Wasco Electric Cooperative Hires New General Manager
(Nov. 21) The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Executive Search Committee and the board of directors of Wasco Electric Cooperative (The Dalles, Ore.) announced the selection of Lindsay Forepaugh as general manager. Forepaugh, a native Oregonian, succeeds Ned Ratterman, who served in the role for two years.
“It is exciting to bring Lindsay to Wasco Electric,” said WEC Board President Michael Collins. “We know she will be a great asset to our cooperative and are happy she has decided to move back to Oregon and be a part of our co-op family.”
Before joining Wasco Electric, Forepaugh served as chief relations officer for Delta-Montrose Electric Association in Montrose, Colorado. She previously was the chief financial officer for High West Energy of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. Before her role at HWE, Forepaugh worked for six years in the oil and gas industry. She held various titles, ranging from supply chain manager to internal auditor. In many of her roles, she was responsible for high-level strategic planning. Her educational accomplishments include a doctorate in business administration from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.
Forepaugh begins leading the cooperative Jan. 1, 2024.
MECA Recognizes Two Life Savers
(Nov. 27) This year, the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association presented Jerry Lemm and Chuck Knight each with MECA’s Life Saver Award in recognition of their life-saving actions.
Lemm, a safety/loss control instructor for MECA, provided assistance and first aid after witnessing a serious car accident the morning of July 31. Three victims were involved, including two that Lemm later found out were wanted by authorities. Lemm and another passerby forced open the driver’s side door to release the driver. Lemm then ensured that another person had called 911 and put the same person in charge of slowing traffic. He assessed the female victim and determined she could have a serious neck or lower-extremity injury. He treated her based on that assessment until the EMTs arrived and was later told that his actions on the scene helped give her a chance at survival.
Knight of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative was driving back to the office after a day of work in the field when he saw a man with a rope in his hand standing on the Yellowstone River Bridge in Laurel. The car in front of Knight pulled over, forcing Knight to slow down. The driver of the other car exited his vehicle and yelled to Knight that the man on the bridge was preparing to jump. Knight parked his work vehicle in a way that protected the people standing on the bridge. Knight and two others reached the sobbing would-be jumper just as he began to climb over the bridge rail. The rescuers grabbed the man, pulled him back over the rail to safety, and held him on the ground. One of the other lifesavers grabbed the rope, formed into a noose around the man’s neck, and Knight cut the rope, saving the man’s life.
A full account of Lemm’s and Knight’s heroism can be found on pages 2-3 of MECA’s December Rural Montana magazine, here.
Flathead Electric Appoints Gary Carmichael to Board
(Nov. 20) Gary Carmichael of Whitefish, Montana, has been appointed to serve on Flathead Electric Cooperative’s (Kalispell, Mont.) Board of Trustees. He will represent members residing in District No. 3, which generally comprises the Whitefish and Big Mountain areas, until the 2024 Annual Meeting. At that time, a trustee will be elected by co-op members. A selection committee chose Carmichael from the six members who applied.
Carmichael recently retired after a celebrated 33-year career as a history teacher and librarian. He was Montana’s 2007 Teacher of the Year.
“As a high school American history teacher, I always enjoyed my students’ amazement at the impact of the Rural Electrification Act, which created the Flathead Electric Cooperative we know today. Through board service, I am looking forward to continuing to share that positive impact as our society enters a new era of electricity usage,” said Carmichael after his appointment.
Carmichael holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Montana and an M.A. from Western Governors University. Before retiring from the Whitefish School District in June, he taught at Muldown Elementary and Whitefish middle and high schools. Carmichael has a broad background of interests and skill sets, including extensive experience with computer coding and years of involvement with the Boy Scouts.
“The Board of Trustees is very pleased by the quality of the applicants interested in representing District No. 3. Our decision was not an easy one—we have highly educated and experienced neighbors among us. However, Gary offers what’s needed to balance the makeup of the nine-member, democratically elected board of trustees that govern the co-op,” shared Gary Boe, president of the board.
La Plata Announces Sale of FastTrack Communications
(Nov. 21) La Plata Electric Association (Durango, Colo.) announced that Clearnetworx has purchased FastTrack Communications for an undisclosed amount as part of an ongoing strategic partnership between the parties. LPEA owned a partial share of FastTrack since 2002. As part of the agreement, LPEA will non-exclusively work with Clearnetworx on future broadband deployment within LPEA’s service area.
