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Marina Gets More Power and a Fresh Look

by Kathy Ursprung

New lighted pedestals have popped up in front of boathouses at The Dalles Marina over the past few weeks. They’re a sign that construction of the marina’s new electrical system will soon conclude. In fact, some of the boathouses are already getting service through the pedestals.

The reconstruction is a project of Northern Wasco County PUD. It has been a goal of the PUD for more than three years.

“The old system wasn’t safe and we need it to be safe,” says Roger Kline, General Manager of the PUD.

“That’s why we’re doing it.”

It is one project among many in the PUD’s long-term capital improvements plan. The entire plan is expected to cost around $40 million over 10 years. This project is one of the most complex projects on the PUD’s plan, and also one of the most noticeable, thanks to the significant cosmetic improvements. It will serve as something of a showcase for the PUD.

A worker in an alleyway of buildings on the Dalles Marina
A Northern Wasco County PUD worker checks work near one of the new power pedestals that line the docks at The Dalles Marina. One of the new low-profile transformer boxes is pictured in the foreground. Once the project is completed, the old electrical system, including rickety wooden supports and tangles of wiring, will be removed.

Although full-time residency at the marina is against the rules, the facility has a lot of the characteristics of a floating subdivision. From the time when most boathouses were nothing more than garages for boats with a single lightbulb as power needs, many boathouses at the marina today have evolved into recreation and relaxation getaways. Many include bathrooms, hot tubs, and kitchens with increased power needs.

The marina is still owned by the Port of The Dalles, but has been operated by The Dalles Marina, LLC for the last couple of years.

“I have worked with Steve [Horzynek] from PUD almost daily for the last year and a half,” says Angie Wilson, owner of the LLC.

She says the tenants are very excited about the new improvements.

“Several improvements have been made to the marina over the last three years,” Angie says. Those include a new water system, new security system, landscaping and a garbage can enclosure.

Beautification has also been a big priority at the marina, and the power system replacement will help in that area, too. Once the system of sleek new pedestals and transformer boxes is in full operation, the contractors working on the project will demolish the rickety wooden supports and tangled overhead lines, dramatically improving the view.

Each pedestal will serve two boathouses, providing more robust service that better reflects the power needs of the tenants. They will also provide lighting for the docks.

Designing and installing the system brought significantly greater challenges than would a subdivision on land. For one thing, added layers of regulation come into play for marine installations. Procurement of specialty parts was another challenge. The PUD has only one marina in its service area, so the project had unique needs the utility probably won’t encounter again.

The need has become more urgent since the big hydropower dams have increased spillway flows. Last spring, the water level was so high that overhead wiring came into conflict with a boathouse and caused a fire.

The improvements will provide a new level of system redundancy, robustness and protection that the Port hopes will be reassuring to the tenants.

The PUD also hopes to use this improvement as an opportunity to make tenants more aware of the risks related to power in a marine setting. The marina will install signs warning people about stray voltage dangers. The upgraded system should mean fewer risks overall, but there are other sources of stray current. Visiting boats and the power lines beyond the PUD’s system offer greater potential risk.

Some tenants are upgrading their own electrical systems.

“The PUD has been a great community partner by making these improvements,” says Andrea Klaas, Executive Director of the Port of The Dalles. “We really appreciate the hard and complex work that has gone into this project, which will make the marina safer and more attractive for decades.”