GRDA Crews take part in “Light up the Navajo Nation” project

Thanks to the efforts of the nation’s public power utilities, including the Grand River Dam Authority, thousands of homes on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona are set to receive electricity service for the first time.

In early April, a team of nine GRDA employees traveled to the reservation as part of a mutual aid initiative coordinated by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and the American

GRDA Linemen Ben Curnutt prepares an electric distribution pole for connection to the power line, on the Navajo Reservation near Chinle, Arizona. Curnutt was one of nine GRDA employees to participate in the “Light up the Navajo Nation” initiative coordinated by the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA). During its stay in Arizona, GRDA’s team helped bring electric service to 20 homes that have never been powered before. (photo courtesy of APPA).

Public Power Association (APPA). The “Light up the Navajo Nation” project’s goal is to bring together more than 100 volunteers from 24 public power utilities to build electric distribution infrastructure across the 27,000 square mile reservation.

Of the 55,000 homes located on the reservation, as many as 15,000 do not have electricity. In fact, these homes make up a full 75 percent of all un-electrified households in the United States.

During its time on the reservation, the GRDA team split into two separate crews, each working 12 hour days for five days straight, to bring power to 20 homes for the first time.

“GRDA is pleased to be a part of this initiative to bring much needed electricity into these homes,” said GRDA President/Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “Providing mutual aid is really foundational to all of public power and this effort is a great illustration of what can be accomplished when these utilities work together.”

Of course, GRDA is no stranger to providing mutual aid to neighbors in need. However, past work has always been done to help another utility restore its system following an ice storm, tornado or hurricane. The “Light up the Navajo Nation” project is the first time GRDA has provided assistance for a new electrification project. Because of the unique nature of this project, the GRDA linemen who participated say it is an experience they will never forget.

“You get out there and you hear some of the stories about a lot of people not having power and that really tugs at your heart,” said Trent Fittje, a GRDA linemen and veteran of several mutual aid trips. “This was people helping people and I am glad I had the chance to be there.”

Another GRDA lineman, Steven Willis, shared about the positive impact electricity would have on a family that would no longer need to refrigerate their child’s medicine at a relative’s home.

“The look on this father’s face when he said “I can put the medicine in my own refrigerator now’ will stick with me from now on,” said Willis.

Echoing Willis’ comments, lineman Brent Scott also shared about the impact electricity was having on another resident’s efforts to warm her home.

“There was an elderly lady, a retired school teacher, who had moved back to the reservation after retirement and lived alone. She had been hauling wood for fuel to keep her warm,” said Scott, adding that an electric heater was now going to make life much easier for her.

Although they battled some difficult terrain, dust storms, high winds, cold weather and even a bit of snow, David Hefner, who served as the GRDA lead in Arizona, called the week of long hours and difficult work a great experience.

“NTUA was very pleased with the work we did and also very grateful to GRDA for allowing us to do this,” said Hefner. “All of us who worked out there are also grateful to everyone within our organization for helping to make this happen.”

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., APPA is the national association for the nation’s 2,000 not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities and represents public power before the federal government. Collectively, these utilities serve 49 million people across the United States.

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.

 

GRDA Linemen at work on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona in early April. GRDA was one of 20-plus public power utilities to participate in the “Light up the Navajo Nation” initiative coordinated by the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA).

GRDA’s Herron honored with substation name, lifetime achievement award

A Grand River Dam Authority electrical substation, located in the MidAmerica Industrial Park, will now bear the name of GRDA’s soon-to-retire Vice President of Engineering, System

GRDA President/CEO Dan Sullivan (right) presents a retirement resolution to GRDA Vice President of Engineering, System Operations and Reliability Mike Herron during the April 18 meeting of the GRDA Board of Directors, in Tulsa. Also at the meeting, GRDA announced it will be naming a substation, located in the MidAmerica Industrial Park, in honor of Herron, who retires May 1. Herron is a 15-year GRDA veteran but his career in electrical engineering and public power spans nearly five decades.

Operations and Reliability Mike Herron. Herron, who officially retires on May 1, learned of his namesake substation during the April 18 meeting of the GRDA Board of Directors.

GRDA President/CEO Dan Sullivan told Herron that the substation, formerly known as the “3500 West Main Substation” will now be GRDA’s “William M. Herron” substation.

“You have left an indelible mark on GRDA,” said Sullivan. “We appreciate your steadfast commitment to our customers and all of the tireless effort that you have put forth on behalf of them and the entire organization.”

Earlier in the month, Herron, who joined GRDA as Chief Engineer in 2004, was also presented with the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO) 2019 Pruett-Lamb Lifetime Achievement Award during MESO’s annual Oklahoma Public Power Conference. That award is given annually to an Oklahoma public power professional who has contributed to the growth of their organization and/or the state’s public power community over the lifetime of their professional career.

