Our Final Day

Residential:

Our final day of work was a flurry of action. At one point I realized that some of the graduated senior students on our team were working with next to no direction from GRID staff. We were all able to place and wire the micro-inverters correctly, drill in flashing, and lay panels. We maneuvered around the roof still a bit clumsily to avoid tangling our harnesses’ wires, but our legs were a bit more adjusted to the steep roof slope; we’d earned our roof legs! We were sad to leave the work site, but proud of the sheer quantity of panels were were able to install this year, and grateful for the opportunity to work with local community members, students, and residents on their homes. 

Fish Hatchery:

Our final day on the build site was bitter sweet. Looking around, I saw how much we had been able to accomplish. Rows of panels gleamed around me, as fish splashed in their huge holding areas. Working on the hatchery was an amazing experience that showed me how powerful and successful it can be to put the environment first. The fish hatchery, a place constructed to breed fish and release them back into the tribe’s own waters, combined with the power of alternative energy, is a strong force of change that already and will continue to have a does  positive effect on the tribe, its community, and beyond. I am so grateful as always to work with GRID and enact positive environmental change, one solar panel at a time.

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Emma K. working atop the Hatchery

A Fishy Interruption

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The Kokanne Salmon

This morning we met with Tim, head of the head of the Spokane Tribal Fish Hatchery (there were three Tim’s on this project, a creek graduate, head of GRID Tribal programs, and head of the Spokane Tribal Fish Hatchery). Tim graciously gave us a tour of the hatchery and began with describing his own childhood on the reservation, frequenting fishing ponds and searching for the perfect creek spots. His own grandparents lived in the area where the hatchery now stands, and Tim pointed out a small metal pipe sticking out amongst the water lilies in the pond next to the hatchery that his grandparents used to get drinking water from. The Spokane Tribal Fish Hatchery is a powerful symbol of reclaiming sovereignty on the land. In the words of the Spokane Tribe of Indians website “The hatchery was developed and constructed as partial mitigation for the loss of salmon, steelhead and habitat caused by hydroelectric power development on the Columbia River, namely Grand Coulee Dam. Partial mitigation is emphasized because there is no way to compensate the proposed extermination of the salmon the Tribe once utilized for subsistent and cultural purposes. Nevertheless, the hatchery is a key element of a comprehensive restoration and enhancement program for the Lake Roosevelt and Banks Lake fisheries, the two water bodies/reservoirs created by Grand Coulee Dam. Other components of this program include the Lake Roosevelt Monitoring Program also managed by the Spokane Tribe, the Sherman Creek Hatchery managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Rainbow Habitat Improvement Program managed by the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Lake Roosevelt Net Pen Program managed by the Lake Roosevelt Development Association. Goals and objectives of each project are coordinated between the respective management agencies. Each project receives their funding from the Bonneville Power Administration through direction by the Northwest Power Planning Councils Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.”  The fishery is run by and employs almost exclusively Spokane tribe members. “The primary objective is to produce kokanee salmon and rainbow trout to create and sustain harvestable fisheries in this project area that includes waters within the boundaries of the Spokane Indian Reservation. To accomplish this, the hatchery produces up to 4.3 million kokanee salmon and 750,000 rainbow trout annually for release. The fish are released after the reservoir draw down period, approximately mid-May to June, to help alleviate the loss of fish by entrainment (flushing) through Grand Coulee Dam. Additionally, the hatchery raises up to 10,000 rainbow trout and 2,000 kokanee salmon, all catchable size, for reservation inland lakes. This includes 200 – 300 lunkers (up to 10 lbs ea.) raised for the spring and fall fishing derbies on McCoys and Turtle Lakes.”