Clearnetworx is headquartered in Montrose, Colorado, and has provided broadband service to communities and rural areas across the Western Slope since 2012. In 2023, Clearnetworx started full fiber-to-the-home buildouts in Durango, Bayfield, and Cortez. As part of the company’s commitment to the region, Clearnetworx has applied for over $30 million in State of Colorado grant projects this fall for rural southwest Colorado.
“FastTrack and Clearnetworx have had a long relationship and great collaboration,” said Clearnetworx President Doug Seacat. “Our groups share a focus on local support and how fiber internet can create impact within the communities we live in. We’re excited to continue those efforts through this partnership as we bring fiber internet services to communities and rural areas across southwest Colorado.”
LPEA’s board of directors has a strategic broadband goal that states LPEA will pursue a funding and partnership strategy that will enable broadband connections to its membership by 2030 without increasing electric rates to do so.
“The sale of FastTrack and the ongoing relationship between the two parties are an important step towards achieving LPEA’s strategic broadband goal,” said LPEA Board President Ted Compton. “We’re proud to have played a role in the development of the backbone fiber network in our area through our ownership of FastTrack and look forward to seeing new, affordable broadband opportunities for our membership.”
Grays Harbor PUD Board Approves 2024 Budget
(Nov. 21) The Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) Board of Commissioners have approved the utility’s 2024 budget that invests in the utility system; continues to provide clean and reliable energy; and for the fourth time in five years, does not increase customer rates.
“When we speak to our customers, keeping rates as low as we can is always something that we hear about,” said Commission President Arie Callaghan. “To pass a budget that allows us to do that, while so many other costs are rising, is a testament to the great work, sound planning, and smart decision-making of our staff.”
“Not all utilities have been this fortunate,” said Commission Secretary Dave Timmons. “A lot of factors had to line up correctly for this to happen.”
Finance Director Kathryn Skolrood and General Manager Schuyler Burkhart credited conservative budget planning, favorable weather predictions, the expiration of long-term energy contracts, and the adoption of a new energy contract with Bonneville Power Administration as the reasons the utility will avoid an increase.
In addition to not raising rates, the $115.8 million spending plan will allow the PUD to continue its tradition of providing clean and reliable energy, with $58.3 million being spent on energy purchases from the Bonneville Power Administration, Sierra Pacific Industries biomass combustion system, the Coastal Community Action Program wind project, and the Nine Canyons wind farm.
“It’s a good mix of reliable and emission-free energy,” Burkhart said. “The reliability of the Federal Columbia River Power System and the Columbia Generating Station, combined with the wind and biomass turbines, allows the PUD to keep the lights on for over 45-thousand customers and helps to meet the emission free standards being demanded by Washington’s energy policies.”
OPALCO to Clear Trees for Safety
(Nov. 21) Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (Eastsound, Wash.) has several right-of-way clearing projects happening the coming months throughout San Juan County. Right-of-way clearing helps manage trees and vegetation near power lines and is critical for wildfire prevention and safety for the OPALCO crews.
All year long, OPALCO crews do safety checks and inspect along the miles of overhead power lines. They are looking for damage to lines and areas that need trimming or clearing. When lines have been properly cleared, it gives crews line of sight to identify issues and easier access for the needed equipment to make those repairs. Clearing under the power lines also helps to lessen the risk of wildfires.
OPALCO works with certified arborists, who are trained to work safely around high voltage lines, to advise and identify areas that need to be addressed. OPALCO follows expert guidance from various state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on best practices for timing and maintenance methodologies.
Grays Harbor PUD Warns of Scammers Seeking Home Access
(Nov. 20) Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) has received multiple reports of individuals claiming to work for the PUD, seeking entry to customers’ homes to replace utility equipment. In mid-November, PUD staff received emails and phone calls stating that multiple customers had been visited by an individual offering to sell a new, roof-mounted electricity meter to the customer. The individual claimed that the existing meter needed to be replaced and the new meter would save the customer money.
“This latest scam is troubling on several levels, in that the perpetrators are trying to get inside the customers’ homes and that they are hoping to be mistaken for legitimate PUD crews who are working in our community,” said Customer Service Supervisor Megan Warner. “If someone shows up at your door and offers to replace PUD equipment or sell you a new meter, do not give them money, personal information, or let them into your home. The best thing to do is to call the PUD and check if there is a crew who is supposed to be at your home at that time.”
