Local utility director to help lead statewide PUD group

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Jefferson County has a new voice on the statewide association of Public Utility Districts, the local not-for-profit providers of electrical, water, sewer and other basic services.

Ken Collins, Secretary of Jefferson County PUD, has been elected Secretary of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association, which places him on the Executive Committee of the group, which represents 28 PUDs.

Collins and his fellow members of the WPUDA Board of Directors provide oversight and recommendations in support of WPUDA’s mission: “support, protect and enhance members’ ability to conserve power and water resources of the state and to provide not-for-profit, locally-controlled utility services.”

When asked about long-term issues on the minds of PUD Commissioners, Collins said, “Customers should be thinking about conserving electricity in the mid-term future and I say this because I think it’s inevitable that transportation is going to shift to electric vehicles.”

He said efforts to reduce carbon emissions inthe atmosphere will focus on cars, since 60% of greenhouse gases are emitted by transportation.

Collins was trained as a clinical social worker, specializing in workplace mental health and substance abuse programs for companies including Chevron and PG&E. Collins has expressed interest in improving rural access to broadband and strengthening low-income assistance programs. He has served as PUD commissioner of District 2 (Cape George, Port Hadlock, Chimacum, Irondale, Marrowstone) since being elected in 2014.

Collins previously chaired the group’s committee in charge of finding training opportunities for PUD commissioners statewide.

Collins lives on Marrowstone Island, where he and his wife moved in 2006, opened Marrowstone Vineyards in 2012 and then retired from winemaking in 2016.

Jefferson County Public Utility District NO.1 was formed in 1939. A water and sewer district for most of its history, in 2008 the PUD was the first public utility in Washington State since 1949 to take back electrical service from a private entity. The PUD began supplying power to Jefferson County in April of 2013,

No PUD has done so since, although Skagit County and Whidbey Island tried, according to a report on the Jefferson County PUD’s website.

Buying electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration has meant mostly carbon-free electricity, which was appealing for decades until the recent determinations that BPA’s dams are now considered a prime culprit in the weakness of the Southern Pod of Puget Sound orcas. Dams have interfered with salmon runs, reducing the orca’s main food source.

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