About Wasco Electric
Most of the farming community in Wasco County did not have electricity in 1940. Pacific Power and Light Company ran its powerlines from town to town, but it was very expensive for farms along the way to be hooked up.
Eric Johnson, a rancher who lived near The Dalles, could see the powerlines from his house, but could not get service. He decided to meet with some of his neighbors to try to get electricity for the farmers. They met for the first time on April 4, 1940 in the Dufur City Hall and elected the Board of Incorporators, who served as the first board of directors of the cooperative. R.N. Kortge was hired as coordinator, and his duty was to sign up the farmers of the county as members of the co-op. The memberships were $5 at that time, as they still are today.
These first members were informed of the loan funds available through the Federal Rural Electrication Administration (REA) program which had gone into effect May 11, 1935. By June of 1940, the farmers had hired an engineer to map out the system. In August, REA granted a loan to Wasco Electric Cooperative in the amount of $240,000 for the construction of 264 miles of lines to 342 members.
The first Annual Meeting was held October 29, 1940 at the Civic Auditorium in The Dalles. The directors elected at the meeting included W.E. Davis who then served as president of the board. On November 12, 1940 an office was opened at 316 E. Third Street in The Dalles. Eric Johnson was hired as superintendent and Irma E. Gedney was hired as secretary. Construction began March 31, 1941. The members who would be able to use electricity helped the construction crew by clearing rights-of-way, digging holes, setting poles, etc., as a real cooperative effort.
On May 24, 1941, at the end of a week of celebration of Bonneville Power and Appliance Week, President Davis took a long stick and tipped the energizing switch at the substation amid cheers from the crowd gathered for the great moment. Wasco Electric Cooperative was the first utility to purchase power from Bonneville Power Administration in Wasco County.
Since that memorable day, the area served by Wasco Electric Cooperative, Inc has grown to over 5,000 square miles in five counties – Wasco, Sherman, Jefferson, Gilliam and Wheeler. We have over 3,000 members with 1,685 miles of lines and ten substations to serve them.
Many problems have been solved during the Co-op’s lifetime, and it is certain that with the continued cooperative spirit that built the system from 1940 until now, we will work together to ensure the success of YOUR cooperative in the future years.