Last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the monarch butterfly would be listed as necessary under the Endangered Species Act, but delayed addition due to higher-priority needs. When the 2020-21 overwintering population numbers were released, a catastrophic decline was revealed. The Western monarch population sits at just under 2,000 individuals, meaning a 99.9% total loss, and a 26% decline from the previous year was shown for the Eastern monarch population.
Unfortunately, this news comes as no surprise and is one reason ECE enrolled in the first-ever nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the monarch in 2020. “As the first rural electric cooperative to receive our Certificate of Inclusion in the CCAA, we are committed to conserving and creating habitat in an effort to preserve the monarch and other pollinator species,” says pollinator initiative lead Alicia Kroll, ECE Member Account Analyst.
One part of our involvement in the CCAA includes monitoring habitat on rights-of-ways. As a distribution cooperative, we are required to conduct habitat assessment on at least ten plots that must contain a minimum of six stems per acre of milkweed, and at least 10% flowering nectar plants. “We’re proud to have reached that goal,” Alicia mentions. “The co-op plans to increase our habitat monitoring sites in 2021. Gathering this data gives us a better picture of what is growing on our rights-of-ways and where improvement may be needed.”
In addition to conservation efforts on rights-of-ways, native pollinator habitat was seeded at two facility sites: ECE Headquarters in Braham, MN, and the Superior Operations Center in WI. Research and population models underscore the fact that change is imperative to the success of monarchs. As Alicia stresses, “We need to shift our esthetic mindset from nutrient-deficient lawns to ecologically-rich habitat. The warning bells are ringing and it’s up to us to put out the fire.”
Join the movement! Become an advocate for pollinators by learning what to plant and urge your community to reduce the use of insecticides. Today’s collective efforts will have an impact on the final ruling and listing for the monarch in 2024. For more information about ECE’s pollinator projects, follow our Powering Our Pollinators blog.
Our Braham Headquarters lobby is set to reopen in mid-June! Rest assured, we are following social distancing protocol to keep members and employees safe. Signs explaining our guidelines are posted; however, lobby access is subject to change so please visit our website for the latest updates. While we’re anxious to see everyone again, we encourage you to continue visiting us online, through SmartHub, or by phone.
MILACA LOBBY CLOSED
The Milaca lobby is permanently closed due to a decline in foot traffic and the need to reorganize our resources. Staff continues to work at the office and the drop box is still available for ECE payments. The lobby closure will not affect the great relationships we’ve built with our Milaca membership.
DROP BOX CHANGES
With the increase in electronic and self-service payment options, plus the decrease in drop box payments, the cost to maintain the Pine City and Cambridge drop boxes is significant. The decision has been made to close the drop boxes at these two locations. The last day to drop a payment is June 29. Boxes will then be sealed and removed.
Milaca Local Link was owned by ECE and Benton Communications. After careful consideration, our portion is being sold to Benton Communications. The Benton drop box in Rice, MN, is no longer accepting ECE payments, and the ECE drop box in Milaca is no longer accepting Milaca Local Link and Benton Communications payments.
We are proud to partner with 30 other electric cooperatives to create a regional electric vehicle (EV) charging network across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois as part of a program called CHARGE™. The network includes more than thirty Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations.
“ECE wants to ensure drivers are able to access chargers,” mentions Mark Nelson, Manager of Government & Business Relations. “As EV sales increase, our goal is to help alleviate range anxiety. We’re also encouraging visitors to stop in our rural communities.”
Future plans for the initiative include promoting EV test drives while educating members about home chargers. “ECE is offering a $750 rebate to install a level 2 charger at your home,” Mark adds. In 2018, the co-op purchased an all-electric Chevrolet Bolt to help educate members and surrounding communities about electric vehicles.
All Wisconsin electric cooperatives are participating in CHARGE. As one of the largest co-ops in Minnesota, we provide an important corridor between Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Duluth-Superior metro areas. Charger locations and other information can be found at www.CHARGE.coop.
On April 30, ECE employees Debbie Elsner, Forestry Assistant, and Ryan Johnson, Forestry Services Lead, worked with Royalton Elementary fourth-grade teacher Dawn Hofstad (middle) to distribute 60 backpacks filled with educational pamphlets, water bottles, earbuds, seedling bookmarks, and saplings.
“The pandemic has changed the way we celebrate Arbor Day for the second year in a row,” Ryan mentions. “We appreciate the opportunity to connect with students and share with them our love and respect for trees.”
At ECE, we offer three types of storage space heating: central storage furnace, room storage heaters, and slab heat. These are practical for all types of buildings, including homes, shops, cabins, or businesses. Even better, you can take advantage of the low off-peak electric rate of 5.3 cents per kWh. We’re also offering a $100/kW rebate for qualifying systems installed in 2021.
Central Storage Furnace
No chimneys, flues, backdrafts, or carbon monoxide! Central storage furnaces and boilers use electric thermal storage technology to convert electricity to heat during low-cost, off-peak hours and store the heat in specially designed, high-density bricks, which provide enough heat during the 16-hour on-peak portion of the day. Heat is distributed through forced air or hot water systems. A sensor monitors outdoor temps to determine how much heat must be stored in the bricks. Coupled with an air source heat pump, this option is good for new home builds.
Room Storage Heaters
A five-year warranty and no duct work make room storage heaters a great option. Sleek cabinet units offer individual room control for safe, clean, comfortable heat anywhere you need it. When the thermostat calls for heat, a quiet fan circulates warmth from the bricks into the room. Room storage heaters can be easily installed during remodeling projects and retrofitted into existing homes or businesses.
Enjoy warm floors with slab heating. Electric heating panels, mats, tubing, or cables are installed in soil or sand under the concrete slab. The ground underneath becomes an efficient, large mass of thermal energy that is only released when the area above becomes cooler. A central storage boiler can be used for slab heat as well.
Call your ECE energy experts at 1.800.254.7944 for more information.