On Sunday, East River Electric Power Cooperative restored power to all of the cooperative’s wholesale power supply substations after severe weather caused extensive damages on May 12 throughout much of eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. East River Electric’s wholesale power supply service area covers eastern South Dakota and portions of western Minnesota, and high winds damaged the utility’s transmission power lines and substation infrastructure across much of their system. Although East River has reenergized its substations, some member consumers may remain out of power until their local distribution cooperative is able to repair power lines damages to their local distribution system.
At the height of the event on Thursday evening, 56 East River Electric substations as well as seven municipal customers served by East River were out of power across the cooperative’s service area. East River had over 200 transmission structures damaged spanning a range from Yankton, S.D. to Dumont, M.N. Repairs will continue on those broken transmission power line structures over the coming days. The cooperative’s transmission system is built such that, even if a transmission line is out of service, power can be rerouted to prevent power outages while the lines are being repaired.
“Thank you to the region’s cooperative consumers for your patience and understanding as we worked over the past few days to repair damages and restore power throughout the region,” said East River Electric General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko. “I would also like to thank our teams for their incredible work and dedication to safely restore our system following this severe weather event. As an example of the dedication shown by East River’s employees, in just a 12-hour span on Friday, employees energized 24 substations and restored power to more than 8,000 member consumers.”
The cooperative is reminding the public to never approach downed or damaged power lines and to always treat damaged lines as if they are energized.
East River Electric Power Cooperative continued making progress on restoring power to thousands of electric cooperative consumers on Friday after severe weather caused extensive damages throughout much of eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. East River Electric’s wholesale power supply service area covers eastern South Dakota and portions of western Minnesota, and high winds damaged the utility’s transmission power lines and substation infrastructure across much of their system.
At the height of the event on Thursday evening, 56 East River Electric substations as well as seven municipal customers served by East River were out of power across the cooperative’s service area. East River also had at least 20 areas with significant transmission structure damages. Throughout the storm and overnight, East River Electric’s system operations personnel worked to reroute power and restore members as soon as possible.
As of 12 p.m. on Friday, 17 East River substations and 2 municipal customers remained without power, impacting approximately 9,100 member consumers. Crews are continuing to work diligently to rebuild damaged lines and repair impacted substation equipment.
“We would like to thank the region’s cooperative consumers for your patience and understanding as we repair damages and restore power throughout the region,” said East River Electric General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko. “Our teams are working diligently to safely restore our system following this severe weather event.”
As a reminder, never approach damaged or downed power lines.
McKenna Sichmeller of Humboldt is the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from Basin Electric Power Cooperative based in Bismarck, N.D. She is the daughter of Casey and Annette Sichmeller.
Basin Electric awards over 185 scholarships per year to children of member cooperative employees and children of member cooperative consumers across the region. Sichmeller’s father, Casey, works as a Project Coordinator for East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison, a Basin Electric member.
McKenna will attend South Dakota State University in Brookings to pursue a degree in nursing. After college graduation, she will go on to attend Mount Marty for their Nurse Anesthetist program. Throughout her years at West Central High School, McKenna was involved in volleyball, basketball, softball, band, FCCLA, FFA, National Honor Society and was the Class President. “Thank you for selecting me as the recipient for the Basin Electric Scholarship,” said McKenna. “It will help me on my journey to become a Nurse Anesthetist.”
“Congratulations to McKenna and her family on this wonderful honor,” said East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko. “McKenna’s commitment to academics, athletics and her community shows her dedication to achieving her goals. We wish McKenna well as she continues her education at South Dakota State University.”
Since the scholarship program began, over 5,000 students in the Basin Electric system have benefited from this program. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic record, potential to succeed, leadership and participation in school and community activities, honors, work experience, a statement of education and career goals and an outside appraisal by a teacher or adviser.
Cutline: (Left to Right) Tom Boyko, McKenna Sichmeller and Casey Sichmeller.
Federal Judge Lawrence Piersol has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Dakota Energy Cooperative against its wholesale power supplier East River Electric Power Cooperative, saying that the contract between the two electric cooperatives is clear and does not allow Dakota Energy to terminate its contract early.
“The ruling from Judge Piersol is a major victory for all of the electric cooperative member-owners across the state of South Dakota,” said East River Electric General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko. “A contract is a contract and Judge Piersol’s ruling is clear that the contract does not allow for an early termination. It affirms what we’ve been saying all along, Dakota Energy can’t just walk away from the commitment it made to its neighboring cooperatives. It is our sincere hope that this will end spending member-owner money on an expensive ill-fated legal battle.”
