Manager’s Message

Hi, I’m Debi Wilson, General Manager of Lane Electric Cooperative. Every month, I will report on some of the issues facing Lane Electric and share important news and updates with you, our members.

Sometimes, I may write about poles, lines and wires, our power supply, service interruptions, emergency preparedness, or rate changes. Other times, it might be about member meetings and community service. And sometimes, it’s simply to keep you informed about what goes on at Lane Electric, your cooperative.

Be sure to check out “Recent Stories from Ruralite” (to the left) for other information you might be interested in, too.

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — January 2020

A New Year, A New Decade

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonAs we rang in 2020, we also rang in a new decade of opportunity. Welcome to the 2020s. A new year brings opportunity for reflection on our past and optimism for our future. As we close out 2019, I want to reflect on some highlights from this past year.

February brought us a storm for the decades. When we thought the ice storm of 2016 was the worst we had seen, Mother Nature had to close out the 2010s with a bang. The February storm caused widespread damage to 77% of our electric system. It impacted 10,120 members and our small line crew of 16 increased to a crew of 111 linemen. As a utility, we learned the importance of preparedness and shared the message with you all year long.

In April, I was honored to be hired as your general manager. After serving Lane Electric members in various roles for nearly two decades, I was thrilled to be chosen to lead your cooperative. Being in this new role has been a highlight of the year and a true honor.

In May, I visited with you at our five district meetings. We updated members on the broadband feasibility study, Bonneville Power Administration rates, our financial and legal reports, and our distribution system report. We look forward to seeing you at our 2020 meetings.

I visited Washington, D.C., on behalf of our members and cooperatives to advocate for the RURAL Act, which will help us maintain reasonable rates by protecting our tax-exempt status.

During the summer, line crews and tree trimmers worked to improve reliability. We also changed out reclosers to do our part to reduce fire risk to our beautiful community.

I am proud we continued supporting our local youth. In 2019, we distributed scholarships totaling approximately $20,000 to seven deserving students. We also offer a scholarship for a trip for one high school junior to visit our nation’s capital. Lastly, we continued our support of FFA and 4-H.

Lane Electric supported local communities through local events, celebrations, and parades. We also donated to local schools and grad parties. And very dear to our cooperative, we provided lunch to our veterans.

Lane Electric celebrated 80 years of service. We went from serving 650 members in 1939 to the nearly 13,000 we proudly serve today.

As we ring in 2020, we are proud to serve you, our members. We hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season with family and friends.

From our families to yours, Happy New Year!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — December 2019

Do You Know a High School Junior?

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonLane Electric is proud to provide another opportunity for one lucky high school junior to attend the 2020 Washington Youth Tour. I can’t think of a better way for a student to learn about U.S. history and government than to visit our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

As many as 1,800 students across the United States will get this incredible opportunity to learn more about our nation, develop leadership skills, gain knowledge of electric co-ops and make new friends. Students will spend one week touring Washington, meeting congressional leaders and visiting Capitol Hill. There is a packed schedule, with built-in educational opportunities and fun social events.
You can get a glimpse of some of the many places the students will visit on page 8 of this edition of Ruralite magazine. The students will fly out of Portland and spend five full days visiting memorials, museums, a baseball game and enjoying many meals together.

While enjoying the rich history, students will also get to learn about cooperatives and their people-focused business model. Cooperatives are a prestigious group of organizations that truly care about their local community. We are proud to be a nonprofit organization owned by our members and governed by an elected board of directors. Cooperatives across the nation help keep money local and in the communities they serve. We love sharing our model with others!

Aside from our business model, we are also proud to be a part of the history of electrifying the United States. Providing electricity to rural communities was, and still is, not profitable. Rural areas are difficult and expensive to reach. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it possible to get electricity to our low-density areas when he signed the Rural Electrification Act, which provided loans to reach rural America. Today, 99% of our rural consumers receive electricity. The history of providing electricity to consumers is a fascinating lesson in itself.

