The Yakama Nation’s electric utility has secured a $30 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its service.
Yakama Power is planning to purchase power lines and substations from Benton Rural Electric Association and take over service for about 2,000 utility customers on the reservation. The $24 million deal was announced this summer.
The USDA announced the loan on Wednesday as part of a $3.6 billion loan package to support electric projects in the rural U.S.
“For 80 years, rural electric utilities have provided reliable and affordable electricity to help rural communities increase productivity and build stronger economies,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a news release. “These loans will help them continue to do that.”
Yakama Power currently serves more than 700 customers, including Legends Casino, the Yakama Nation’s offices, and tribe’s sawmill in White Swan. The utility’s aim is to provide electric service to the entire reservation, creating jobs in the process, manager Ray Wiseman told the Herald-Republic.
This deal would greatly increase its reach, adding 574 miles of power lines to its existing 132 miles.
Because Benton REA is a member-owned electric cooperative, the $24 million deal is subject to approval of its members. The voting period is currently open will closed at the end of the month.
If the deal is not approved, Yakama Power could still pursue taking over service to those customers, by building its own competing power lines or seeking to condemn Benton REA’s system, officials with both utilities said.
Picture: Shawn Gusty / Yakima Herald Republic