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The Spokane Tribal Hatchery’s official logo

As the Spokane tribe historically was deeply tied to the salmon runs of the area, which have since been eliminated by hydroelectric dams, installing solar on the tribal hatchery with the eventual goal of eliminating the need for the hydroelectric dam which necessitated the establishment of the hatchery in the first place was a very potent realization for our team. We were extremely moved by the determination of Tim and the hatchery and the connection between residents and the land he vocalized. His son stopped by as well who is a speaker and teacher of the traditional Spokane Indian language, a Salish dialect. While much of Tim’s generation were not raised with exposure of teaching of the Salish language, many individuals are now reviving the language. We met a group of 5 year olds before lunch who were taking part in a Salish immersion summer school. Their teachers were kind enough to share and translate a traditional oral origin story with us as we all sat in the grassy pagoda area. Inside the hatchery itself were long tubs of thousands fry/fingerlings of various fish species to be released into the local watershed. Pumps ensured water circulation and outside, a waste pond will be used for agricultural fertilizer.

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Riley Weeks and Jeff Boyce chasing energy sovereignty!

 

 

For lunch we drove into the reservation town center and had fry bread burgers and pbj’s.

Residential Housing:

The afternoon was a surprisingly quick finish of laying the remaining panels on both sides of the roof! While we did that, GRID staff and a local electrician, began to set up the next house for solar. We had not anticipated getting this first home done so quickly, but are excited to start the process for this next house over again. We are learning quickly and thoroughly. All of the GRID staff are very patient in teaching us and empowering us to be able to then take the knowledge to practice and do parts of the installation process on our own. That’s not to say that mistakes weren’t made, but overall we learned a lot in a safe environment. 

 

Fish Hatchery:

The afternoon consisted mostly of “slapping glass”, a motto we all repeated as we hoisted the panels up to the roof. Moving the panels took up the rest of the day. All the time we were either moving them from the storage shed to the base of the roof using a forklift or using rope and carabiners to gently lift them, one at a time, onto the roof. It was very tricky to move over wires and racking to safely place the solar panels in their correct spot. It was also pretty challenging to find the correct wires that neatly connect to the panels without letting them touch the roof or be crimped by the panel itself. I will never forget how silly I felt, my head laying on the roof, looking underneath a panel and feeling my way to the wires, making sure they were in the correct spots. Overall, another great day on the Spokane Tribe!

 

Back at It

Another early morning for the Eco Action team! Driving in to Native Land, it was so amazing to see the other installation sites that GRID had already completed through their partnership with the Spokane Tribe. So many community centers and houses gleamed with solar as we drove past. It felt so good to see what GRID had already accomplished, and I was excited to begin another work day! 

Residential Housing:

Today we were lucky to be joined by the Spokane tribal high school’s physics teacher and three students, one of whom lived just across the street from our work site. We compared classed and post high school plans, and sought out the shade under the eaves together when water breaks were called.

 

dsc_0691_48044042908_oWe also wired together the micro inverters which will lie under the panels and convert each panel’s current from AC to DC to be used in the home’s outlets and lighting. In the afternoon we began hoisting the solar panels themselves! By tying ropes to one end of the panel, the ground crew was able to safely pass the panels up to two roof team members who are always attached via harness to anchors on the roof ridge line. Once the panels are placed above a micro-inverter before firmly clamping them onto the racking, the angles and spacing are double checked for clean alignment. Everything was coming together and wires were cut for the connection from the PV array to the service panel! 

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The team fixes all the racking in place 

Fish Hatchery: 

Today was another hard day of work, but very fulfilling! As this trip was my third solar install, I am always surprised by how much more there is to learn. Today I discovered that every part of the solar panel system that is attached to the roof must be torqued to a certain tightness in order to meet electrical guidelines. However, it should not be torqued to the fullest tightness, as the solar panels must be free to bend and flex slightly with the wind so that they do not crack. Everything that is torqued down is then marked with a silver sharpie, so that everyone on the build site knows what has been done and what still needs to be tightened. Working alongside both GRID staff and tribal members is so valuable, and allowed me to gain so much knowledge about solar installations. By the end of the day, most of the racking and wiring was done on the main roof and we had started placing the railing on the second, smaller roof. 

After  meeting up with the other part of our crew, we all decided to drive down to a river that we were told had a deep watering hole. After following some long dusty roads through beautiful land, we found the spot, and had some well deserved time in the cool river, looking for patterned rocks and tiny fish. We all crawled into our tents happy and sleepy that night!

