Tillamook People’s Utility District (PUD) is a customer-owned electric distribution utility providing electric service in Tillamook County and parts of Clatsop and Yamhill Counties in Oregon. Currently we serve about 20,000 customers in an area of 1,125 square miles.
How we came to be
The Tillamook People’s Utility District is a municipal corporation, authorized by Section 12, Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Oregon and Chapter 261, Oregon Revised Statutes.
In the early 1930s, few Oregon residents had access to electricity, and many electric companies weren’t interested in building facilities to serve rural customers. The people of the State of Oregon passed a constitutional amendment authorizing the formation of People’s Utility Districts (PUDs) to give residents local control over the provision of electricity and other essential utility services.
Tillamook PUD was the first PUD established in Oregon, when Tillamook County voters approved the District on July 23, 1933. However, Tillamook PUD engaged in no activities until 1937, when a power purchase request was made to the newly formed Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).
On May 15, 1940, a contract between Tillamook PUD and BPA was executed as the District negotiated to purchase the properties of neighboring Mountain States Power Company. Having obtained voter approval for $750,000 in revenue bonds, the PUD reached tentative agreement with Mountain States Power Company to purchase its properties.
However, board disagreements, preemptive competition from Mountain States, and trouble getting materials and financing, especially during World War II, delayed hookup of the PUD’s first customers until October of 1946.
By mid-1949, Tillamook PUD was providing service to 60 percent of the residences within Tillamook, Bay City, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach. By the close of 1952, Tillamook PUD had 3,206 customers.
In 1954, Mountain States Power Company merged with Pacific Power and Light Company (PP&L). Durwood Hill became general manager in 1956, and quickly reopened negotiations with Pacific Power & Light. Voters approved new bonds in 1958 to finance system improvements. The bonds were sold and the deal closed May 22, 1961. The final price: $3,918,285. Tillamook PUD has been the sole supplier of electricity to virtually all of Tillamook County since that time.
With Durwood Hill’s departure in the fall of 1961, Jack Madison became General Manager, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1986. His challenge: to combine the two systems, mostly by hooking up the former PP&L customers onto the PUD’s system without raising rates. Electricity also reached some of the county’s remote farms for the first time.
During the 1970’s the PUD concentrated on building and planning for future growth. The number of customers and electricity sales increased rapidly in the 1970’s, but not as fast as interest rates and wholesale power costs. Prolonged drought emptied reservoirs and limited power supplies. BPA informed its customers, including Tillamook PUD, that it couldn’t promise to meet new electric loads beyond 1983. The District began promoting electricity conservation, looked into alternative energy sources and signed up to participate in the Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear plants. The PUD built a new office at the south end of Tillamook in 1975.
During the 1980’s, the PUD coped with a deep recession, survived an arson fire that destroyed its office building, upgraded facilities to handle growth and improve reliability, and found creative ways to hold rates and customers’ power bills down. The PUD expanded its conservation efforts.
The challenges of nature and social change kept the District busy during the 1990’s. Aggressive tree-trimming, pole change-outs, fuse coordination, additional regulators and high-quality equipment have helped limit storm-related outages. Even so, the decade’s memorable storms and floods kept everyone busy.
The PUD established flexible revolving loan funds for energy efficient lighting, motors, heat pumps and appliances. The PUD also entered the open energy market, buying and selling power with computerized tracking on a daily basis. The District’s power supply portfolio was diversified. It not only included BPA firm power, but also short-term market purchases from other power suppliers.
The District entered into the new millennium faced with decisions to make on new BPA power supply contracts as the old expired. New conservation agreements with BPA were also implemented. The District continued its system maintenance programs to increase reliability. The Tillamook area voltage conversion project was completed and the Wilson River Substation was constructed and energized.
The PUD had its first retail rate increase in ten years in mid-2011. New BPA power supply agreements were put into place that would begin in October 2011. The new contracts significantly changed the way in which BPA charged for wholesale power and also placed a limit on how much power the PUD (and other BPA customers) could purchase at preference rates.