Central Lincoln: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Our mission is to provide the people of Oregon’s Central Coast with reliable and affordable electricity in the tradition of public power.
Residents of Oregon’s Central Coast had some electrical service: Local lumber companies burned “hog fuel” (woody debris) to generate their own electricity and the surplus was sold to an existing for-profit electric company, West Coast Power. For years, these mills–the C.D. Johnson Mill in Toledo and the Mountain States Steam Plant in North Bend–served as the sole source of electric power for West Coast Power. As long as hog fuel was plentiful, and the needs of the mills did not exceed the capacity of the generators, things went well. But sometimes things didn’t go well, and sometimes the lights in the communities served by West Coast Power went out, occasionally for days at a time.
In 1940, residents of central Lincoln County voted for dependable, affordable, publicly-owned electricity, creating a People’s Utility District, a not-for-profit local governmental entity. Directors were elected, funds were provided by a small levy (the only one in the history of the District), and through the sale of revenue bonds, the coastal facilities of West Coast Power were purchased. On May 5, 1943, the Central Lincoln PUD officially began independent electrical operations.
New Power Source
The District’s directors began negotiating with the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal power marketing agency serving the Pacific Northwest, for power generated by dams being constructed on the Columbia River and its tributaries. The breakthrough came in October, 1946, when a Bonneville line was built to Toledo and a substation was installed to supply the District’s lines. This was followed by the Mapleton substation in December of 1949, and by the Reedsport substation in the fall of 1950.
Expanding Distribution Facilities
When Central Lincoln bought West Coast Power’s infrastructure, distribution facilities were badly run down and in need of repair, rights-of-way were not maintained, and many people in remote areas of the District were not even connected to the system. It was expensive to bring electricity to many farms and rural homes, and because revenue from these potential customers was projected to be quite low, profit-oriented private utilities simply did not extend service lines to them. Central Lincoln launched a massive upgrading and line extension program to make service available to all as quickly as possible.
Over the years, elections were held by voters wanting to join Central Lincoln’s District. By 1960, our boundaries were pretty much as they are today. We work constantly to strengthen our system, and the District now maintains a dependability rate of over 99.9 percent, while our rates have remained among the lowest in the nation. Central Lincoln–which once had about 5,000 customers–now serves more than 38,000.
We’re proud of having served the Oregon Coast since 1943, and we’re looking forward to serving you well into the future!