Grays Harbor PUD has no affiliation with companies who offer to replace meters at a lower cost and when the PUD does replace equipment, official PUD staff are dispatched to do such work during regular business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) on weekdays. The PUD warned that recipients of suspicious visits and offers should under no circumstances agree to send money or give bank account, credit card or other personal information, and should not allow access to their homes. Rather, Grays Harbor PUD advised customers to immediately contact PUD customer service to verify the claim.
SMUD Employees Recognized for Invention
(Nov. 17) Three SMUD (Sacramento, Calif.) employees were recently recognized for their work on a project that was awarded the seventh patent in SMUD’s history.
Lucas Krall, senior strategic business planner in customer and community services, and Jeff Paull and Yareli Herrera, energy advisers from the zero carbon energy solutions team, are the inventors of SMUD’s Residential Energy Diagnostics tool. This tool helps customers identify equipment problems and find solutions, and it was developed in direct response to feedback provided by the utility’s customers.
PCWA Adopts 2024 Budget Aimed at Managing Resources, Improving Infrastructure
(Nov. 17) The Placer County Water Agency (Auburn, Calif.) Board of Directors on Nov. 16 approved a new budget for 2024 totaling $175 million. Almost half of the 2024 budget is dedicated to capital projects to improve existing infrastructure and prepare for planned economic development in the region, while the balance is dedicated to maintaining reliability for existing customers.
PCWA noted that just as in the past, when people foresaw the need and secured a reliable water supply, today’s focus is on keeping customers supplied with reliable water while also gearing up for future necessities.
“In the 1960s, Placer voters saw fit to ensure a reliable water supply for future generations,” said Robert Dugan, chair of the PCWA board. “We are fortunate to have adequate water supplies—right here at home—to meet the needs of the vibrant communities we serve. But there’s a pressing need to maintain our infrastructure to ensure customers have access to the clean, reliable water they need to thrive.”
Emerald PUD Increases Scholarship Amounts for 2024
(Nov. 16) During Public Power Week in early October, Emerald PUD (Eugene, Ore.) increased its efforts to give back to the communities it serves. The utility has since held coffee giveaways; raised donations in food and clothing drives; and volunteered at schools, food pantries, and community support organizations. These efforts were made to show Emerald’s customers and communities the utility’s appreciation, as well as to celebrate public power and Emerald’s 40th anniversary as a working utility.
In mid-November, Emerald continued to give back by sharing exciting news about its EmPOWERing Scholarships program. Emerald’s board of directors unanimously approved a substantial increase to the scholarship amount. Starting with the scholarships that will be awarded in 2024, the dollar amount is increased from $3,000 to $5,000 each. The purpose of the increase is to make a bigger financial impact for the students and to encourage more students to explore careers in the electric utility industry.
Emerald’s commitment to its community goes well beyond providing reliable power to customer-owners. The utility is also committed to supporting community growth and the health of the local economy. Emerald offers scholarships to help develop future generations of utility workers by promoting rewarding careers in the electric utility industry—careers that offer interesting and exciting work with competitive salaries and benefits. And as more students in the utility’s area choose electric utility careers, Emerald ensures its choice to hire locally continues into the future.
The EmPOWERing Scholarships program is now open and accepting applications for 2024, with five scholarships available to Emerald customers and customer family members who are pursuing utility industry careers, including graduating high school seniors, students starting or continuing college or trade school education, and adults seeking training for a new career. Applications must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2024, at www.epud.org/scholarships.
Grant PUD Budget Approved With Funding to Finish Fiber Buildout
(Nov. 15) Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) commissioners on Nov. 14 unanimously approved a $347.2 million expense budget for 2024 that fosters continued financial strength; ensures continued reliable service for the PUD’s customers; and completes a milestone, 24-year effort to make the Grant PUD fiber-optic network available to every resident of Grant County.
“Fiber for everyone who wants it was a commitment we made as a commission in 2000,” said Tom Flint, the board’s longest-standing member and a consistent fiber advocate. “At times, it didn’t seem as if we’d get there, but it sure looks like it’s going to happen by late next year. That’s good to see.”
The 2024 budget includes a rate increase. Commissioners continue working with staff to determine how much a rate increase is needed to maintain the utility’s financial health and how the increase will affect each individual rate class.
Future rate discussions will be scheduled to give customers ample chance for input before the new rates are expected to take effect April 1, 2024.
Total budgeted expenditures in 2024 are 9.5% higher than the $317 million in total spending originally budgeted in 2023. The increase is driven by 7.3% increase in operations and maintenance expenses, from $188.2 million in 2023 to $201.9 million, and an 11.6% increase in capital spending, from $155 million in 2023 to $172.9 million.
