Okanogan County PUD commissioners heard updates on projects from both the broadband and electric sides of the utility, including some future plans.
On the broadband side, Network Manager & Broadband Engineer John MacDonald shared that the PUD has upgraded just over half of their 10-Gigabyte network to 100G. In the coming months, the remaining units will be upgrade as well.
The PUD broadband department has worked with area broadband action teams (BAT) to identify 27 areas in the county and pursue grant opportunities to connect homes and businesses to fiber. So far, three grants have been denied, one is unknown, and a few new ones are coming up. MacDonald said to connect fiber to everyone in the county would take an estimated $128 million, so these $5 million or so grants would slowly chip away at the need.
MacDonald said in the past year to date, 36 new fiber builds were completed, compared to 82 in all of 2021 and much smaller numbers in years previous. Fiber continues to increase in demand; as of last report, there were 679 fiber connections out of the 3,898 total end users.
Chief Engineer Dan Simpson shared that on the electric side the PUD switched out several of its oldest substation power transformers over the last 18 months, improving capacity and/or reliability in major substations like Omak, Oroville, Tonasket and Okanogan.
Now that the Okanogan-Brewster transmission line is complete, the PUD will be planning to rebuild the Loup-Loup transmission line and substation, and Oroville’s transmission line. The Loup-Loup is the oldest line and power transformer on the system.
Engineering Manager Allen Allie said that other projects ahead include rebuilds in North Pine Creek, Aeneas Valley, Tonasket substation and more.
Both departments shared the challenges of supply and demand on their equipment – not only is the equipment more expensive but takes much longer to arrive.
In other business, the board approved the surplus of two vehicles beyond their useful life; both items will go to auction.