Parents and guardians: This is an all-expense-paid trip. The only cash students may need is for souvenirs. To apply, students must be a high school junior and their parent or guardian must be a Lane Electric member. Applications are due Thursday, January 23. There is still plenty of time, but don’t delay, especially with the busy upcoming holiday season.

I am delighted Lane Electric is able to provide this enriching and immersive educational opportunity!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — November 2019

Honor and Reflection

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonIt is hard to believe 2019 is nearly over and in two short months we will welcome a new year and new decade.
Before many of us begin to formulate resolutions and goals for the new year, November reminds us to pause and reflect on the things we are grateful for. November provides us with two significant opportunities to reflect: Thanksgiving and Veterans Day.

On November 28, Thanksgiving Day, many of us will pause and give thanks with loved ones. We will take time to enjoy food with family, friends and even strangers. Some of us will gather at homes and others will gather to give their time to serve others. Thanksgiving pro- vides many opportunities to spend a day with one another in an intentional way.

Another opportunity each year to reflect and give thanks is November 11. Our country would not have the freedoms it does without the sacrifice of our veterans. My first priority is to pause and say thank you to each of our members who have given their time to serve and sacrifice for our country in the military. At Lane Electric, we appreciate your patriotism, love of country and the sacrifice you made, or make, for the common good.

We also appreciate the sacrifice of each family that has a loved one who has served, or is currently serving, in our armed forces. You also are making a huge sacrifice with the absence of your loved one. We know many will celebrate both of these holidays while service members are away. So again, thank you for your service!

I am proud of our Lane Electric family that has provided service to our country and now chooses to give time serving their community. Please take the time to read more about their service to our country on pages 4-5 in this edition of Ruralite. I personally want to thank Blair, Jack, Hugh and Jerry for their service.

Our country and our veterans are important to us. That is why this year we will celebrate our third annual Veterans Day Luncheon. Please read more about this great idea from our employee, Julie, on page 4 and get all the details. We welcome any Lane Electric members in our service territory who have served in the armed forces. If we missed you, please call Julie at Lane Electric to be sure we get you on the list. We want to honor you.

In closing, while you take the time to think about the things you are thankful for, I want to thank you, our members who support public power. Thank you to those who have served, and thank you for allowing me to serve you. Enjoy the Thanksgiving season!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — October 2019

Celebrate Public Power and Cooperatives!

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonOctober is a month to be celebrated! October is National Co-op Month. Cooperatives are unique local organizations. This year’s theme, “By the Community, For the Community,” is a great motto that we strive for as your cooperative.

Lane Electric was founded by a group of McKenzie River community members 80 years ago. We were started by the community and today we are still here for the community, providing electricity to nearly 13,000 members.

In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act was passed, providing loans designed to help electrify the United States. At the time, and still today, it is not profitable to serve low-populated, hard-to-reach areas of our country. Even with loans provided, the big investor-owned utilities
were not interested in extending lines to these hard-to-reach places. Still needing electricity, local rural residents—just like those Lane Electric pioneers—traveled door to door to seek support for electric cooperatives. It took a lot of time and energy, but by 1948, 40,000 consumers a month were being connected to co-op lines. Today, many years later, 99% of our rural communities receive electricity.

We are privileged to be part of such a prestigious group of organizations that care about their local communities. Some of these organizations include farmers, credit unions, housing co-ops, food coops and electric co-ops. Currently, more than 40,000 cooperatives in the United States serve more than 350 million members. Many people belong to more than one. We are proud to be a part of the 18 electric cooperatives in Oregon and more than 900 electric cooperatives across 47 states. Electric cooperatives account for more than one-third of the nation’s electric utility industry, serving 42 million Americans.

Lane Electric Cooperative is proud to:

  • Be owned by our members, so we can serve you and not a group of shareholders.
  • Be governed by a board of directors elected by you.
  • Be a nonprofit organization, helping us provide you at-cost electricity.
  • Provide jobs in our community.
  • Be part of the community, keeping money local and providing help in our communities.

Each day, we are proud to serve you. We appreciate that group of community members who had a vision to serve and electrify the rural communities in Lane County back in 1939. So this month, we ask you to celebrate public power, cooperatives and your very own Lane Electric.

