OPALCO Board listens to member concerns; Reconsiders resolution on Snake River dams

At the December board meeting in Friday Harbor, 18 co-op members participated in an emotionally charged discussion about Resolution 2-2019 regarding the lower Snake River dams and ocean health. The Board listened as members shared their opinions and concerns about ocean health, species survival and the role of the Co-op in representing their positions. The Board agreed to put the brakes on Resolution 2-2019 until they can revisit the issues with greater collaboration from the membership. The issue will be on the agenda for the February 20 board meeting in Friday Harbor.

Members of the Orcas Womens’ Coalition (OWC) have been especially engaged in this issue. After participating in the November 20th co-op open house on Orcas, a committee of the OWC met with OPALCO General Manager Foster Hildreth and staff to discuss their concerns and share sources of information. Members also wrote letters to the Board asking them to reconsider the resolution.

“Everyone in this room cares deeply about the health of our environment and a sustainable way forward,” said Board President Vince Dauciunas as he thanked the members in attendance for their engagement in the Co-op. “We welcome your input on this issue and look forward to working with you on these critical issues—as a co-op, we depend on member participation to achieve our mission.”

OPALCO’s primary concerns are for the availability of clean (non-carbon) sources of electricity and its ability to deliver in its promise to provide reliable power to the 20 islands it serves. The Board must have confidence that there are adequate alternate resources for clean and reliable power in the region – including the realities of coal plants shutting down by 2025 and the mandate for all utilities to be carbon-free by 2040 (which requires firming sources of power when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine).

“There is no one solution,” said Hildreth. “These are the most complex and critical issues of our time; it’s going to take the whole community to find the land to site renewables and make the behavior changes necessary to leave fossil fuels behind. Just like when OPALCO undergrounded its system for reliability, we all need to pull together now for local resilience.”

Following the open discussion at the board meeting, a motion was passed: “For the Chair and General Manager to arrange for a meeting of the Board to revisit the resolution to determine what actions are to be taken and to include the greatest member participation.”

The Board will revisit the resolution and have a new resolution on the agenda at its February board meeting. Members are always welcome to attend. To stay informed on OPALCO issues and meetings, please subscribe to the e-newsletter: https://www.opalco.com/newsroom/email-newsletter-sign-up/, follow @orcaspower on FaceBook and Twitter – and read the monthly board meeting agenda and materials posted each Monday before a scheduled board meeting.


Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,400 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 97% greenhouse-gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937. Follow OPALCO @OrcasPower on Facebook and Twitter.

1 comment

  • Bill Appel
    Bill Appel Monday, 23 December 2019 20:09 Comment Link

    Delaying or reversing Resolution 2-2019 will require tandem actions by both OPALCO and by its members. OPALCO is being asked to take a risk to its prime mission of reliable inexpensive power, which risk can only be reduced by compensating actions by its members to conserve power (sometimes referred to as "negawatts") and use it wisely. Members should be prepared for eventual OPALCO policies designed to encourage mindful use of clean power. Members should also be prepared to see and support clean power generation and storage facilities that will enable them to live safely and comfortably in a 21st century rural environment surrounded by thriving wildlife.

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