In 1934, one of the first people’s utility districts in Oregon was formed, Lake Creek Public Utility District. But before the state and federal governments acted on the application, the Rural Electrification Act was passed and members of the Lake Creek PUD voted to go with the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).
On April 28, 1937, the Articles of Incorporation (PDF) were filed in Salem and Blachly-Lane County Cooperative Electric Association came into existence. Blachly-Lane became the first REA-financed cooperative to operate in Oregon.
REA provided loans for constructing a diversion dam on Lake Creek, a flume, pipeline, powerhouse, and generator. The plant was constructed west of the point where Lake Creek flows from Triangle Lake. It had a head of 226 feet and a single generator with a peaking capacity of 150 kilowatts.
Lake Creek Hydroelectric Plant
Blachly-Lane began serving 125 members on November 4, 1938, with 46 miles of energized line. Within two years of operation, the co-op found its growth exceeding the capacity of its Lake Creek hydroelectric plant. In October 1940 Blachly-Lane submitted an application to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for 100kw of firm power. A contract between Blachly-Lane and BPA was signed on October 7, 1941, to deliver power to the cooperative at BPA’s Eugene substation. Blachly-Lane was to build an intertie line between its system and BPA’s substation. About 80 percent of the poles were erected when the war intervened and copper wire became unavailable. During the war years, the co-op’s electric sales were limited by the 150kw peaking capacity of the hydro plant.
Creating a Substation
On October 2, 1945, the line was completed and Blachly-Lane’s energy sales expanded rapidly. Within a year, power sales on the west-end of the system, which was too distant to receive service from the Eugene substation, exceeded the output of the hydro plant. In January 1947, the co-op requested a substation at Walton on the prospective BPA Eugene-Florence line. Service from the Walton substation began in August 1949. In September the Lake Creek hydro plant failed. Because of high maintenance and the less expensive BPA power, it was never restored to service.
Geographic Expansion Complete
During the 1950s Blachly-Lane completed its geographic expansion, extending distribution lines up Deadwood and Indian Creek in the far western portion of its system, serving an area of approximately 385 square miles. In early 1952 the co-op moved its headquarters from Blachly to its present location on Highway 99. Because of the increasing industrial development along Highway 99 north of Eugene, Blachly-Lane received another point of delivery in 1964 when BPA energized the Parker substation. Blachly-Lane received the fifth of its five present points of delivery in the fall of 1982 when BPA energized the Alderwood substation. This removed the overload on BPA’s Junction City substation and the co-op’s 34.5 kv transmission line.
Many changes have come to Blachly-Lane’s system. The most dramatic has been the shift from residential to industrial service. In 1939 the co-op had no loads which could be termed industrial. By the mid-1990s industrial loads accounted for over 50 percent of Blachly-Lane’s energy sales. By the mid-1970s forecasts for power in the Pacific Northwest, including the needs of Blachly-Lane skyrocketed. Energy shortages became a major concern. Blachly-Lane joined with other utilities in the northwest in funding the construction of the Washington Public Power Supply System’s (WPPSS) nuclear power plants through the Bonneville Power Administration. During the 1980’s and early 1990s Blachly-Lane participated with BPA in efficiency programs including weatherization, lighting, and Super Good Cents. From the mid-1980s until the late 1990s the co-op’s electric rates became relatively stable, increasing at a rate much lower than inflation.
In 1992 Blachly-Lane joined with Consumers Power, Inc. and Pioneer Telephone Cooperative to form CASCO. CASCO initially offered satellite television equipment and programming to parts of Lane, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties. After selling the satellite television business to Pegasus in 2000, CASCO operated PEAK Internet and CoEnergy propane. In 2004, Blachly-Lane’s board of directors voted to terminate the co-op’s interest in CASCO.
In 1997 the co-op repaid loans to the Rural Utilities Service (formerly REA). The co-op is now financed by the Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) which is owned by cooperatives throughout the country. Blachly-Lane also purchased the Parker substation in 1997 and Junction City substation in 1999 from Bonneville Power Administration.
In 2003 a proposed merger with Lane Electric was voted down by Blachly-Lane members. The co-op is positioning itself to be competitive and ready for changes in the electric utility industry and to be ready to serve an ever-expanding member base.