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 Western hosts PMA maintenance meeting

By Leah Shapiro

 PMA maintenance group stands in front of Hoover Dam
   Maintenance employees from Western, Bonneville Power Administration and Southwestern Power Administration stand at the base of Hoover Dam during a tour March 6. (Photo by Hoover Dam staff)

Maintenance managers from Western, Bonneville Power Administration and Southwestern Power Administration got together for their annual meeting, March 4-6, in Henderson, Nev. The meeting serves as an opportunity for the three PMAs to share best practices and learn from one another.

The PMAs have been hosting this meeting for about eleven years now, alternating who hosts it. This year was Western’s turn. Headquarters-based Electrical Engineer John Quintana developed the agenda and Desert Southwest Assistant Regional Manager for Maintenance Rick Hillis coordinated the on-site events. Quintana, who also serves as Headquarters Maintenance liaison, shared, “This meeting helps each of us by sharing knowledge, experience and issues.”

Sierra Nevada Supervisory Maintenance Management Specialist Stephen Tuggle agreed, “We all face similar challenges. During this meeting we have the opportunity to assist each other with tools, techniques and lessons that streamline business practices. We get to hear about programs that support technical proficiency and recognize both employee and agency accomplishments.”

This year’s event gave the 18 participants the opportunity to meet for two days and then take a tour of Hoover Dam and Mead Substation. While touring the substation, the group also observed Western’s fall protection train-the-trainer session. Hillis shared, “We typically choose a site that is easy to get to and economical. Henderson was a perfect choice. We have a strong partnership with the [Bureau of Reclamation] at Hoover Dam; they are generally willing to host tours for us. Touring Mead was also an easy choice as it is one of Western’s largest and most critical assets and we have a key project going on there to replace the Mead-to-Liberty 345/230-kilovolt transformer.”

The agenda was packed with topics that affect the Maintenance community such as:

  • Physical security
  •  Asset management
  • Reliability compliance
  •  Labor relations
  •  Staffing/attrition
  •  Safety
  •  Vegetation management
  •  Construction
  •  Maintenance program updates
  • Transmission line helicopter maintenance
  •  Accident investigation findings

Although the group covered lots of material, Quintana reported that “Physical security seemed to weigh most heavily on everyone’s minds.” It was suggested that the PMAs keep one another informed of plans to acquire security systems for unmanned substations so that they could make bulk purchases and achieve some cost savings.

Another action item coming out of the meeting is that SWPA shared information about how they have been using nitrogen generators on some of their older transformers to avoid costly call-outs for units that have historically been setting off alarms due to slow leaks. Quintana explained, “Most of the people in the room didn’t know that such a device existed and agreed that the cost of installing a nitrogen generator in some of our remote sites would save time, money, and improve reliability.”

SWPA’s Division Director of Maintenance Carlos Valencia concluded, “We do not have to reinvent the wheel every time, especially considering the enormous amount of knowledge and experience this group brings to these meetings.”