July 2020 Light Reading Newsletter

Light Reading Header

Your Co-op’s Response to COVID-19: 

Keeping our members and employees safe and healthy is our top priority. 

For the most up to date information about how your Co-op is responding, visit us online or call us at 406-751-4483. 

Download July 2020 Light Reading (PDF)


Weathering the storms

On May 31, a violent windstorm ripped through Northwest Montana leaving destruction in its path. Wind speeds measured up to 78 miles per hour across our entire service territory, which consists of 5,000 miles of line. In terms of impact to our members, this was a historic weather event in that 37,000 of 68,000 meters were impacted by outages as trees toppled on power lines and poles. It was a frightful experience for our members and a challenge for our crews, but despite the dangers and extensive damage, FEC was able to safely complete restoration to all. We want to take this opportunity to thank our members for their understanding and encouragement during that difficult time.

Line work Hungry Horse
FEC crews remove a tree on line near Hungry Horse | FEC photo
Rocky Mountain Contracting in Happy Valley
Rocky Mountain Contractors Crews assist in Happy Valley | FEC photo
Storm downs lines in Kalispell
Wind storm downs trees and power lines in downtown Kalispell | Photo courtesy of Amanda Guy

Answering the tough questions

Why aren’t lines put underground?

FEC replaces overhead with underground lines when conditions allow, but it can be cost prohibitive. Underground can cost from 5 to 10 times more than overhead. And although underground lines hold up better in a storm, they are subject to cable faults which are more random, challenging, time-consuming, and expensive to repair. The bottom line is the expense would cause a significant increase in the Co-op’s rates.

Why don’t you trim trees around lines?

Tree on Power Line
A downed tree in Kalispell | Photo courtesy of Amanda Guy

We certainly do, but we’re limited to clearing within our right-of-way which doesn’t allow us to remove all trees that can cause problems. Our tree trimming crews maintain 1,669 miles of overhead primary line, averaging 160 miles trimmed each year. We work year-round to clear our right-of-ways, even in the snow. We hope members will consider the risk trees on their property might pose. If you have a tree growing near or into our high voltage lines, FEC will cut or trim it free of charge.

Why don’t you have more linemen for emergencies?

Increasing our specialized workforce to prepare for an outage of this magnitude would be cost prohibitive because the majority of the time, when we’re not responding to major outage situations, we would be paying for more employees than we need. Instead, to help keep rates low, we have mutual aid agreements allowing us to bring in reinforcements when needed, which we did during the May storm. FEC crews serve others in return, under our principle of “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.”

Are you going to pay for my spoiled food?

While FEC tries to provide electricity to people as reliably as possible, periodic outages are inevitable with the extreme weather conditions we experience in Northwest Montana. Individual damages incurred by “Acts of Nature” aren’t covered by our insurance, which is another reason we encourage members to have plans in place to keep themselves (and their personal property) safe in case of power outages.

Time for Plan B

As hard as we work to keep power reliable, storms and power outages are a reality here. Having a back-up plan in place should also be a reality for those of us who live here. Following a major storm is always a good time to reevaluate your “Plan B.”


• Do you need a generator?

• Do you have extra water?

• Do you have flashlights and batteries?

• Do you have a backup heat source?

• Do you have a plan to keep pipes from freezing during winter outages and food from spoiling during summer outages?

• Do you have provisions for the needs of your animals?

• Do you have problem trees near power lines that need removed?

• Do you have alternative provisions if you rely on electricity for medical purposes?

While FEC understands the sense of urgency experienced during an outage, it’s not always feasible for crews to respond immediately to every area impacted, so please be prepared.


Two lucky winners will fill their freezer with premium local 4H/FFA beef!

Flathead Electric Cooperative supports local 4H and FFA clubs by purchasing animals each year. Most meat gets donated, but the premium cuts of each beef are raffled off as a fundraiser for our local foodbanks. Since its inception in 2016, our Ribeye Raffle has raised $5,498 for local food banks.