His career as an electrical engineer spans nearly five decades. The last 29 years were spent in Oklahoma, first with the City of Stillwater (one of the state’s largest public power utilities) before his GRDA tenure began. At that time, he was already recognized as one of the Midwest’s leading experts on electric distribution design. Always an advocate for public power and electric reliability, Herron has overseen many upgrade projects to the GRDA electrical transmission system during his 15-year GRDA career.

“GRDA has provided me an ample amount of projects to keep my mind occupied and challenged,” Herron told the crowd after the presentation. “Thank you very much for the opportunity to work for you.”

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.

GRDA’s Our Borrowed Water film to show in Langley

A new documentary, detailing the importance of the Grand and Illinois River watersheds, is scheduled for a public viewing on March 25th.

Entitled Our Borrowed Water, the film takes a closer look at some of the issues surrounding these waters while also illustrating their value through the eyes of those who depend on them for work and play. The film does all of this against a backdrop of stunning visuals along Grand Lake and the Illinois River.

The Grand River Dam Authority contracted with 1577 Productions to produce the documentary, which features an intro from GRDA President/CEO Dan Sullivan, as well as interviews with GRDA Vice President of Ecosystems and Watershed Management Dr. Darrell Townsend and GRDA Vice President of Scenic Rivers Operations and Water Quality Ed Fite. Others featured in the film include Illinois River Watershed Partnership Executive Director Nicole Hardiman, OKC Kayak’s Dave Lindo and avid Illinois River fly fisherman Chris Castro.

The first public premier of Our Borrowed Water was originally scheduled for February 19 at the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center, but was postponed due to winter weather. The film will now be shown on Monday, March 25th at 6:30 PM inside the Grand Hall at the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center in Langley. The event is free and open to the public. Following the premiere, there will also be time for a short Q&A session about the film. 

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. 

GRDA postponing February 19 documentary premier

Langley – Due to a winter weather forecast for the Grand Lake area on Tuesday, February 19, the Grand River Dam Authority is postponing the premiere event for its new documentary, Our Borrowed Water, scheduled for that evening at the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center in Langley.

The event will be moved to a later date, which will be made public as soon as it is scheduled.

Two other premiere events are still planned for next week. On Monday, February 25, the documentary will be shown in the Webb Building Auditorium at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. On Tuesday, February 26, GRDA will show the documentary in the student union (room 510-511) on the University of Arkansas campus. Both events are open to the public and begin at 6:30PM.

GRDA & GLPS Continue Life Jacket Programs

An important partnership, designed to promote life jacket usage for lake visitors, will continue on in 2019.

For several years, the Grand River Dam Authority and the Grand Lake Power Squadron (GLPS) have worked together to distribute free life jackets across the Grand Lake area. In fact, since 2016, GRDA has provided over $20,000 in funding to the GLPS to purchase life jackets. The funding and the partnership have helped to promote life jacket use and even supply life jackets to many of the visitors coming to Grand Lake’s waters each year.

GRDA Community Relations Officer Ed Ferguson (right) presented a $6,000 check to Grand Lake Power Squadron Executive Officer Scott Graves (left) and Commander Kevin Kamrath at the Tulsa Boat Show on Friday, February 1. Funds will be used to support several life jacket distribution programs in the Grand Lake region.

At the Tulsa Boat Sport &Travel Show on Friday, February 1, GRDA presented the GLPS with $6,000 to help fund the program for the coming year and advance its water safety mission.

The GLPS will use the funds to purchase life jackets, which will be distributed to needy recipients at both the Grove Boat Show (March 7 – 10) and the Grand Lake Camp Bandage event scheduled (June 8, 2019). At both events, GLPS volunteers will also provide assistance on proper life jacket sizing. 

Additional life jackets will also be purchased to stock free loaner stations located around the shores of Grand Lake. Stocked with United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved jackets in a variety of sizes, these stations can be a resource for lake visitors who do not arrive with a properly-fitted jacket. The GLPS maintains five loaner stations throughout the lake season at public boat ramps located at Bernice State Park, Wolf Creek Park, Honey Creek State Park, Elk River Landing and Twin Bridges State Park.

The GLPS welcomes the donation of funds or life jackets that can be used in these programs. New or gently used USCG approved life jackets can be dropped by the Grand Lake Visitor Center (9630 US Highway 59, Grove, Oklahoma) to be added to the distribution programs.

“We are proud to partner with the Grand Lake Power Squadron to help provide life jackets to lake area visitors,” said GRDA Chief of Law Enforcement Brian Edwards. “Safe boating always begins with proper life jacket use and we want to do all we can to help make sure those who visit our waters stay safe.”

