U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today announced that the Umatilla Electric Cooperative will receive a nearly $90 million federal loan to expand and improve the electric grid in Northeastern Oregon.
“Oregon’s severe weather events – from windstorms that down power lines and spark catastrophic infernos to ice and hail storms that cause losses in power as well as property damage – prove that we must fortify our aging grid infrastructure,” Wyden said. “This federal investment to make the power grid more resilient in Northeastern Oregon will go a long way in keeping rural Oregonians in Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties safer and with power through weather events to come.”
Merkley called the funding a “smart investment” in rural Oregon’s infrastructure.
“Ensuring rural cooperatives have the resources necessary to maintain modern and reliable electric infrastructure provides economic opportunity that rural communities across Oregon need to thrive,” Merkley said. “I’m pleased this funding supporting smart grid technologies is headed to Eastern Oregon.”
The investment will be used to connect 645 new consumers, and build and improve 93 miles of line in Northeastern Oregon through Umatilla Electric Cooperative which serves 15,913 consumers over 2,334 miles of line in Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties in Oregon. This loan also includes more than $12 million for smart grid technologies for a more efficient and resilient power grid.
“USDA’s rural development program for electric cooperatives is an integral part of our cooperative’s continued success in growth and service to our member communities in Eastern Oregon,” said UEC General Manager Robert Echenrode. “The $89 million loan will go towards a three-year plan to ensure UEC is there for our members with an estimated cost in excess of $121 million. The loan program ensures we can continue to invest and serve our members and offers us an affordable mechanism to finance these capital intensive projects, especially in times of rising costs for labor and materials.”