Focusing on tomorrow’s workforce

Workforce development continues to be a priority for the Grand River Dam Authority.

Time for a technical tour… GRDA’s Choya Shropshire (seated at left) uses a schematic to teach Northeast Technology Center students about GRDA electric substation operations and maintenance, during a tour last school year. GRDA is proud to be part of efforts to show tomorrow’s workforce the many career opportunities in the technical fields.

It’s a priority because the round-the-clock, 24/7/365 operations of the GRDA cannot be accomplished without a dedicated and skilled team of Oklahomans. Our team of roughly 600 Oklahomans performs the many diverse and critical functions that allow GRDA to generate and transmit reliable electricity, care for important Oklahoma waters and provide economic development support all across the state. For all these reasons, maintaining, training and planning for Team GRDA’s future is always at the top of the list.

Just this week, at the October meeting of its board of directors, GRDA will recognize the efforts of four longtime-employees who are joining the ranks of the newly-retired. Yet, even as we celebrate their long and dedicated careers to the Authority, we also realize their combined knowledge of the organization – totaling close to 120 years – is also retiring. How do we fill their shoes and prepare for future retirements and workforce needs? By continuing to work with other partners in the area who are also placing an emphasis on training tomorrow’s employees today. Through technical training, school programs, student internships and other methods, these partners are helping not only GRDA but also our customers, plan for future workforce needs.

Just last week, on October 6, GRDA received the “2017 Champion In Workforce Development Award” from the MidAmerica Industrial Park, which has established the “MidAmerican Delivers” program to help connect the future workforce with jobs in manufacturing and technical trades. GRDA is proud to partner with MidAmerican on these efforts.

Together, we want to educate tomorrow’s workforce while also helping create opportunities for it to be successful.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.

Nearly ready to rodeo…

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

Electric line workers (linemen) from publicly-owned electric utilities all across Oklahoma will come together in Pryor later this month for competition, comradery and, most importantly, safety’s sake.

Taking competition and cooperation to new heights… Oklahoma public power lineworkers participating in a previous Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO) Lineworkers’ Rodeo. The Grand River Dam Authority will play host to the 2017 event in Pryor on October 25 and 26.

It is the annual Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO) 2017 Lineworkers’ Rodeo & Training Session, to be hosted by the Grand River Dam Authority and held at the MidAmerica Industrial Park (MAIP) Expo Center October 25-26. Safety training and discussions on storm preparation and readiness will be the main topic of the first day, with the actual “rodeo” taking place on day two. 

These rodeos allows the men and women who maintain electric power lines in Oklahoma public power communities to put their skills to the test against the clock and against each other. They climb poles, splice damaged lines, change fuses, conduct simulated “hurt man” rescue operations and work together. And really, it is that last thing – working together – that makes such events so important for Oklahoma.

Of course, public power utilities are owned by the customers they serve, allowing for local control, not-for-profit rates and local resources that match local needs. However, when Oklahoma weather gets ugly – tornados, ice storms, flooding – those small local systems can be hit hard and, often, that means the job of rebuilding, replacement and repairs is accomplished with the help of other public power crews in the state.

In fact, one very important event at the rodeo is always the “mutual aid” exercise which requires teams, made of up lineworkers from different utilities, to cooperate on an effort to repair a downed distribution line. It is a timed event, with winners being recognized, but the real goal is cooperation.

GRDA is proud to play host to this special event and proud to be part of the greater Oklahoma public power team!

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.

 

Celebrating National Public Power Week 2017

The benefits of public power … The Grand River Dam Authority is proud to join with the nation’s 2,000 other publicly-owned electric utilities in recognizing the many benefits of public power, during National Public Power Week 2017 (October 1-7).

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

Each year, during the first full week in October, the Grand River Dam Authority joins with the nation’s 2,200 other publicly-owned electric utilities to celebrate National Public Power Week. It is a time to highlight the many benefits of public power while also celebrating its productive history and exciting future across the country.

Today, public power is found in 49 states (everywhere except Hawaii) and roughly 48 million Americans –including the citizens of GRDA’s public power partner communities right here in Oklahoma – receive their power from a not-for-profit, publicly-owned utility system.

Of course, public power systems come in many shapes and sizes. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of public power is that is controlled by the customer-owners, thus, by design, it matches local resources to meet local needs. While many systems are large (Los Angeles, San Antonio and Orlando are all public power communities) other systems are much smaller, like the 15 municipally-owned systems served by GRDA.