Happy National Co-op Month!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — September 2019

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonWhile many are still enjoying the summer sun, the leaves are changing colors and fall is beginning to arrive. It is a beautiful time of year in our community.

During summer and fall, people don’t think much about unplanned outages, and neither do we—although we do think about how to better prepare for outages and what our team can do to reduce the number of occurrences and duration during the winter.

Throughout summer, Lane Electric crews work hard to trim trees and make line repairs. This is work done year-round, but with more daylight and favorable weather, crews can make great progress during this time.

I am sure you have not forgotten about this past February—and we surely have not. We have continued cleanup from the damage this snowstorm left behind. We hope we can all learn from our February experiences and become better prepared. So, while we continue to prepare our system for storm season, we also hope you prepare as well.

During the past two months, we have included a shopping list to build your own emergency kit. These lists are on page 8 of your July and August editions of Ruralite, as well as a new list in this edition.

I encourage you to take time to read a great article about preparedness, “Get Ready for the Next Disaster.” This article not only encourages you to be prepared for an emergency, it sheds light on other types of outages we have not yet
experienced on our system, such as earthquakes and widespread wildfires. Preparedness is key, as disasters not only impact your electricity, but the roads and communication infrastructures we are accustomed to.

In the unfortunate event of a disaster, do you know your first responders? When you make an emergency call, you are the first responder, as you are first on the scene. Many recognize police and firefighters as first responders, but the list includes any other organization or person that responds to emergencies, including you, our member. You can also count on your Lane Electric crew to respond, often making the area safe so others can do their jobs.

Should we have a natural disaster, are you prepared to respond?

Please read this month’s article and shopping list. If you have misplaced your July and August copies of Ruralite, visit laneelectric.com to find previous shopping lists. If you want more information, Ready.gov is another great resource.

At Lane Electric, we care about you and your families. We want our members to be disaster survivors, not disaster victims.

Are you prepared?

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — August 2019

Protect Your Cooperative’s Tax Status—We Need Your Help

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonRecent tax changes by the Internal Revenue Service are having unintended consequences to Oregon electric cooperatives, including Lane Electric. The changes could threaten our tax-exempt status and Lane Electric’s use of government aid in the future, such as disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or broadband grants.

The IRS change states that no more than 15% of an electric cooperative’s revenue can come from nonmember sources. This means any government aid would be considered nonmember income and could impact the tax-exempt status of Lane Electric and other cooperatives.

Why would Lane Electric use government aid? This past February is a wonderful example. As many of you remember, Lane Electric’s system suffered tremendous damage due to a historic snowstorm. The hit to our electrical system continues to require system cleanup. During the storm, we had to increase staffing to restore power as quickly as possible to our members.

This storm was expensive and recently was declared a federal disaster. Five counties in Oregon received this declaration. Damage in Lane County topped $17 million. The cost to Lane Electric alone was approximately $5.6 million.

The FEMA grant money to Lane Electric would be a significant help to keep our rates down and offset storm damage costs, but the challenge is what will be the cost to our tax-exempt status if we accept the money as revenue?

Aside from government aid for disasters, another impact to our members would be our ongoing broadband feasibility study. In the June General Manager’s report, I noted Lane Electric had contracted with Pulse Broadband to perform a feasibility study. We know many of you need high-speed internet.

While we continue to determine needed equipment, coverage, services and cost, we now have to consider the costs of requesting a broadband grant. Lane Electric has a desire, if feasible, to help members needing these broadband services. In fact, that is how we got our start when a group of citizens in 1939 wanted electric power to their rural homes. But requesting this grant could now come with consequences to our members.

How can you help? First, I encourage you to educate yourself on the topic. You can read more about the RURAL (Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands) Act on pages 28 and 29 in the article titled The RURAL Act to the Rescue.

Secondly, take action! Visit our grassroots page, www.ORECA-Action.org, and urge your members of Congress to support the RURAL Act.