 

 

 

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A well deserved respite in the river

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Campfire evening

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A beautiful campsite overlooking Lake Spokane

 

First day of Work

The next morning, we woke up to the sounds of birds as our alarm clock and set about readying ourselves for our first day on the build site. After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, we all drove to the Spokane Native American Reservation. After a few wrong turns, we made to the Housing Authority where we met up with the GRID team. It was so good to be able to see some familiar faces of GRID staff that Abbie and I had worked with in the past. After a quick meeting to get everyone acquainted with our team from CCHS, GRID Staff, and tribal members that would be working with us and learning solar alongside us, we drove to our individual build sites. Our Eco Action team split up into two groups: some of us were set to instal on a few residential houses, and some of us were set to work at The Spokane Tribal Fish Hatchery.  For the following blog posts, we have separated the stories into these two main build sites. 

Residential Housing:

We are working on a home owned by the housing authority but rented out to tribal families. Our volunteer team is Conley, Emma C, Lauren, and Abbie and we have wonderful GRID staff Nadine, Wyatt, and Cassandra. With two of us up on the roof at all times and plenty of ground team support we were able to lay and secure all the racking down on the roof and lay the flashing by prying up the shingles and drilling into the rafters. 

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Measuring out spacing between flashing before placing the racks

 

Fish Hatchery:

The first time seeing our build site was very daunting. There were at least three roofs to cover, and hundreds of panels to install. However, GRID staff had got there before us, and had already planned out a lot of the placement for the solar panels, and had even installed a few. All of the materials and tools we needed were ready and waiting. By the end of the first day, we had installed all of the racking and set up the wiring for the first main roof, and had installed at least 20 panels on the far side. It was hard work under the sun, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I felt very accomplished! 

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Tim, Emma C, and Emma K at lunch

 

Back at our campsite, everyone felt pretty hot and tired. We all decided to go down to the lake near where we were staying and cool off in the water. After swimming, card playing, and hammocking, we all went to bed before the sun was even down (a trend that continued throughout the trip)!

 

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Arrival

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Lauren Guthrie giving her team a thumbs up as she installs one of the many modules atop her build site

Day One Spokane Solar Trip!

We arrived at DIA pretty early in the morning and the excitement was evident. I could tell that all of us felt some degree of nervousness but also a huge amount of excitement, so the overall energy was positive. The flight there was uneventful and so was getting the rental car- for the students at least. I have a clear image in my head of Boyce turning around with a frazzled look on his face, his hair all over the place, giving a quick headcount, and proceeding to run through the airport to the rental cars.

We arrived at the campsite in no time and the view was amazing. We overlooked a big lake surrounded by forest with birds chirping and territorial marmots clicking from their rocks. I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief to have made it to camp and to be away from the drama of real life for a while.

We explored the lake, hung up hammocks, played cards, and complained about being hungry for a couple hours and really started to bond as a group. It was so relaxing and nice to finally feel like I could take a moment to breathe and actually have an hour feel like an hour instead of a minute. I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t concerned about to do lists or rushing from one thing to the next. This day was an opportunity to stop and smell the roses, or the wildflowers in our case.

Soon enough Boyce and Conley arrived with pizzas and we all ate an unhealthy amount an hour before the dinner of quesadillas, but it was worth it. We had a campfire and made s’mores and laughed at some hilarious jokes before going to bed before sunset. The amount of sleep on this trip was actually surprisingly high. Overall day one set a solid foundation for the rest of our trip and created a positive and laid back attitude going into the following days of work.

-Lauren Guthrie

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Emma K. Overlooking Lake Spokane

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Our Dinner of Quesadillas

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Our campsite

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Lake Spokane

 

Serving those who Serve

I wanted to share what GRID Alternatives wrote about this summer’s solar installation on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation. I can definitely speak for all of EcoAction when I say that we were so grateful to be able to give back to those who have served our country, especially during Memorial Day. We can’t wait to share more pictures and updates with you, but for now, please click the link below!

Riley

CLICK HERE!