Mutual aid and the “power of gold”

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

What do 1,000-plus linemen, 8,851 electric poles, 5.6 million feet of wire and eight public power utilities (including the Grand River Dam Authority) have in common?

Mutual aid … An electric linemen works to restore power in the United States Virgin Islands following hurricane damage in late 2017. GRDA was also part of this multi-utility mutual aid effort. Recently, that effort was honored with a “Power of Gold” award from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

All of this was a part of a joint effort to help restore power to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) in late 2017, following the devastation left behind by both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Approximately 90 percent of the three islands’ electric systems sustained severe damage from the hurricanes.

In response, the local public power utility, U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, reached out to the American Public Power Association (APPA) for assistance, through its nationwide mutual aid program. GRDA, a member of the APPA, got involved in the effort.

As a result of all the work done in the USVI, APPA was recently awarded with a 2018 American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) “Power of Gold” award. According to an ASAE, the award is the industry’s highest honor, recognizing valuable contributions on the local, national and global level by industry professionals.

Four GRDA employees, including Trent Fittje, Larry Hale, David Hefner and Brent Scott were deployed to the USVI to help with restoration efforts. They helped to oversee line rebuild work conducted by other crews already on the island.

Other public power utilities involved in the effort included the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA), Missouri Public Utility Alliance, Santee Cooper (South Carolina), City of Woodbine (Iowa) Electric, Nebraska Public Power District, Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin and the Northeast Public Power Association.

The USVI deployment was just the latest mutual aid effort undertaken by GRDA. In 2017, its crews also helped to restore power in the Lakeland, Florida area following Hurricane Irma. GRDA Police also assisted with recovery and rescue efforts in the Houston area following Hurricane Harvey.

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: employees, electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, and efficiency.