On November 4th, the 85th annual meeting was held at the spacious Clearwater River Casino.
In 1937, people in the rural areas of Clearwater, Nez Perce, and Latah counties formed their own electric cooperative. That cooperative grew to 11 counties in 3 states and it stands today as a testament of that determination and ingenuity. To this day, the membership still meets annually to discuss the issues we all face and to elect leadership to guide us through times of prosperity and times of challenge.
On November 4th, the 85th annual meeting was held at the spacious Clearwater River Casino. Attendees enjoyed coffee and pastries and everyone received an attendance prize. Door prizes were also drawn throughout the event including a $300 grand prize.
General Manager Dave Hagen reported on the incredible growth our region is experiencing. “2021 was the busiest new construction year since 2007 and 2022 is shaping up to be comparable.” He noted that in 2021, Clearwater Power added 312 new accounts and 25 miles of underground primary distribution line.
In addition, to new construction, crews stayed busy with pole change-outs, voltage upgrades, as well as general system maintenance. The cooperative continued to make right-of- way clearing a huge priority and it remains the largest maintenance expense. To accomplish this, Clearwater Power utilized multiple contractors as well as cooperative crews who used mechanical, bucket, and hand clearing methods to clear vegetation from the power line right-of-way areas.
Attorney Sonyalee Nutsch conducted elections for 2 board seats. The election for district 5 included incumbent board member Kenneth Weiss of Asotin who ran unopposed and was thusly re-elected. The election for district 1 included Paul (Joe) Anderson of Potlatch, Idaho and Charles Petras of Farmington, Washington. Each candidate was given the opportunity to address the audience. Ballots were cast by all voting members and placed into locked ballot boxes. The ballots were then counted by Sonyalee Nutsch and Lorrie McCabe, Chief Financial Officer under the supervision of three members at-large who volunteered to serve as election judges. At the conclusion, Mr. Anderson received the majority of votes and will take over as the Director for District 1 effective December 1, 2022.
Board President Tom Hutchinson addressed the membership with an update on cooperative business including the future of the wholesale power supply. With the current contract set to expire in 2028, the cooperative is exploring options for the future. BPA is planning on offering long-term contracts in late 2025 with the goal of being a Provider of Choice as they already provide most of the wholesale power at cost-based rates to public power utilities across the Pacific Northwest. “We are educating ourselves on the different options available to meet our wholesale power and transmission needs in the future. This will be an extremely important decision,” he says.
General Manager, Dave Hagen discussed how electric utilities continue to experience unprecedented supply chain issues. The availability and delivery of transformers, conductor, poles, and other critical equipment is being delayed and is seeing increases of up to 300%. He expressed appreciation to his staff for their proactive approach in meeting those challenges.
He also discussed the 4-year construction work plan. The plan includes significant upgrades to the SCADA system which allows for remote monitoring and operation of the electric grid. “It’s faster, more precise, and less costly than physically traveling to every piece of equipment,” he said. Fortunately, the cost of those improvements will be significantly offset thanks to a successful grant application with the Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources.
During the Q&A session, Mr. Hagen was asked about the future of hydropower in the northwest. He stated that the study from the Washington State Governor’s office did not recommend breaching at this time and that Clearwater Power remains committed to a clean energy future that includes hydropower.
Bob Pierce, Chief Operating Officer introduced the 2022 ICUA Youth Rally representatives. “Two of the seven cooperatives principles are Concern for the Community and Education. Both of these principles are served by awarding these scholarships,” he said. $1000 scholarships were awarded to Cameron Clovis of Asotin, Allison Kinzer of Craigmont, Annie Petty of Cloverland, Samantha Erks of Clarkston, Ariana Flaig of Juliaetta, and $1500 was awarded to Zane Uptmor of Culdesac. Zane was also chosen by his peers to return in 2023 to work as a youth director. He addressed the audience saying: “It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.”
The great attendance and participation in the election process and governance of this cooperative proves that our community is as strong and connected as ever.