September 2017

The 2017 solar eclipse will occur just as this edition of Ruralite goes to print. For some, the eclipse is no big deal. Some are content with the 80% of totality that will be visible throughout the United States. Most Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) members will experience about 90% of totality. But for some astronomy fans, nothing but 100% is enough.

The news media reports that there isn’t a rental car or hotel room to be had anywhere in southern Idaho, and prices are often five times the normal rate. There have even been stories warning shadow chasers to bring food, water and gas because the crowds are expected to overwhelm local resources and roads.

Despite those risks, about a half a million people are expected to converge on the path of the eclipse to ensure a 100% experience.

When it comes to serving our members, your Board of Directors and employees feel the same way. Regardless of our responsibilities, nothing but 100% safe, reliable and affordable electricity is enough.

Some of our efforts to serve you are very visible, such as installing energy-efficient lighting or building power lines. Other efforts, such as representing you before elected officials or negotiating wholesale power supply contracts, happen mostly behind the scenes.

However, nothing your electric cooperative does happens without your help. For example, because of your willingness to invest in LED lighting, replace windows, upgrade insulation, install premium efficiency motors and buy Energy Star appliances, together we saved an estimated 2,853,151 kiloWatt hours of electricity worth $769,583 in 2016!

We may soon need your help with another critical issue.

Water flowing through the Columbia River is managed under a plan that has been developed over the past three decades. That plan, usually referred to as the Biological Opinion (BiOp), balances the needs of fish with the needs of food growers, cargo ships, recreation, electricity consumers and Native Americans. The plan isn’t perfect, but it has been tested, litigated and revised many times to reach a consensus on what is best for listed fish.

One of the principle drivers increasing electricity rates is the cost of fish and wildlife mitigation programs. Ratepayers in the Pacific Northwest spend approximately $635 million every year to recover endangered salmon and steelhead. It’s a staggering amount—nearly a third of the Bonneville Power Administration’s annual budget—but fish populations have been steadily growing for more than a decade. Still, there are people who insist that your investment and increasing numbers of fish aren’t enough. They file a never-ending stream of lawsuits demanding actions that may actually harm fish.

WREC, and other utilities who rely on carbon-free hydroelectricity, are defending the BiOp with help from elected officials. Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has introduced House Resolution 3144, which will require river operations to follow the current BiOp until a comprehensive review can determine if a more effective plan can be developed.

We don’t know when this legislation will begin to move through Congress, but when it does, we will need you to urge Nevada’s Congressional delegation to support it.

Until then, please follow WREC on social media and check this website for additional information on this effort to control costs.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer