UEC Celebrates Past Year with Return to In-Person Annual Meeting

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Illusionist Hart Keene recruited audience members for his many mind-reading demonstrations during UEC's 85th Annual Meeting Saturday at the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center. (Photos by Michael Kane)

For the first time since 2019, Umatilla Electric Cooperative held its Annual Meeting in-person Saturday at the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center.

Members were treated to dinner catered by Castle Catering and entertained by illusionist Hart Keene, who impressed the audience with his mind-reading abilities.

At the 85th Annual Meeting, UEC General Manager and CEO Robert Echenrode highlighted the work of the co-op during 2021 in a video presentation with John Donner, UEC vice president of finance and rates, and UEC Board President Bryan Wolfe.

The Columbia Substation on Edwards Road is being replaced to provide additional support for irrigation. One of UEC’s oldest substations – Weston Mountain near Tollgate – will be replaced.

UEC General Manager and CEO Robert Echenrode answers questions from co-op members.

Echenrode spoke of the importance of irrigation communities and efforts of the co-op to support them.

“Our dedication to provide adequate capacity for ag operations include a number of new substations and improvements to better support not only the irrigation loads and the distribution of water and water services, but to also provide additional transmission capacities to ensure greater reliability,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than to lose electric service during growing season and the millions of dollars of losses that our farmers and our communities would suffer without the reliability that Umatilla Electric has provided.”

Other highlights of the past year include the completion of the Feedville Substation south of Hermiston, part of a three-substation improvement project UEC has been working on for nearly six years. The other two are the new Hermiston East Substation, and the rebuilding of the Hermiston Butte Substation.

“Those three substations better supply and support the growing communities of Hermiston, Umatilla and Stanfield,” Echenrode said.

In UEC’s Eastern District, Echenrode said crews are undergrounding some overhead line to help mitigate the risk of wildfire dangers. Along  with the new Weston Mountain substation, UEC is installing some system automation in its most remote areas.

Echenrode was optimistic about the UEC’s continued growth as well as that of the area’s economy.

“We have seen a rapid increase in the number of new homes to support the growing economy in our community,” he said. “We have seen nearly a doubling of our irrigation load with additional water rights that have been used to increase growing capabilities in our area. I foresee continued growth of our system through the next decade.”

Echenrode addressed the question of finding adequate power to keep up with the region’s growth.

“That question has been paramount for all utility providers for the past 100 years,” he said. “It’s our job to find the power, develop the power resources and have it delivered to our members. Umatilla Electric’s infrastructure improvements and transmission substations will be a step in that direction. Our partnership with BPA and other power suppliers in the region, I hope, will be able to deliver the necessary resources to meet the growing needs of Umatilla Electric.”

During the meeting, the results of the UEC Board elections were announced. Lee Docken of District 1 and Jeff Wenholz of District 2 were re-elected.

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