Public Utility Districts (PUDs) are nonprofit, locally regulated utilities created by a vote of the people to “conserve the water and power resources of the State of Washington for the benefit of the people thereof, and to supply public utility service, including water and electricity for all uses.” A voter-approved initiative first authorized the creation of PUDs back in 1930. There are currently 28 PUDs, including Jefferson County PUD, serving communities across Washington State.
Mission of the PUD
To better the lives of our community through the delivery of water, sewer, electric, and broadband services each and every day.
Provide outstanding value and leadership within our community.
Safe and reliable
Act with integrity and respect
Work openly and transparently
Responsive and accountable to our community & each other
History Of Jefferson County PUD No. 1
Jefferson County Public Utility District No. 1 was founded in 1939 as part of the Grange movement to electrify rural communities in WA state. However, Jefferson PUD did not enter the utilities business until 1981, when it acquired its first water district in the community of Gardiner. More water systems followed, as did community drain fields for septic systems. For more than 25 years following that acquisition, Jefferson County PUD operated as a small water and septic district with less than ten employees and a budget of $2 million dollars or less.
In 2008, the citizens of Jefferson County approved a ballot measure authorizing the PUD to pursue the acquisition of the county’s electrical grid from the privately held Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Skagit and Island counties had similar propositions on the ballot, but only Jefferson’s succeeded. Why? In part it was because Jefferson County was a small community at the far end of PSE’s service territory, and PSE did not spend the resources it spent in those other larger counties to fight the proposition.
But it was also because many Jefferson County residents felt the quality of electrical service and reliability had declined after PSE outsourced its line crew services to Sumner-based Potelco in the early 2000s and consolidated its customer service outside of the county. Many residents were equally dismayed when, in 2007, PSE, a Bellevue WA based business for over 50 years, sold to an international consortium based out of Australia.
In 2010, after 2 years of negotiations, the PUD and PSE came to a purchase agreement of $103 million dollars for Jefferson County’s electrical system and all of its assets in 2010. In order to pay for that purchase, the PUD applied for and received funding from the USDA’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) program, borrowing $115 total to cover capital improvements and start up expenses as well as the agreed purchase price.
Resource Manager Bill Graham described 2010 as a year when the planets aligned for the PUD “When we were approved to borrow the money from the USDA to purchase the system, interest rates were at an all time low. And the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) had capacity to take us on as a new Tier 1 customer, which very often they don’t,” said Graham.
BPA power also meant cleaner power. At the time of the purchase agreement in 2010, more than 60% of PSE’s power was generated by non-renewable, carbon emitting coal or natural gas plants. Publicly owned, full service BPA customers have access to power that is primarily (80% or more) generated by hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Hydropower is local, renewable, and carbon-free. To balance its supply of power throughout the year, the BPA also purchases around ten percent of its power from the nuclear reactor at the Columbia Generating Station in the Tri-Cities. Other small amounts of power comes from either wind, solar, gas, coal, or other generating facilities. (Learn more here).
In April of 2013 the PUD took over operation of the grid, becoming the first public agency to take over a private system in WA in more than 65 years. Over the last 6 years the PUD has grown from 8 to 50 employees, and serves over 19,700 electric customers and 5,000 water and septic customers on operating budget of approximately $39 million per year
In 2019, the PUD is beginning work to expand its operations and customer service facility. The remodeled and modernized office will reopen in 2021, bringing together all employees and the board of commissioners in one location for the first time since entering the power business.
Other important power authority-related documents:
Historic contract with Bonneville Power Administration and JPUD, June 30, 2010.
Letter to BPA requesting firm electric service , dated June 14, 2010 from JPUD
A list of early PUD resolutions showing how the PUD was set up and its operating procedures.
Asset Purchase Agreement with PSE signed on Friday, June 4, 2010.
Resolution 2010 – 008 Agreement to acquire PSE’s Jefferson County power service and infrastructure.
Jefferson PUD Utility Development Plan, June 2010 developed by Brown and Kysar, Inc.
Preliminary Feasibility Study Public Utility District No. 1 of Jefferson County Electric System Acquisition – D. Hittle & Associates study, final version released in 2008.
Electric Service Evaluation for East Jefferson County – D. Hittle & Associates performed this study in 2000 to evaluate the existing electrical service in East Jefferson County. The evaluation was needed prior to any decisions involving the PUD entering the public power business.
Projected Economic Impacts of Adding Electrical Distribution Services to PUD#1 of Jefferson County This follow-up study was performed in 2005 by Seattle University professor Paul Sommers. He looked at the impacts on both the PUD and the local community if the PUD provided public power minus capital facilities costs from a new or existing distribution system.
Customer Transition Agreement between PSE and PUD represents the last significant agreement between the two parties. It details the final hand over of Jefferson County PSE customer information to the PUD, February 2013.