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Bob Sahr named next East River Electric General Manager and CEO

Bob Sahr named next East River Electric General Manager and CEO

The East River Electric Power Cooperative board of directors has named Bob Sahr as the cooperative’s next general manager and CEO. East River Electric’s board president Jim Ryken announced today that Sahr, who is currently East River Electric’s general counsel, will take over as the cooperative’s general manager and CEO Aug. 1. Sahr replaces Tom Boyko who announced his retirement in March after just over 8 years leading the cooperative.

“The board is pleased to have Mr. Sahr lead our cooperative into the future,” Ryken said. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the utility industry and within East River Electric having spent over 15 years as our general counsel. We’re confident that Bob will continue the cooperative’s mission of enhancing the value of our members.”

Sahr is the sixth general manager of East River Electric which celebrates its 72nd anniversary this year. The cooperative provides wholesale power supply to 24 electric cooperatives and one municipal electric system in South Dakota and Minnesota.

“East River Electric has a long and storied history of providing affordable and reliable power supply to our members and I’m humbled and honored by the board’s confidence in me to lead the organization,” Sahr said. “I’m excited about the opportunity and want to thank Tom Boyko for his service to the cooperative over the past 8-plus years.”

Sahr has served as East River Electric’s general counsel since November 2006. Prior to joining East River Electric, he served on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission from 2001-2006. A native of Pierre, Sahr has an undergraduate degree in business and a law degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Bob and his wife, Christine, live in Madison and have two daughters, Ally and Calista.

UTC Awards Recognize Importance of ICT  Networks to Grid Reliability, Resilience 

UTC Awards Recognize Importance of ICT Networks to Grid Reliability, Resilience 

Arlington—May 24, 2022 – The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) has recognized utilities and their personnel who demonstrated initiative, perseverance, and innovative thinking throughout the past year. The awards were given at the 2022 Telecom & Technology Conference in Okalhoma City, Okla.

UTC’s awards recognize the importance of utility Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems and the employees who build, operate, and maintain these systems to support the reliability, resilience, and safety of the nation’s electric systems. From storm response to day-to-day reliability, ICT networks also provide opportunities for communities to enhance economic prosperity, provide innovative new services, and support health, education and access to critical services.

“Congratulations to all of our winners this year,” said UTC Chairman of the Board Paul Lambert of East River Electric Power Coop. “I am proud to stand among them. Over the past year our incredible workforce has answered the call, shown a resilience, and provided their communities with essential utility services under unprecedented and sometimes dangerous circumstances. These awards go to the heart of what makes UTC so special—the people, the utilities, and the technology partners who make up our membership. Every day our members work hard to support reliable, resilient, and affordable services to people and businesses. It is an honor to recognize a select few for their service.”

The 2021 UTC Award Winners are:
• APEX Award – Recognizes individual accomplishment and organizational commitment for outstanding projects undertaken by utility telecom workers.
o WINNER: Ameren

• Dondanville Award – Established in 1989, named in honor of UTC’s first President & CEO, Russell V. Dondanville.  The Dondanville Award recognizes an individual’s extraordinary service and dedication to UTC over the years through active participation in numerous association activities.
o WINNER: Paul Lambert, East River Electric Power Coop

• Meehan Award – Established in 1998, the Meehan Award is named in honor of UTC’s first Exec. Director Charles M. (Mike) Meehan. It recognizes individuals for their extraordinary leadership in projects during the past year that greatly furthered the interests and objectives of UTC.
o WINNER: Ron Beck, Central Lincoln PUD

• Connie Durcsak Unsung Hero Award – Recognizes an individual or utility that exemplifies the selfless, admirable, necessary, never-ending work that our utility workers do every day in extenuating circumstances. They perform heroic tasks daily and there is often no press, fanfare, or acknowledgment of the lifesaving efforts performed by our utility workers
o WINNER: Southern Company

• UTC’s Emerging Leaders Awards. This award acknowledges “rising stars” within UTC’s member utilities, who are dedicated to the critical work of telecom, infrastructure, IT/OT, security, technology innovation, policy, and other key utility disciplines
o WINNERS: Mike Lacey, National Grid; Daniella Piper, New York Power Authority; Corey Peters, New York Power Authority; Keisha Sauls, CenterPoint Energy; Lon Renner, Nebraska Public Power District

• Chairman Awards – These awards are given in appreciation for service to UTC during the past calendar year.
o WINNERS: Dewey Day, Pacific Gas & Electric; Kirt Mayson, NorthWestern Energy; Dr. Peter Muhoro, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative; Daniella Piper, New York Power Authority; Travis Phifer, Tri-State G & T; Bob Lockhart, UTC; Brittany Luckett, UTC

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About UTC
The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) is a global trade association dedicated to serving critical infrastructure providers. Through advocacy, education and collaboration, UTC creates a favorable business, regulatory and technology environment for our members who own or operate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems in support of their core business. For more information: UTC.org

East River Electric Restores Wholesale Power Supply Outages following Severe Weather

East River Electric Restores Wholesale Power Supply Outages following Severe Weather

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 Works to Restore Power following Severe Weather Event

East River Electric Works to Restore Power following Severe Weather Event

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 Receives $1,000 Basin Electric Scholarship

McKenna Sichmeller Receives $1,000 Basin Electric Scholarship

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.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against East River Electric

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.

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