Bringing Power to the People: A Brief History of the Hood River Electric & Internet Co-op

The 1930’s

Consumer Owned Utilities Began

  • During and following the 1930’s depression, an unprecedented spread of consumer owned utilities began
  • The Bonneville Project, later established as the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), began building huge hydro-electric dams which would multiply the electricity available for residents and businesses of the region
  • Who would deliver this energy to homes, farms and factories?
August 29, 1937

People’s Power League Meeting

  • About 2,000 people attended an outdoor meeting of the People’s Power League held at Bonneville
  • Speakers advocated state and municipal ownership of electrical systems and urged the formation of committees throughout the state to carry out an active campaign for publicly owned power
Late 1930’s to Early 1940’s

Formation of Consumer Owned Electric Utilities

  • Formation of many consumer owned electric utilities across the nation as well as in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Formation of Skamania County and Klickitat County PUDs as well as the city owned utility in Cascade Locks
  • Loan funds from the USDA Rural Electrification Administration (REA) enabled construction of rural electric cooperatives throughout the nation
  • Locally, an investor owned utility, Pacific Power and Light, served those areas deemed profitable. Legislation enabled PUDs and municipal utilities to acquire the service area of investor owned utilities if approved by a vote of the citizens within the PUD area
June 15, 1945

Hood River Established

  • Hood River Electric Co-op (HREC) was established after nine valley residents filed articles of confederation for a cooperatively-owned electric utility: Walter Wells, William Vollmer, John Sigler, Eino Annala, H. J. DeWitt, St. Clari Dianond, Earl Moore, Eino Jakku and W.C. May.
  • This same group was elected to lead the new Cooperative. Wells became president, Jakku Vice-president, DeWitt the treasurer, the rest forming the initial board of directors
  • Adoption of an official seal, bylaws, and certificates for membership
  • The fee for membership is the same now as it was since inception: $5
November 4, 1945

Accepting Loans from Members

  • Director Earl Moore moved that the president and secretary accept loans from Co-op members, on notes due in four months without interest for the privilege of advance payment, in sufficient amount to pay for poles and other expenses
  • The notes were to be credited later on bond purchases by members. A total of $3,700 was contributed at the meeting, by directors
  • This private, local financing arrangement was unique at a time when most newly organized rural cooperatives obtained financing from the REA
  • HREC directors and staff were successful in finding financial support from local citizens
  • Local financial participation strengthened the sense of ownership and independence of the HREC membership
  • Members and other Oregon residents continue to invest with the Co-op by purchasing unsecured promissory notes with terms of maturity ranging from 1 year to 10 years
The 1960’s

Allocation of Exclusive Service Territories

  • Following a period of increasing competition between Pacific Power and HREC, an arrangement for allocation of exclusive service territories was negotiated and subsequently approved by the Oregon Public Utility Commission
June 27, 2018

Libby Calnon Becomes 5th Manager

  • Willard Johnson served as manager from 1948 to 1973 – likely the most challenging period of the cooperative’s history
  • Theodore Perry served from 1973 to 1986
  • Don Walker from 1986 to 1997
  • John Gerstenberger from 1997 to 2018
  • Libby Calnon became HREC’s fifth manager in June 2018
Early 2000’s

High Speed Internet Initiative

  • HREC supported a new initiative – bringing high-speed internet access to its rural members
  • The HREC Board formed a sister organization, the Communications Access Cooperative Holding Enterprise (CACHE), which constructed a fiber internet backbone system connecting the BPA fiber network in Parkdale to the city of Hood River
  • Schools, medical facilities, and government buildings were connected to the fiber system, and CACHE also installed wireless access points throughout the valley to provide high-speed wireless internet access to members
  • Beginning in 2018, CACHE began offering fiber internet service in more areas using gigabit passive optical network technology
  • We continue to build out facilities to offer fiber internet service throughout the upper Hood River valley
January 1, 2020


  • In 2019, the Boards of Directors for HREC and CACHE proposed a plan of merger to their memberships
  • HREC and CACHE officially merged into one organization, called Hood River Electric Cooperative, on January 1, 2020
  • In August 2021, the organization began using the name “Hood River Electric & Internet Co-op”


  • Hood River Electric & Internet Co-op serves about 3,900 electric accounts and 2,800 internet accounts held by 3,700 members
  • Nearly 75 years after its formation, the Co-op continues to carry out its mission:
  • “To provide affordable, reliable services to members using sound business practices and following the cooperative principles.”