Public power is not a new idea. According to publicpower.org, “locally-owned public power utilities first appeared more than 100 years ago when communities created electric utilities to provide light and power to their citizens. Throughout the end of the 1800’s and the first decades of the 1900’s, the number of utilities grew rapidly. And while many utilities were sold to larger interests during the 20th century, thousands of communities chose to preserve this valuable asset and the local control it provides.”

In all these municipal systems, both large and small, the process works the same: communities own and operate their own electric distribution system and revenues from the sale of electricity help to fund other city services. Parks, streets, police and fire protection can all benefit financially from the locally-owned electric utility. In fact, every GRDA public power community in Oklahoma, no matter the size, contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars (some even more) to their respective city general funds.

In other words, public power is not just about not-for-profit, reliable electricity service, it’s also about quality of life. And it’s all done without utilizing tax dollars.

As the nation’s 20th largest publicly-owned electric utility (in terms of electric generation), GRDA is proud to be a part of the public power process and proud to share its many benefits that positively impact thousands of Oklahomans through reliable electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, efficient operations and quality of life.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.

 

More about mutual aid, hurricane response

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

After Irma …. GRDA Electric Linemen at work near Polk City, Florida, helping to restore power after Hurricane Irma passed through the area in early September.

In recent weeks, Grand River Dam Authority crews provided emergency assistance in both Texas and Florida, after hurricanes hit both states. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this space, GRDA has provided this same kind of assistance in years past. Our linemen helped restore power in Florida last October, after Hurricane Matthew and in 2005, a GRDA team helped get the lights back on in Vinton, Louisiana, after Hurricane Rita.

However, some may be wondering just how the hurricane response process works. How do GRDA crews from Oklahoma get involved in hurricane restoration in Florida and other places?

It begins with mutual aid agreements. On the national level, GRDA is part of the American Public Power Association (APPA), an organization comprised of the nation’s 2,000-plus publicly-owned electric utilities. A few years ago, APPA established its mutual aid program and GRDA, along with most every other APPA member, is part of this program that addresses coordination with federal government agencies during widespread power outages. On the state level, GRDA participates in the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO) mutual aid program, which operates in a similar fashion.

When widespread devastation hits a utility after a natural disaster, that utility will rarely have all the resources it needs to respond. In those instances, mutual aid partners are called in. That means additional skilled manpower and additional equipment to get the system back up and running as quickly and safely as possible.

Although GRDA’s mutual aid trip to Houston last month did not involve electric linemen, the GRDA Police officers who traveled to Texas to conduct water evacuations were also operating under mutual aid agreements. The state of Texas asked the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management for assistance. The department relayed that request across the state and GRDA responded as part of the Mayes County Emergency Management team, working under an Emergency Mutual Aid Compact (EMAC), coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Existing mutual aid agreements are a necessary and important part of FEMA efforts to track disaster response costs and reimburse participating agencies.

At the time of this writing, GRDA linemen were still at work in Florida, helping Lakeland Electric restore power in Polk County.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency. 

Providing mutual aid in times of need

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

Helping hands in Houston … GRDA Police Officer Billy Blackwell guides a boat along a flooded road in the Houston area, while other GRDA officers and emergency personnel follow behind. The crew was there to lend a hand following Hurricane Harvey. In years past, GRDA personnel have also helped with restoration efforts following Hurricane Matthew in Florida and Hurricane Rita in Louisiana.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department was just one of several Oklahoma agencies that sent personnel and equipment to the Houston area to assist with storm recovery and high water evacuation operations. GRDA officers made the trip along with firemen from the Locust Grove, Adair and Pryor fire departments in Mayes County.

It made sense that the crews would team up for the effort, since they have worked and trained together several times. Much of training has focused on swift water rescues and the knowledge gained there has been put into practice more than once here in Oklahoma.

Although sending water rescue boats to a hurricane site is a bit new for GRDA, the organization has responded to hurricane sites to provide assistance before. In fact, just last year – in October of 2016 — GRDA electric linemen traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, following Hurricane Matthew. That trip was in response to a nationwide call for mutual aid made, based on relationships already in place among the nation’s publicly-owned “public power” electric utilities.

Prior to that, GRDA linemen made a similar trip to Louisiana in September of 2005 to help restore power following the destruction left behind by Hurricane Rita. That too, was a response to mutual aid.

The key word in all of this is “mutual.” Whether it be GRDA Police Officers working alongside other emergency responders to perform water evacuations in the flooded neighborhoods of Houston, or GRDA linemen rebuilding downed powerlines along the east coast of Florida, GRDA is proud of the mutual effort our employees have given, alongside others in the wake of such natural disasters.

The training, expertise, dedication and cooperation they display during such times is another reason we are proud of Team GRDA.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.