USDA approves loan for Tillamook electricity infrastructure

Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon have announced the Tillamook People’s Utility District (PUD) received a 30-year loan of over $42.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program for critical line expansion and improvement. A PUD spokeswoman said the figure is actually $36 million.

“This loan will help ensure that Tillamook’s electricity needs are met for years to come and help hundreds of Oregonians gain access to new lines,” said Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture and Rural Development, which oversees the USDA. “That’s a big win for the community, and I will continue to do everything I can to identify opportunities to support the growth, jobs, and infrastructure upgrades our families need to thrive.”

“These resources to add electric transmission lines and improve existing lines will be a big plus for quality of life and jobs in the Tillamook community,” Wyden said. “This investment in the Tillamook People’s Utility spotlights well how the federal government can help rural Oregon build on its strengths to grow for generations to come.”

Tillamook PUD serves more than 21,000 Oregonians with 1,200 miles of line. The loan will reportedly fund 10 new line miles, improve 231 miles of distribution line, and provide service to 600 new consumers. In addition, this loan will finance installation of nine new miles of transmission and a new headquarters facility to efficiently serve the community’s electricity demands.

Joanna Stelzig, public relations manager for Tillamook PUD, said the actual amount being borrowed in connection with the construction work plan approved by the board of directors earlier this year is $36 million. She said the loan is in the final approval stages but has not been closed. That is expected to happen in the coming weeks.

Stelzig said the senators’ information was outdated and presented a figure from more than a year ago – the original preliminary approval amount requested. Due to delays with final approvals, Tillamook PUD borrowed $10 million earlier this year through a conventional loan process and reduced the rural utility service loan request to $36 million.

The rural utility service funds will be allotted for specific capital projects. Stelzig noted that this was an approval to borrow. She said the PUD would not borrow the funds all at once, just as needed to fund capital investments during the next several years.

Stelzig said the 10 miles of new line is a Tillamook to Oceanside transmission line and the new distribution line to be constructed for a new Oceanside substation to the Netarts community. She said the line upgrades will be occurring throughout the county and included replacing aging underground cables and overhead lines.

The 600 new customers reflect a projected growth rate across a period of four years based on historic growth data, according to Stelzig.