As each of our members knows, it has been two years since the catastrophic Hurricane Michael forever changed our way of life, our landscape, and destroyed more than just our electric system. WFEC does not want to relive our experiences or revisit traumatic memories. You know. You lived it. We lived it. WFEC worked to repair our electric system as quickly and safely as possible with temporary repairs – but each and every pole and line must be inspected after those temporary repairs - repairs which must still be converted into more permanent repairs and solutions. This is called temporary to permanent work.
Power was restored to members within 28 days – a major accomplishment after such damage – but system reliability takes time to rebuild. In essence, after the storm, WFEC restored your power temporarily but still needed to do the permanent work in order to enhance reliability. This is something that began after all temporary repairs were made and it’s a process that continues today and into the foreseeable future.
WFEC has contracted with Musgrove, a utility contractor, to assist with this temporary to permanent work. The faster this work is completed, the sooner the reliability of WFEC’s system will return to pre-Hurricane Michael status. It’s important to keep in mind that your co-op has approximately 4,800 miles of overhead powerlines within its four-county service area so it will take years to complete properly. This is a process that WFEC is completely committed to but it will take time.
The cooperative has continued to do our regularly scheduled “down line” right-of-way trimming with Asplundh and has also contracted with Burford to remove leaning and dangerous trees left behind by Hurricane Michael. Many of these trees were not initially leaning or dead after the storm, but with weakened root systems, they have become an issue as time passed.
In 2019, the co-op reported to members that it would owe in excess of $70 million dollars for damages and expenses caused directly by Hurricane Michael. At this time, WFEC has only received about one-third of the reimbursement from claims that have been submitted to FEMA. One hundred percent of the hurricane recovery fee WFEC collects is used to pay the interest and principle on the emergency line of credit required to cover these expenses until all FEMA reimbursements are received. FEMA is the only government agency from which WFEC will receive any reimbursements.
All utilities serving our area, whether electrical or telecommunication, now have some sort of storm recovery fee built into their rates. WFEC is not the only utility to implement a hurricane recovery fee. The recovery fee is charged according to the amount of kilowatt hours (kWh) consumed by each member. This is the fairest way to recover the money needed to pay expenses that were incurred directly by Hurricane Michael. These expenses affect all of us since WFEC is a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative. Many new members of the cooperative say they were not here during the storm and wonder why they have to pay the recovery fee - this fee is not a punishment for those who were here or who were not - it is simply to pay the expenses until FEMA reimbursements are received.
As your local, member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative, WFEC always wants to be transparent with its members about why we are collecting this fee and how we are using it. That’s just how we’re built as a co-op, following the Seven Cooperative Principles. If you, our members, ever have any questions regarding anything about the cooperative, please feel free to call (800) 342-7400 to ask.
WFEC remains committed to serving Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties with clean, reliable and affordable electric service for years to come.