Cascadia McLaren Welcomes New Team Member
“We are confident that her skills, enthusiasm, and fresh perspective will make a significant impact on our team,” Cascadia McLaren stated in the announcement.
Cascadia McLaren is a professional manufacturers’ representative in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, visit www.cascadiamclaren.com.
Secret Agreement Between U.S. Government and Anti-Hydro Plaintiff Groups Represents “Greatest Threat” for the Region
(Nov. 29) The U.S. government’s “Commitments in Support of the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative and in Partnership with the Six Sovereigns” (USG Commitments) was made public this week by members of the Northwest congressional delegation. The six sovereigns include the State of Oregon, State of Washington, Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.
The USG Commitments spell out the terms of a proposed settlement over long-standing litigation surrounding the Federal Columbia River Power System and the lower Snake River dams.
The USG Commitments are an outgrowth of a process that was supposed to support collaborative development of “a durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels, honoring Federal commitments to Tribal Nations, delivering affordable and reliable clean power, and meeting the many resilience needs of stakeholders across the region.” This document fails to meaningfully address any of these requirements. Instead, it undermines the future of achieving clean energy mandates and potentially raises the rates of electricity customers across the region without addressing the true cause of salmon declines—the warming, acidifying ocean.
In a joint statement, the executive directors of Northwest RiverPartners, the Public Power Council, and the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association expressed extreme concern about the transparency of this process and the USG Commitments’ impacts on millions of Northwesterners.
Northwest RiverPartners is a member-driven organization that serves not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming. For more information, visit www.nwriverpartners.org.
The Public Power Council is an association that represents over 100 consumer-owned electric utilities in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, please visit www.ppcpdx.org.
The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association is a nonprofit, non-partisan trade association that supports navigation, energy, trade, and economic development throughout the region. For more information, visit www.pnwa.net.
NISC Again Named a Best Place to Work in IT
(Nov. 29) National Information Solutions Cooperative, a leading provider of software solutions to utility and broadband providers, was named a Best Place to Work in Information Technology Foundry’s Computerworld, ranking number 22 among midsize organizations (1,001 – 4,999 employees). This marks NISC’s 20th straight year on the list and 21st recognition overall.
For midsize companies, NISC also ranked first on the list for career development, third for IT growth, and eighth for employee engagement.
“This recognition is a testament to our incredible employees and our culture that we take great pride in. Being recognized on Computerworld’s list of Best Places to Work in IT for the 20th year in a row is an incredible honor,” said NISC President and CEO Doug Remboldt. “At NISC, we believe in ‘doing the right thing, always,’ and to us that means taking care of our employees so they can be of service to our members. We are proud of the unique and impactful ways we show our appreciation for their hard work.”
Since 1994, the annual Best Places to Work in IT feature has ranked the top 100 work environments for technology professionals. The list is compiled based on a comprehensive questionnaire regarding company offerings in categories such as benefits, career development, DEI, future of work, and training and retention. In addition, this year the rankings were reviewed and vetted by a panel of industry experts.
National Information Solutions Cooperative is an information technology organization that develops, implements, and supports software and hardware solutions for telephone companies, electric cooperatives, and other public power entities. NISC serves members in all 50 states, American Samoa, Palau, and Canada. For more information, visit www.nisc.coop.
CFC U.S. Bank One Card Users Earn Largest-Ever Rebate
(Nov. 27) For the third straight year, the annual National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation U.S. Bank One Card rebate has set a new record and nearly crossed the $3 million mark. The 460 CFC and NCSC users earned a collective rebate of $2,829,768—surpassing the 2022 best by more than $410,000—for the most recent plan year, which ended Aug. 31.
“The record-breaking rebate can be attributed to adding new members to the program, which increased the overall charge volume,” One Card Program Administrator Stacy Bilal said.
CFC staff distributed the rebates—prorated based on card use—in mid-November. Most systems received their payment via ACH, or automated clearinghouse, while those not signed up for ACH received a check.
To earn a rebate, One Card had to generate an aggregate annual charge volume of at least $20 million with an average transaction size of at least $120. The portfolio continued to significantly exceed these requirements with annual charge volume of more than $205 million, a $29 million increase from the previous plan year.
Created and owned by America’s electric cooperative network, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation—a nonprofit finance cooperative—provides unparalleled industry expertise, flexibility, and responsiveness to serve the needs of its members across the U.S. For more information, visit www.nrucfc.coop.