Election View: McClure proud of PUD No. 1's stewardship, economic development

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 17, 2014 

It's been my privilege the last six years to serve the people of Whatcom County as a commissioner of Public Utility District No. 1. PUD No. 1 has reliably provided electricity and water to industries critical to the economic health of the county - all without asking taxpayers for anything. I'm seeking a second term so I may continue to work with the other commissioners and PUD staff members following a path of sound financial management and environmental stewardship.

PUD No. 1 first began serving industries at Cherry Point in 1953. It has since expanded to provide industrial-grade water to 10 customers including ALCOA Intalco Works, BP Cherry Point Refinery, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery and two Puget Sound Energy generation facilities. We also provide potable water and fire protection for Grandview/I-5 idustrial prks as well as service to approximately 50 irrigation customers. All in all, these industries represent some of the best-paying jobs in our community, and PUD No. 1 is proud of its role in supporting economic development in the region.

However, we are not just a water utility. Through direct purchase of power from the Bonneville Power Administration, we are also able to provide affordable electricity to some of these same industrial customers, as well as serving our own water system needs. With 27 megawatts of power and 15 miles of transmission and distribution lines, we are prepared to meet the needs of additional industrial customers in our service area.

During the past several years PUD No. 1 has embarked on a $30 million capital improvement program, which will be completed this summer. This investment in critical infrastructure ensures we can continue to provide efficient and affordable services well into the future.

PUD No. 1 is also making equally important investments in environmental stewardship:

- Actively partnering with industrial customers in efforts to recycle their process water, ensuring millions of gallons of water per day remain in the Nooksack River;

- Financially supporting the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association's efforts to repair several miles of streams and rivers for fish habitat;

- Conducting feasibility studies for innovative projects such as a regional biodigestor to capture and convert methane for use as a commercially viable fuel.

Sound financial management has enabled PUD No. 1 to operate without seeking property taxes from Whatcom County residents. It has also led to an improved bond rating resulting in lower borrowing costs. State audits of our financial records and practices have attained the highest possible ratings for the past seven years.

We look to the future with optimism as our contracts with Bonneville Power Administration through 2028 enable us to continue providing electricity and water for customers at consistently low costs. It is with this same optimism we will face future challenges concerning such potentially divisive issues as negotiations regarding water rights, water quality and watershed management. PUD No. 1 will continue to assert its role as a trusted partner in discussions with local governments, tribal leaders, water associations and agricultural interests.

Attributes of a PUD commissioner are good judgment, a solid business background and the ability to navigate the intricacies of complex issues. I believe my experience running a successful architectural firm has prepared me well for this role. My 15-member firm, RMC Architects, is involved in a wide array of work ranging from master planning to the design of large-scale projects in the commercial, institutional and public sectors.

When I first was elected in 2008, I felt my experience in project management, strategic planning and business would be well suited to the requirements of this position. Since then I have become increasingly involved in discussions around the efficient use of our limited resources. I am running for re-election because I want to assist PUD No. 1 in defining its role in these discussions as we continue to provide high-quality services to our customers.

I am endorsed by a number of community leaders from across the political spectrum, including Rud Browne, Whatcom County Council member and founder of Ryzex; Teri Treat, president, Sage Management; Steve Brinn, CEO, Raptor Capital; and Jeff Kochman, president, Barkley Co. Along with these fine community members, I would appreciate your vote on Aug. 5 in the primary election.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This is one of a series of commentaries from candidates in the Aug. 5 primary election. Jeff McClure is the incumbent for District 1 commissioner for Whatcom County Public Utility District No. 1. The top two vote getters in the primary will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. The district has countywide authority to supply electric and water services. It is governed by a three-member nonpartisan board of commissioners who serve staggered six-year terms. District 1 covers south Bellingham and southeast Whatcom County with boundaries that match those for the Whatcom County Council.

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