Fall River is based in Ashton and Lower Valley is based in Afton, Wyo. Both coops serve a broad rural area in which many Idaho Falls and Upper Snake River Valley people have cabins and vacation homes, said Ted Austin, Fall River’s marketing and communications manager.
The next step in the process is for the two boards to define the terms of consolidation. Once that takes place, each cooperative would take the consolidation plan to its respective members for a vote of approval.
Fall River Electric serves more than 16,000 customers in eastern Idaho, western Wyoming and southwest Montana. Lower Valley Energy serves members from Flagg Ranch in Yellowstone National Park, down to Smoot past Afton, Wyo., over to Wayan in Idaho, and east to Kendall and Cora, Wyo. Austin said the two cooperatives have considered merging for decades, but changing energy policies and regional policies planned by the Bonneville Power Administration make the idea of consolidation more appealing than ever. Two consolidation studies that have been done concluded that a consolidated operation could save members nearly $4 million dollars annually or an estimated $38 million over 10 years.
Consolidation would mean greater financial resources for dealing with changes in the electrical industry, an opportunity to expand natural gas and propane services to more members, plus greater workforce efficiencies. But both boards have said consolidation would not result in employee layoffs or reductions in pay for the existing staffs.
Much more work is needed on the plan before it is presented to the owner-members of each cooperative for a vote later this
year, Austin said. If approved, implementation of the entire consolidation plan could take two to three years.