Rather than ask our 14-county service area to travel to Braham, we held our 86th annual meeting on Thursday, April 21 via live broadcast for online viewers as well as those gathered at Milaca High School, Hinckley-Finlayson High School, and ECE’s Superior Operations Center. Read more.
Join ECE Sapsucker Farms in Mora, June 25 from noon-2 p.m. as we close out National Pollinator Week with our first-ever Pollineighbor Party! Details
Our approach to vegetation management
In 2022, we’re planning for about 700 miles of routine clearing and another 700 miles of herbicide application treatment.
We only treat the tall-growing, woody plants within the powerline corridor. The products used by our contractors are non-toxic to honeybees, monarchs, and other pollinating insects. This way, the pollinator-friendly plants eventually dominate the powerline corridor and are a rich nectar source for pollinating insects.
“Storm hardening” helps us prepare for storms by looking for conditions that could pose a problem, then work to reduce the risk. Many outages come from trees falling from outside the cleared corridor, or branches that break and fall. We look for hazards that include dead, dying, diseased, decayed, cracked, or uprooting/unstable trees. We also look for branches that are cracked, poorly attached, broken, dead, or overhanging conductors. We want to be as prepared as possible, and that’s why we try to address issues before storms hit. Tall growing trees under the lines that require repetitive and excessive pruning will generally be selected for removal; however, we usually require the tree owner’s consent before removing the tree.
Of course, there are occasions where members question the need for vegetation management work, or are disappointed with how things look after work is completed. It is much more expensive to bury lines, and more difficult to locate outages, but you do have the option to contribute to the cost of burying the line within your land.
We have worked hard to develop policies that strike a balance between the value of trees in the landscape and delivering safe and reliable electric power to our member’s homes. Did you know, this year marks ECE’s 18th year as a designated Tree Line USA Utility? Over the years, our approach has helped to greatly reduce the number of outages caused by trees and limbs, while avoiding future expenses.
Help us notify you about possible clearing in your area! Be sure to log into SmartHub, our online account management tool. Customize the notifications you receive and sign up for email messages.
Nyquist Elementary students learned the importance of trees when ECE spent the afternoon helping plant flowering crabapple trees on school grounds. Read more.
“I saw this little face in the frosted-over window, holding a flashlight, trying to clear away the ice. That’s when I told the crew, ‘This house is getting back on tonight. I don’t care how long it takes.’”
When talking to retiring Braham Area Service Foreman Dave Thom, it becomes increasingly obvious that he makes decisions from the heart. With 35 years of line work under his belt, Dave has many fascinating stories. However, when asked about his career trajectory, he can’t stop talking about the people he was blessed to work with.
In the midst of an idyllic childhood in southern Minnesota—days spent at the city pool, riding bicycles with his two younger brothers, and earning extra cash on a paper route—his father, a St. Peter policeman, took a position with Carlton County as a deputy sheriff in 1979, moving the family north to Cromwell, where Dave began to appreciate the country life.
After learning about linework from his uncle Steve, an NSP troubleman, Dave graduated line school in Jackson, MN, in 1987. “Business was booming on the east coast,” he recalls. “I was 19 years old and started a job with Public Service Company of New Hampshire.”
In a break from typical line apprenticeships, his first day was spent working on live lines. He quickly moved up in the ranks, becoming a journeyman in 1989. After three years of working away from family, he was ready to return home to Minnesota.
After applying and flying in for interviews, including at ECE, he returned to New Hampshire dejected. Each position had been filled by another candidate.
“Out of the blue, I got a call,” he explains. “It was ECE asking if I wanted to accept a line position they had decided to open. So in 1990 I packed up and headed home to start my new job.”
Dave has seen many changes in the industry. He credits his success to many mentors he has had over the years, from PSNH linemen Frank Manning and Bob Sedgwick to ECE linemen Rich Morgan, Donny Shaw, Jerry Wallen and Rick Nystrom. After losing his wife Mary in 2012, Dave and his daughter Alyssa were thankful for the support during that very difficult time. He now enjoys spending time with his girlfriend Lori, as well as Alyssa and her boyfriend Anthony, and family and friends. In retirement, Dave plans to spend time at the cabin and honing his master craft of woodworking.
They say the only thing certain is change, and that adage is applicable to the electric industry. Whether we consider future power supply resources, process improvement, or talent, the needs and direction of our industry are being reimagined on an almost daily basis.
Great River Energy, ECE’s power supplier, is embarking on a transformation of its very identity through the sale of Coal Creek Station, the 1,100MW coal-fired power plant in North Dakota. The sale, like most changes, has caused some concern from those of us who value the reliability we’ve come to expect. Because of GRE’s intentional planning and wise decision-making, we can be confident that the steps being taken will position us for a better future in an evolving energy market while retaining the reliability our members expect.
Closer to home, ECE is implementing many technological advancements that will create efficiency through both automation and innovation. When I started at the co-op 14 years ago, we served 57,000 members. Since then, through automation and process improvement, we have implemented changes to increase the value to over 64,000 members while reducing outages and keeping rates relatively flat.
Change can be challenging, but if we seek to understand the need for adjustments and continue building a better future, progress will bring us to a better place. At ECE, we are considering significant changes to our business and exploring new ways to bring value to you, our member-owners. As we navigate those changes, we look forward to hearing your thoughts. We want to understand how we can meet your needs in a more effective way. As always, we are grateful for the trust you place in us as we operate your electric cooperative.
At your service we remain,