Current and former staff and commissioners of the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) gathered last week for a symbolic groundbreaking for the Pateros-Twisp transmission line, called a “momentous” occasion by PUD board president Scott Vejraska.

PUD crews erected two power poles and connected a cross-arm and insulators at the ceremony on Friday (April 1) at a staging area just north of the site for the Gold Creek substation, which will be built as part of the transmission-line infrastructure. The power poles are also symbolic, since the main line will run higher on the hillside, with a spur to connect to the substation, according to Tim DeVries, the PUD’s director of engineering and operations.

Half-a-dozen past and present commissioners donned hardhats and scooped the dry, rocky soil with shovels adorned with gold-colored blades for the ceremony.

“This is a day some of us never thought would come while we’re still alive” said Ernie Bolz, the longest-serving PUD commissioner, on the board since 2005. “It feels good to get started.”

Although the transmission line has been 20 years in planning – and in the courts – the idea dates to the 1970s, said Bolz. “We had to salve egos, and some political debts had to be paid, before we could continue,” he said.

“It’s a great day. It’ll be a greater day when we have the ceremony that throws the switch,” said Bolz.

Construction on the 27-mile transmission line is expected to begin this month and be completed by the end of the year. The line will create a second route to bring power to the Methow Valley.