The winners of our annual Ribeye Raffle will take home approximately 60 one-inch-thick premium Ribeye and T-bone steaks (valued at over $500 per winner).

Tickets are available now for $1 each or six for $5. They can be purchased online (with a debit card) or at the Kalispell or Libby Flathead Electric Co-op office drive-thru (with cash or check). All proceeds will benefit food banks in Flathead Electric’s service area (Flathead Valley and Libby).

The 2020 Ribeye Raffle Drawing will take place August 24.




Pulse Project – Accepting Donations Now

Pulse Project

Thanks to our supporters, Flathead Electric Co-op’s annual Pulse Project provides two basic needs in our community:
(1) Blood Donations: we provide a supply of much needed blood to our area by hosting one of the largest community blood drives in Montana, and
(2) Energy Assistance: we collect thousands of dollars to assist our members who are experiencing an unexpected temporary financial crisis.

FEC is again partnering with both local blood service organizations, the American Red Cross and Vitalant, for a two-day drive scheduled for September 9 and 10.

We also are now accepting financial donations to support the mission of the Pulse Project. This year’s event carries a sense of urgency not previously felt by our Cooperative. The COVID-19 pandemic left many of our members struggling to pay their bills. Many of those impacted were enjoying steady incomes in thriving industries before the onset of this virus and are now trying to figure out how to make ends meet. As a member-owned, not-for-profit Cooperative, our resources to help are limited, so the donations collected through the Pulse Project are critical. Please join us to give blood, or become a financial sponsor


Member Photo Calendar

Call for Submissions

Flathead Electric Cooperative is accepting photo submissions for our Annual Members’ Calendar. The calendar will be printed and available for members in November.

Photos submitted should depict wildlife, scenery, people, activities or anything that represents our unique lifestyle and special corner of Northwest Montana.

To enter, you must be a member of the Co-op and an amateur photographer. Members selected to be featured in the calendar will receive $25, and their name will be published in the calendar.

Photos must be submitted by August 31. Submit your photo today!

2020 Photo Calendar


Co-op Connection — Special Edition

Get to know the people working for you.

Charlotte Housel

Meet Charlotte Housel -Trustee District #2

Charlotte Housel has been appointed to serve on Flathead Electric Co-op’s (FEC) Board of Trustees. With the regrettable passing of District #2 Trustee, Emery Smith, the Board accepted applications for a new representative to serve that district until the next annual meeting in 2021, at which time a Trustee will be elected by the members.

A Selection Committee, consisting of three Trustees and three members at-large from District #2 (which includes Creston, Lower Valley, Somers, Lakeside, Rollins, and Cooke City) chose Housel (from the 10 members who submitted applications) to recommend as Trustee, which the board then approved. Housel is Executive Director of the ImagineIF Library Foundation. She says she looks forward to serving.

“I applied for the Trustee position because I am proud and impressed by the work of the FEC Board and their commitment to the community. I am honored to represent the members.”


Roundup Report

Roundup for Safety grant to help keep kids safe during bus stops

A $5,000 grant to the Flathead Community Foundation will help provide longer stop sign swing arms on school buses, which have proven to significantly reduce illegal passing of school buses and improve safety for children. The grant will fund swing arms in Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls school districts. Applicants say the device might have prevented the illegal passing of a bus in our area last year that severely injured a young girl.

June Projects Funded

  • West Valley Volunteer Fire & Rescue
    Pro-Nox Portable System (portable nitrous oxide masks for pain management for victims) $4,397
  • Climate Smart Glacier Country
    HEPA Filter Systems $5,000
Extended Bus Arm
Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Reiss/Daily Inter Lake

Roundup for Safety is a voluntary program for FEC members who round up their electric bills to the next dollar. This money goes into a fund for community safety projects.

To apply for a Roundup for Safety grant, visit Roundup for Safety. Thank you to the thousands of Flathead Electric members who round up their bill for safety! Together, we are making a difference in our community.