The 70-year-old partnership, between two major Grand Lake power suppliers is officially ending.
Beginning June 1, 2017, members of the Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, known locally as REC, will receive their electricity from KAMO Electric Cooperative (KAMO Power), rather than the Grand River Dam Authority.
The move comes after members of the REC board of trustees rejected two different proposals, presented by GRDA Board Chairman Ed Townsend, Board Director Pete Churchwell and GRDA Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan in May and July.
The proposals, would have allowed GRDA to continue to supply REC customers with wholesale electricity.
GRDA has provided REC with a majority of its wholesale electricity continually since 1946. However, Townsend indicated in past interviews the pair have been operating on a year-to-year contract in recent times.
In May, REC board members voted to move part of its electric business to KAMO. On Tuesday, a statement released by the cooperative, indicates all business will be moved to KAMO by June 1, 2017.
Anthony Due, NEOEC general manager, said the move away from GRDA to KAMO provides two benefits to cooperative members - low cost, reliable power.
It, he said, also strengthens a 60-year business relationship between REC and KAMO. To date, REC has received five percent of its electricity from KAMO and 95 percent from GRDA.
Due said he believes REC will have "significant" cost savings by moving its business from GRDA to KAMO.
He declined to state what KAMO will pay to be the exclusive electric provider to the cooperative or what the projected savings will be.
"We feel like it will be better reliability [of service] and lower costs going forward," Due said, adding that the decision to change providers was made by an unanimous vote of the board of directors.
Due said KAMO also plans to purchase 21 NEOEC substations and approximately 100 miles of cooperative-held 69kV transmission lines - which allows the cooperative to move away from having to maintain the substations and transmission lines.
Due said because KAMO is based in Vinita, a large percentage of its technicians work in northeast Oklahoma. He said this should allow REC officials to respond to outages quicker.
Due said customers should not see a change in their service.
"They won't' even see a blinking of the lights," Due said, adding that he hopes the cooperative can continue to have a positive relationship with GRDA now, and in the future.
Townsend said he is disappointed in the decision.
"We wish we could continue to work together," Townsend said. "But it's not my place to tell them what to do.
"Whether I agree or not, is not the issue. It's [REC's] decision, they made it and I respect that."
Townsend said the GRDA board will move forward and explore other options.
"We wish them well," Townsend said. "It was a 70 year relationship, and we appreciated it while we had it."
When contacted, Sullivan declined to address the issue until he could review REC's announcement.
On Wednesday afternoon, Justin Alberty, corporate spokesman for GRDA, addressed the split between the two agencies in a written statement.
"The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) and Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (NEOEC) have shared a common mission of bringing low-cost, reliable electricity to an underserved area in Oklahoma for over 70 years," the statement reads. "This decades-long partnership has facilitated the region’s development in ways that would not have otherwise been possible.
"For example, from 1940-2010, the Grand Lake and Lake Hudson region experienced a population growth of 33 percent compared to Oklahoma’s non-metro counties’ virtually zero population growth. From this standpoint, GRDA is disheartened that the partnership with NEOEC is coming to an end.
"GRDA revenues generated from the sale of wholesale electricity to NEOEC have been recirculated throughout Northeast Oklahoma since the agreement began in 1946. Unfortunately, that will not be the case when Northeast Oklahoma’s future power needs are met by KAMO and Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. (AECI), which is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri."
The statement released by Alberty indicates GRDA officials believe the effects of REC's decision will be "completely eclipsed" within the next two years by increasing growth within the communities served by GRDA and the MidAmerica Industrial Park.