No rate hike for Clark Public Utilities

Proposed 2014 budget sees slight decrease

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

 

Clark Public Utilities expects to head into 2014 with largely status quo spending plans for providing electricity and water to the tens of thousands of residential and business customers it serves in Clark County.

No rate increases are proposed.

Utility managers are presenting the utility's three commissioners with an electric system budget of $367.5 million for 2014, down 0.3 percent from this year's budget of about $368.8 million.

The $1.3 million decrease in the electric system budget is because of a standard reduction in how much power the utility anticipates purchasing from the Bonneville Power Administration next year, said Erica Erland, spokeswoman for the utility.

Overall, the utility is seeing relatively modest demand for electricity. "We aren't experiencing dramatic load growth like we did a decade ago," Erland said. "We are seeing very stable loads, which don't require additional generation."

The public utility's three elected commissioners — Nancy Barnes, Byron Hanke and Jim Malinowski — are expected to decide the final electric and water budgets during a public hearing at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Vancouver Service Center, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, in Vancouver.

'Proactive maintenance'

While the utility anticipates spending less on electric system operations next year, it proposes spending more on the capital projects side.

The utility would spend roughly $27.4 million for substation, transmission and distribution improvements in 2014. That's up 6 percent, or about $1.6 million, from this year's capital budget.

Next year's capital projects include $9.7 million for distribution upgrades, including the replacement of underground power cables in the Heights neighborhood in Vancouver.

"We have a significant amount of buried cable that is aging," Erland said, and next year's capital budget addresses it. "This is proactive maintenance of the system," she said.

For its water system, the utility proposes an operations budget of $16.4 million, up 12 percent, or $1.8 million, from this year's budget of $14.6 million.

Most of that increase is because of a state grant the utility received for further development of the utility's Paradise Point well field. "It's part of our long-term plan to secure (water) supply for potential growth" in north Clark County, Erland said.

The utility anticipates spending $10.6 million on water capital projects in 2014. That's down 5 percent, or about $600,000, from the $11.2 million the utility apportioned this year.