GLPS is a non-profit boating organization located in Grove, on the shores of Grand Lake. The GLPS is a member of District 30 of the United States Power Squadron.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lake waters in Oklahoma, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. 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. 

Across Pensacola Dam: traffic control personnel, signage to be in place during early November project

In order to facilitate a load testing project across Pensacola Dam, the Grand River Dam Authority is reporting that special traffic control signage will be in place across the dam, on selected days in early November.

Drivers traveling Highway 28 across the dam on Friday, November 2; Tuesday, November 6 and Tuesday, November 13 should be aware of special signage and traffic control personnel. Weather permitting, the testing is anticipated to begin at 8:30 am and conclude at 11:30 am on each of those dates. However, a full closure of the roadway will not be necessary.

GRDA asks for the public’s cooperation during this project, so that it can be completed both safely and promptly.

Kimball is new GRDA Chairman

GRDA Board Chairman Tom Kimball.

Vinita – Tom Kimball (Owasso), a founding member of the Owasso Economic Development Authority and 56 year veteran of the retail industry, will lead the Grand River Dam Authority as chairman during the next 12 months.

Kimball assumed the chairman post at the September 18 meeting of the GRDA Board of Directors in Vinita. He succeeds outgoing Chairman Joe Vandevier (Owasso). Jim Richie (Tulsa) will serve as the board’s chair-elect for the next year.

Kimball was first appointed to the GRDA Board by then-Oklahoma Senate President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman in November 2012. In 2017, he was re-appointed by then-Present Pro Tempore Mike Schulz. Along with his economic development and retail experience, he has been an active member of the board of Spirit Bank since 2005. He is also active in the Grand Lake community and spends a significant amount of time at his lake home each week. Kimball previously served as GRDA Chairman in 2014-15.

Richie is co-founder and chief auctioneer for Kruse Energy & Equipment LLC. He was first appointed to the board in January 2014 by then-Oklahoma Speaker of

GRDA Board Director Jim Richie.

the House T.W. Shannon. Like Kimball, he is also an active member of the Grand Lake community and part-time Grand Lake resident.

“I am pleased that Chairman Kimball accepted the nomination for another term as our board chairman,” said GRDA President/Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “Tom Kimball is devoted to our employees, our customers and the resources that we manage. His proven leadership and voice on our board is a valuable asset to GRDA.”

GRDA is governed by a seven-member board of directors, comprised of representatives from each GRDA customer class (municipals, electric cooperatives and industrials) as well as the GRDA lakes area. Two at-large representatives also sit on the board. Appointments are made by the Oklahoma Governor (3), Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate. Two other board positions are ex-officio, filled by the general manager of the OAEC and the executive director of the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO) or by their designees.

Pensacola Dam roadway to be one lane on Sept. 20

Langley – In order to facilitate a project to remove old light poles, the Grand River Dam Authority is reporting that the portion of Highway 28 that crosses over Pensacola Dam will be limited to one lane on Thursday, September 20.

“This is intended to be a one day project, but in order to get it done promptly and safely, traffic will need to be limited to one lane for the duration of the work on Thursday, September 20,” said GRDA Vice President of Corporate Communications Justin Alberty. “We do appreciate the public’s cooperation during this project.”

Alberty added that special signage would be in place, along with traffic control personnel, to help direct traffic safely across the one lane. The work is expected to last from 8AM to 5PM.

GRDA Police offer safe boating and floating tips for Labor Day weekend

Boats gather on the waters of Grand Lake on a 2018 summer day. Large crowds are expected during the upcoming Labor Day weekend. If you are headed to Grand Lake, Lake Hudson or the Illinois River, GRDA reminds you to boat safe, smart and sober.

Heading to the lake or the river for the long Labor Day weekend? If so, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department wants to remind you of some important information that can help promote a safe time on the water.

Whether you are visiting GRDA’s Grand Lake, Lake Hudson or the scenic Illinois River, it is important to remember that enjoyable outings always start with boating (and floating) safe, smart and sober.

“Labor Day weekend is always an active time on the lakes and river and we encourage the public to come out and have a great time,” said GRDA Vice President of Corporate Communications Justin Alberty. “However, that great time always starts with wearing your life jacket and using common sense on the water.”

