34 the YMCA has plans for a $22 million, 45,000-square-foot facility with a 25-yard pool, for which architects were hired last week.
Foster said she is worried residents wouldn't want to donate toward the YMCA pool if they were being taxed for a larger facility. She also is concerned another new facility would take away possible YMCA members and perhaps duplicate services.
Officials agreed to gather again for discussion on Oct. 19 or 20 and speak with coworkers about the proposed facility.
DNR finalizes Trust Land transfer list
WENATCHEE — The state Department of Natural Resources is looking to conserve a 3,000-acre property in the Dry Gulch Preserve area.
Dry Gulch and nine other properties are proposed to be transferred to public agencies, including the DNR's Natural Areas program, state Fish & Wildlife, Washington State Parks and county governments.
The DNR announced Sept. 6 that it will submit 10 properties to the state Office of Financial Management and the Governor's Office as part of its requests for funding in the 2023 legislative session.
Under the proposal, the 3,023-acre Dry Gulch parcel east of Wenatchee would be transferred to the DNR's Natural Areas programs and then added to its existing Upper Dry Gulch Natural Area Preserve, the release said.
The property contains 95% of all known habitat of the Whited's milk-vetch, an endangered plant unique to Chelan County. The DNR obtained about two-thirds of the property in 2020 as part of a land swap with Ravenwing Ranch, the release said.
The DNR generates more than $250 million each year by managing land trusts, which are in turn required to generate money through leases and forest management for education and local services, the release said.
The Trust Land Transfer tool is used to transfer lands that provide ecological or public benefits, but don't earn expected amounts of revenue.
Omak's Mid-Valley Hospital selects new CEO
OMAK — Mid-Valley Hospital announced Aug. 23 that John R. White has been named CEO.
White was selected after the Mid-Valley Hospital and Clinic board conducted a nationwide search that included more than 100 applications and then narrowed the list to four finalists.
The finalists met with hospital and clinic staff, along with the board, during on-site interviews, according to a news release.
White's experience includes serving as CEO and administrator at several hospitals over the last 18 years including Newport, Moses Lake, Goldendale and Honolulu.
He graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor's degree in business administration and from the University of Washington with a master's degree in health care administration, according to a news release.
White will fill the role of CEO officially sometime in late September or early October.
Mid-Valley's previous CEO, Alan Fisher, resigned in March.
Mid-Valley Hospital is a publicly owned 44-bed critical access care hospital in Omak.
Search for next WVC president moves forward
WENATCHEE — The search for Wenatchee Valley College's next president is moving forward.
The application window for the position closed Sept. 28, with in-person semifinalist interviews planned for Oct. 17 and 18. The eventual candidate will replace the retiring President Jim Richardson, who has been on the job since 2005.
In March, the WVC's board of trustees extended Richardson's contract through Dec. 31. The contract will end earlier if a new president begins before that date.
In February, the search committee of trustees, faculty members, tribal representation and college administrators hired Academic Search Inc. to assist with the search.
The profile prepared by Academic Search provides a list of qualifications and credentials preferred by the search committee and a general overview of the position.
The required qualifications include a master's degree, a "broad range of leadership experience to apply to position responsibilities and contribute to the community," and a sense of humor, according to the position profile. An earned doctorate is listed as "highly preferred" in the additional qualifications, as is teaching experience and an "understanding of both academic and student affairs."
Wenatchee School District names new finance director
WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee School District has hired Sean Fitzgerald from the Renton School District as the next finance director.
Fitzgerald is listed on Renton's website as the district's "financial manager." The hire came after a series of interviews in mid-August.
The cabinet-level position oversees the "annual budget development process, administration and long-range financial planning for the district," according to a job description, which listed the salary range for the position was $174,398 to $179,669.
Jannette Jeffris, who held the position for about two years, resigned near the end of June.
Fitzgerald's first day in Wenatchee was Sept. 19.
Chelan, Douglas counties sign settlement deal with opioid distributors
WENATCHEE — Chelan and Douglas counties will receive more than $2 million throughout the next 17 years to help address damage created by the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Chelan County commissioners signed an allocation agreement Aug. 22, to comply with the terms of a large settlement against three opioid distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen — negotiated by the state.
A total $215 million is being dispersed among the 39 counties and other municipalities. Chelan County will receive about 0.74% of that total. About 15% of their share, however, is going to attorney’s fees.
Chelan County will receive about $80,000 each year for 17 years, in total about $1.36 million, with a payment of about $160,000 the first year, Chelan County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons said in an email Aug. 22.
Douglas County is expecting to receive about $50,000 per year during that same time period, or about $845,000 in total, without accounting for the 15% subtracted in attorney fees, Douglas County Board Clerk Tiana Rowland said in an email. Douglas County will receive about 0.4% of the $215 million.
The city of Wenatchee will receive about 0.3% of the total $215 million. And the city of East Wenatchee will receive about 0.08%.