In November 2020, Dakota Energy, an electric co-op headquartered in Huron which serves consumers in Beadle, Hand and Hyde counties, filed a lawsuit against East River Electric in an attempt to force East River Electric to give Dakota Energy a buyout number so they could terminate their contract long before the agreed upon date of Dec. 31, 2075. East River Electric and its power supplier Basin Electric Power Cooperative argued in court that the contract that was extended in 2015 and signed by Dakota Energy did not allow for an early buyout. Judge Piersol agreed with East River and Basin Electric and granted their motions for summary judgement, dismissing the case.
Dakota Energy had earlier signed a letter of intent with a for-profit energy broker, Guzman Energy, based in Denver, to receive wholesale power if their case was successful.
“This ruling ensures that Dakota Energy member-owners will continue to have access to reliable and affordable power from East River Electric, their South Dakota-based wholesale electric cooperative, for years to come and they won’t be forced into buying power from a for-profit company,” Boyko said. “Not-for-profit electric cooperatives have always worked together to provide affordable power to their members and this ruling ensures that a for-profit company like Guzman Energy can’t come into South Dakota and profit off of co-op consumers.”
This year marks the fourth year in a row that East River’s rates have been flat or have gone down. East River also returned more than $17 million in capital credits and bill credits to its members between May 2021 and February 2022. About $840,000 of that amount went directly to Dakota Energy.
East River Electric is a wholesale power cooperative headquartered in Madison which is owned by and serves 24 electric co-ops and one municipal electric system in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. It has long-term power supply contracts with its member systems to ensure long-term reliability and cost control.
East River Electric’s 58th annual fundraiser to support LifeScape was a success, raising over $44,600. LifeScape is an organization which promotes independence for over 2,500 children and adults with disabilities throughout South Dakota. This year, the event was held as an online auction and an online raffle. Many local businesses generously donated items to the auction and cash to the LifeScape organization.
“The online auction and raffle were very successful and a direct tribute to our employees fulfilling our Touchstone Energy Cooperatives principle of Commitment to Community,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko. “I want to thank our employee committee for their outstanding work and long days of organizing the event, reaching out to donors and coordinating the auction. We also want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the local businesses and member cooperatives that donated items to the auction and money to LifeScape. Our fundraiser was a success because of your generosity!”
East River’s annual fundraising efforts have helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education and other services for the children at LifeScape. Several local children and people from around the region are served by LifeScape.
The East River Employees Committee donated $1,000, a total matched by East River Electric at $1,000 and matched by Basin Electric at $2,000. CoBank also contributed $2,000 to the event this year. In the 58 years since the East River fundraiser began, more than $379,600 has been raised to help LifeScape provide services to children and adults in rural South Dakota.
PHOTO CUTLINE – LifeScape empowers people to live their best lives.
East River Electric Power Cooperative’s Chief Member and Public Relations Officer Chris Studer has been named the 2022 Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Distinguished Service Award recipient. Touchstone Energy Board President Deb Mirasola presented Studer with the award during the Touchstone Energy general session at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) annual membership meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, March 8.
Studer was honored for his dedication and service promoting the cooperative difference and helping Touchstone Energy evolve into the strong brand and national network it is today with more than 650 members in 46 states.
“Chris exemplifies the values of our brand and provides unwavering support to his member systems and local community,” said President Mirasola. “On the local, regional and national levels, Chris has showcased that working at a cooperative is about much more than selling electricity. He deeply understands the Cooperative Difference and lives out that difference each day.”
In thanking the Touchstone Energy Board of Directors for the honor, Studer said, “I’m so fortunate and proud to work with such great cooperative leaders who continue to build and enhance the brand that is so important to cooperatives across the country. Your leadership and commitment are unmatched, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside you.”
As Chief Member and Public Relations officer for East River Electric, Studer leads the organization’s communications, marketing and government relations efforts. He also serves as one of Touchstone Energy’s Regional Members (RMs), which he previously chaired. In his role as RM, Studer works closely with other RMs to ensure the national brand network increases value and engagement to members across the nation.
Studer also thanked the East River Electric board of directors, leadership and staff, noting he was fortunate to work every day with talented people who live the Touchstone Energy values and use the brand to help communicate the Cooperative Difference. He also recognized and thanked the Touchstone Energy national staff and said the network was fortunate to have such impressive people working on its behalf.
“The Touchstone Energy brand creates a powerful link in the minds of cooperative consumers across the country,” concluded Studer. “It’s such an important piece of our business – helping to educate and engage our members to strengthen relationships and we use the brand and its core values to strengthen our collective reputation – because we are all stronger together.”
The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Distinguished Service Award is the organization’s highest honor, presented annually to a cooperative leader who has made outstanding contributions to building the brand on the national stage.