The Bureau of Reclamation will be adding jobs at Grand Coulee Dam over the next several years, boosting employment at the project by about 40 permanent jobs, plus adding a similar number that will fluctuate as special maintenance projects start and finish, Power Manager Mark Jenson announced Thursday.
“We’ve got a good future for Grand Coulee. We’ve got an opportunity to get staff back up to where it needs to be,” Jenson said, speaking to members of the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce at a weekly luncheon meeting at La Presa.
Beginning in 2013, the project will begin to add full-time, permanent positions of many kinds, including administration, clerical, engineering, safety and trades jobs, Jenson said.
“When I first came on board, what I heard from all the managers was that we didn’t have enough staff to do all the work that was before us,” said Jenson, who took over the project about a year and half ago.
Since that time, the project’s employee population has already grown from about 438 to 484, as of Oct. 1.
When adding those employees, Jenson said, he typically hears complaints about a lack of housing in the area.
“When our people come on board, a lot of them say … I can’t find housing,” Jenson said.
In announcing the staff additions, the project manager is hoping the community will respond to the “opportunity for business growth and growth of the community,” he said. “My hope would be that with opportunity there, we might get some interest in investment.”
He said the agency is not interested in building government housing.
Satisfying the housing need may require more than one approach.
“We’ve got everything from people that want to move here with families … to people that work for a contractor who are only going to be here for a few months,” Jenson noted of current employees.
He said funding is basically set for the 40 fulltime workers, the bulk of them to be added in the 2014-15 budget cycle, but some in the current fiscal year.
He said he expects a similar number will be needed on a continual flow of temporary maintenance projects that will basically never end. He compared the concept he sees maintaining the dam to the process of painting the Golden Gate Bridge, where workers start at one end, then start over when they finally reach the other end.