Facing the driest March and April since 1926, the Washington Department of Ecology issued a drought advisory May 27 for 29 of the state's 39 counties. A drought advisory is a new early warning tool that brings awareness and prompts readiness for water users as drought conditions are developing. The informal declaration includes no emergency authorizations or funding. All counties except those surrounding Puget Sound are included in the advisory.

Commissioner Russ Skolrood of Grays Harbor PUD plans to step down at the end of June, when he also is retiring from Hoquiam School District, citing a state law prohibiting him from receiving his school pension while earning a salary as a PUD commissioner. First elected in 2008, he was reelected to a third six-year term last November. The remaining two commissioners will make an interim appointment to the position until voters elect someone in the November 2022 general election to serve the remaining four years of the current term.

Grant County PUD received a $430,000 energy efficiency grant from Washington's Department of Commerce. The money will help pay for a planned $1.7 million renovation to the PUD's headquarters in Ephrata, Wash. The project includes updating heating and cooling equipment, installing LED lights and replacing the building's environmental control systems.

The Washington Department of Commerce has awarded $388,000 to help convert Larch Corrections Center from oil to renewable wood energy through a public facilities program of the state's Clean Energy Fund program. The upgraded system will provide heating and hot water using forest-harvest waste from nearby federal, state and private timberlands. The project "is the first of its kind among state facilities" in the state, Commerce Director Lisa Brown said in a May 24 statement. The grant is contingent on the execution of a final project agreement and performance-based contract with Commerce. The facility is near Yacolt in eastern Clark County.

The TransAlta Coal Transition Board granted $150,000 from its economic development board to underwrite new equipment and software for the 911 communications center in Lewis County, Wash.; upgrades are expected to be completed before the end of the year. The board also awarded $25,000 from its energy fund to help fund a test by University of Washington spinoff BattGenie deploying used battery modules for leveling load and reducing demand on Snohomish County PUD's distribution grid. The test results will be shared to help other researchers characterize and benchmark the performance of used batteries in other applications. BattGenie is partnering with Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, SnoPUD and King County Metro on the test.

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