GRDA has shared the following “Dos and DON’Ts” often, but as you head to the water this weekend, please keep these in mind:

  • DO wear a life jacket. They float, you don’t. However, they only work if you wear them.  Remember, if you are floating the river, children 13 years of age and under are required to wear a life jacket at all times. On the lake, children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket on vessels under 26 feet long. However, we encourage everyone to wear a life jacket at all times.
  • DON’T DRINK AND BOAT. Alcohol use continues to be the single leading factor contributing to boating accidents.
  • DO know the water and environment you will be boating or floating on.
  • DO keep a good lookout while underway.
  • DO shut your engines off when people are in the water near your boat.
  • DO observe the nautical “rules of the road.”
  • DO check the weather forecast before getting underway.
  • DO keep a balanced load and trim boat.
  • DON’T overload your boat.
  • DON’T ride on the gunwale, bow, seat backs or any place that is not designated for sitting.
  • DON’T swim or boat alone. Stay within sight of companions.
  • Floating the river? DO let the commercial float operator know if you are anyone in your party are a first-time or novice floater(s). They may be able to pair you with an experienced paddler/floater or float you in a raft where there is a lesser chance for capsizing;
  • DON’T dive into the river from bridges, bluffs, stream banks and trees.
  • DO respect the weather and the water. If you are tired while floating, take a break on the bank or on a gravel bar to rest.

For those planning on hitting the water on a personal watercraft (PWC), the GRDA Police also offers these important safety tips:

  • Don’t ride tired: PWC operation requires a real sense of balance. Tired operators do not have as much balance, which means less controlled operation.
  • Watch the weight: Don’t carry more passengers or weight than is recommended in your PWC’s owner manual. The heavier the load, the harder it is to handle and turn your PWC.
  • Watch out for others: Because lake traffic changes constantly, riders have to be very aware of their surroundings at all times.
  • Know what the craft is capable of: Just because you have ridden a PWC before, don’t assume they are all the same. For the most part, they are very similar, but riders must be educated about the specifics of the craft they are operating.
  • Know where you are: It is very important to know your location on the water. Are you near hazards such as rocks, buoys or sandbars? Are you in a place that is popular with skiers? Even though PWCs are designed to operate in shallow waters, it is important to remember that shallow water can become no water in a hurry. Avoid such areas.
  • Never drink and ride: PWC operation requires clear thinking, quick decisions, the ability to focus, depth perception, ability to judge speed and distance and ability to track moving objects. Alcohol impairs all these abilities while also affecting balance. Oftentimes, PWC injuries occur when people fall into the water and are too inebriated to climb back on board.
  • Watch your speed: Many PWC accidents are a result of excessive speed. PWC operators must match their speed to their skills. Don’t be overmatched by traveling too fast.

For more information about the GRDA Police Department or how an officer can assist you, contact the department at (918) 256-0911. Finally, if you need assistance from your boat, the GRDA Police Department encourages you to call 911. If you do not have a cell phone available, you can radio the GRDA Police on Marine Band 16.

Whether you are coming to the lake, to the river, to the dam or maybe to all three, GRDA encourages you to keep these tips in mind as you enjoy the Labor Day weekend.

Governor appoints Afton’s Lewandowski to GRDA Board

Mike Lewandowski, newest member of GRDA’s Board of Directors.

Vinita – Afton’s Mike Lewandowski, who owned and operated a McDonald’s restaurant for over three decades, is the newest member of the Grand River Dam Authority Board of Directors.

On Friday, August 10, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin announced Lewandowski’s appointment to the GRDA Board. He replaces Ed Townsend (Grove). Townsend, the founder, owner and chief executive officer of Bank of Grand Lake, served on the board five years. His term expires August 31.

“Mike Lewandowski is a successful businessman who has always been engaged in his community,” said Governor Fallin in a press release announcing the appointment. “He will make an excellent and engaged board member at the GRDA.”

Lewandowski started working for the McDonald’s Corporation in 1980 as a supervisor for a licensee. In 1986, he and his wife, Julie, became owner-operators of a McDonald’s. They owned and operated a restaurant for 31 years, selling the family business in July 2017.

“Mike Lewandowski will be a great addition to the board,” said incoming GRDA Chairman Tom Kimball. “His many years of business success in the GRDA service area and his background in fish and wildlife issues will be important assets for the organization. I look forward to serving with him.”

Lewandowski earned a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife management from Southwest Missouri State University. During his tenure with McDonalds he served on a number of boards dealing with a variety of topics, along with working with church, bank and city organizations.

“We are happy to have Mike Lewandowski join our Board of Directors,” said GRDA President/Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “Mr. Lewandowski brings many years of successful business experience and a love of Grand Lake to GRDA. We look forward to his participation, insight and input with our other members of the board.”

GRDA is governed by a seven-member board of directors comprised of representatives from each GRDA customer class (municipals, electric cooperatives and industrials) as well as the GRDA lakes area. Two at-large representatives also sit on the board.

Appointments are made by the Oklahoma Governor (3), Speaker of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate. Two other board positions are ex-officio positions, filled by the general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) and executive director of the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO) or by their designees. Board members serve staggered, five-year terms, with one position opening each year, to ensure continuity.