The broad array of parties, including BPA and Northern Wasco People’s Utility District, who collaborated or impacted the project are seen standing in front of the new Quenett Creek Substation in the Port of The Dalles, Oregon, during a recent celebration event on June 13.
With the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River, only a few hundred yards away, this newest piece of electrical infrastructure marked BPA’s continuing commitment to being responsive to customers and to serving as an engine of economic prosperity for the region.
BPA built Quenett Creek Substation in response to a request from Northern Wasco People’s Utility District to serve significant load growth in the area. Quenett Creek is part of a larger project that includes upgrades and new infrastructure at BPA’s nearby Big Eddy and Chenoweth substations.
“This is a time of great change and challenge in the utility industry as we witness technological and market evolution happening in real time,” said BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer during the ceremony. “We need to move faster and be that agile, responsive and effective partner for our customers. One piece of that customer response is to modernize the federal transmission system to further enable economic growth, particularly in the high tech sector that requires highly efficient and reliable sources of power.”
“The bottom line is we value being part of the solution,” Mainzer said.
The work at Quenett Creek, Big Eddy and Chenoweth will help Northern Wasco and BPA to reliably serve load and economic growth in The Dalles, Dallesport, Dufur, Tygh Valley, Lyle, Hood River, Fossil, Cascade Locks, Goldendale, De Moss and many other rural Oregon communities.
Northern Wasco PUD General Manager Roger Kline spoke of the speed and large response of BPA in the construction of Quenett Creek.
“You rallied your team,” Kline said to Mainzer, before referencing the strategic goals outlined in the BPA 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. “The completion of this project illustrates two of those goals in the strategic plan.”
A critical component in bringing Quenett Creek to completion was the partnership and work of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, who maintained a consistent presence on the project site and provided constructive paths forward in resolving any cultural sensitivity that arose with the project.
“As we recognize our past and ancestors, we also look out for ourselves and our future,” said Jeremy Wolf, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for the CTUIR. “Understanding our history is critical. It is more than a place – it is a way of life that must be protected, enhanced, but not forgotten.”
Fellow trustee Aaron Ashley took a moment to recognize BPA’s efforts in this project as a bright spot in the history of energy development in the region and nation that has at times disadvantaged tribes.
“Working with us on this project, you helped us to fulfill our commitments, our inherited responsibilities, to look after our cultural resources,” Ashley said.
BPA broke ground at Quenett Creek Substation in January 2018 on property that was 90% encumbered by a BPA right-of-way, minimizing the impact on limited space within the Port of The Dalles. The name “Quenett” is derived from the word meaning “salmon trout,” or steelhead, and is also the name of a nearby creek where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped.
BPA used an EPC (engineer, procure and construct) strategy and partnered with contractor Burns & McDonnell on the project, allowing BPA to complete much of the design and construction activities in parallel while reducing the time between design completion and construction start.
The project incorporated BPA carpenters, plumbing, electrical, switchboard shop and transmission line crews, as well as contract civil, plumbing, electric and transmission line and control house construction crews. Additional support for the effort came from BPA’s engineering, environment, cultural coordination, geotechnical, survey and realty groups.At the height of the 16-month project activity, at least 60 craft persons and technical staff were working on the project and logged more than 70,000 working hours without a single recordable injury.
Wasco County Commissioner Scott Hege recalled when he first arrived in The Dalles that the only structure in this area of the Port of The Dalles was a lumber manufacturer. Now, the area is a bustling industry center with an emphasis on the high tech sector and names like Google, PowderPure and Hage Electric.
“This investment and infrastructure will serve this entire region for decades to come,” Commissioner Hege said, pointing to the substation. “It’s beautiful, shiny and very powerful."
Representatives from the Confederated Tribe of the Umatilla Indian Reservation described BPA’s Quenett Creek Substation project as a bright spot in the history of interactions between the tribe and the energy sector. Pictured from left is Teara Farrow Ferman, CTUIR; Aaron Ashley, Board of Trustees for the CTUIR; Elliot Mainzer, BPA Administrator; Julius Patrick, CTUIR; Jeremy Wolf, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for CTUIR; Sunshine Schmidt, supervisory archaeologist for BPA; and Brian O’Donnchadha, tribal account executive for BPA.