Please help us preserve our tax-exempt status and keep your rates low.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — July 2019

Legislative Visits and Fire Prevention

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonIn late April, Lane Electric Co-op directors and I joined other electric cooperative representatives from around the state and throughout the nation in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues important to us with our federal legislators. These annual face-to-face visits are an important part of our efforts to continue providing you with safe, reliable and affordable service, and to maintaining local control of our operations.

We had a lot to talk about this year. We asked for help implementing legislation passed last year regarding maintaining our right-of-way across federal lands to ensure rules are coordinated with all of the affected federal agencies. We asked legislators to correct an unintended consequence of tax reform legislation passed last year that treats federal disaster relief payments as nonmember income that may endanger our federal tax-exempt status. We also thanked our legislators for firmly rejecting President Donald Trump’s budget proposal to sell the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration.

Wildfire Risks High

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, residents along the West Coast should be ready for another busy fire season. The agency reports above normal potential for significant wildfires west of the Cascade crest in Washington and Oregon through August.

Fallen timber still on the ground following February’s snowstorm, coupled with sunny and warm days the last two months, has created more fuel and a hazardous situation. It’s getting drier and hotter by the day. Our service territory already experienced two fires in the past two months. As of June 14, outdoor burning in Lane County is prohibited until at least October 1.

Fire Safety Starts With Prevention

We are doing what we can to mitigate fires on our system, including changing our reclosers from three-shot to single-shot. Reclosers are circuit breakers equipped with a mechanism that can automatically close the breaker after it has been opened due to a fault, such as a tree limb falling on it. Single-shot means it will close the breaker—cutting power—after the first fault, not the third.

While this can reduce the risk of fire, it also means more outages and possibly more prolonged outages as crews patrol the entire line to find where the fault occurred. We are taking this extra precaution for your safety. As always, if you see potential fire hazards relating to utility wire, please give us a call.

To reduce risk of fire around your home, please visit www.firewise.org. If you plan to use fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, please take extra
precaution.

Let’s keep Oregon green for generations to come. Make fire prevention a priority in your life by following rules and regulations and being good stewards of the land.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — June 2019 — District Meetings Recap: Underground, Broadband and BPA

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Mother Nature has certainly shown us what she’s made of this year. Snow, flooding and fire already? Because of this, a theme of last month’s district meetings was disaster preparedness. Lane County Emergency Manager Patence Winningham, a Lane Electric member, emphasized the importance of being prepared to be on your own when disaster strikes because there are many more citizens than first responders and it takes time for them to get to you.

Also at our district meetings, I reported on the snowstorm, our broadband feasibility study and Bonneville Power Administration rates. Here is a summary of my report. Details of the snowstorm and our restoration efforts were covered in great detail in our April issue, so I’ll leave those out.

While we did everything we could to get your power restored as quickly and safely as possible, we recognize that every minute you are without power is one minute too long. We improved our processes after the 2016 ice storm and are committed to improving them further after this year’s event. We are incorporating your feedback into planning and protocols for the next major outage.

As I traveled around the service area and saw all the damage, I began to wonder how often these disasters are happening. I discovered that since 2012, they’re happening about every two years and have been growing in intensity.

I’m sure the biggest question on everyone’s mind is why we don’t underground all of our lines. The short answer is that it is not feasible to underground our entire system due to cost and other factors. You can read more about those details in the District Meeting Recap of Reports.

If undergrounding all the lines isn’t feasible, what can we do? We can continue to:

  • Identify and budget projects that are feasible to underground.
  • Identify and budget other projects where we can relocate lines out of the trees to places where they’re more easily accessed for faster power restoration.
  • We will apply for FEMA mitigation grants as they become available so we can do more of these resiliency projects.

As you can imagine, completing these projects will take many years. In the meantime, it’s important that we all prepare for the next disaster, even an earthquake. Remember, you play an important role in disaster preparedness in your community. While you do your best to take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors, we are laser-focused on restoring your power.

To read the rest of my report, please view the District Meeting Recap of Reports. Our financial, legal and distribution system reports are also in the Recap, and wildfire safety tips are in the Wildfire Risk Reduction article.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson, General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — May 2019

You’re Invited to District Meetings

Dear Co-op Community Members:

I am thrilled to write this message officially as your general manager. After 20 years at Lane Electric, beginning as controller in 1998 and then finance and administration manager from 2009 until now, this is exactly where I want to be. This is where my heart is.

I am honored to work alongside your board of directors on local, regional and national issues that affect our cooperative and you, our members. I am providing a seamless transition for the board and our dedicated employees, and look forward to leading our co-op into the future.

You know as much as I do that 2019 has been eventful! Just five weeks after the historic snowstorm and resulting widespread outages, a torrential downpour drenched the Willamette Valley, causing flooding, landslides and evacuation notices that affected many of you. This was a disaster preparedness reminder that came sooner than we all imagined one would.

I encourage you to read pages 4-5 in this issue to learn about the experience of Zechariah English, an employee who is also a Lane Electric member and was affected by both the snow and the flood. He also is our disaster preparedness advocate. Page 8 continues our snowstorm 2019 recap and includes answers to FAQs we received after the storm. Page 25 includes tips for safely using a generator.

For more information about disaster preparedness, I invite you to attend our upcoming district meetings. We are especially grateful to Lane County Emergency Manager Patence Winningham-Melcher, who will present disaster preparedness information at each meeting.

Also at our district meetings, you can meet with your directors, hear updates from your board president, legal counsel and me, and learn about the financial condition of the co-op. The meeting will include a question-and-answer session, dinner and door prizes. You should have received your voter’s packet in the mail by now or will soon. You can mail your ballot or turn it in at a district meeting.

District Meeting Dates and Locations

Dinner at 6 p.m., meeting at 6:30 p.m.

  • Thursday, May 2, Twin Oaks Elementary (Eugene)
  • Thursday, May 9, Westridge Elementary (Westfir)
  • Tuesday, May 14, Lowell High School Gymnasium
  • Thursday, May 16, Upper Mckenzie Community Center
  • Thursday, May 23, Dorena Grange

I look forward to seeing you at the meeting nearest you!

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — April 2019

A Storm for the Decades

Dear Co-op Community Members:

The snowstorm of February 2019 is one for the record books. In the past several decades, never have we seen so much damage to our service territory and the widespread outages that affected so many of our members for up to two weeks.

It was also a historic event due to the human capital we recruited to get the job done. You may have heard this already, but I think it bears repeating: A total of 111 linemen—95 more than our usual crew of 16—worked on behalf of Lane Electric to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. We are grateful for our rural electric cooperative family and other generous utilities throughout the state and across state lines who provided support.

I also applaud our entire team’s commitment and endurance. What you didn’t see in the field were the 28 Lane Electric staff members working behind the scenes to coordinate logistics with the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Transportation, Lane County and partnering utilities; manage an influx of materials and vehicles; organize meals, laundry and

housing for the crews; and distill information for member communications. From the accounting department to the lineworkers, it was an all-hands-on-deck operation.

While crews from other utilities have been sent home, Lane Electric crews continue restoration work in the aftermath of the storm. This includes addressing hazard trees and branches that were partially damaged in the storm and could now fall into power lines during inclement weather. They also will be retrieving downed wires and broken equipment that was covered by snow or fallen trees. The clean-up phase will last for several months. We may need to again bring in extra crews to get it all accomplished.

We heard many questions and concerns expressed during the outage: Why can’t you get more crews? Why can’t we get more specific information about restoration times? Why don’t you bury the lines so this doesn’t happen again?

I encourage you to read pages 4-5 and 8 for answers to these questions and to also attend our district meetings in May to hear more. See page 25 for district meeting dates and locations.

Finally, I would like to thank you, our members, for your patience and endurance during what we know was a difficult two weeks. As the dust settles, we all—as a utility and as individuals—are thinking about how to prepare for future major events. We hope you are doing the same. Whether it’s another winter storm or an earthquake, I truly believe it is not a question of if but when. At our district meetings and in future issues of Ruralite, we will share information about disaster preparedness and encourage you to take note.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
Acting General Manager