Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency completes $351 million bond issue

The Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA) completed a very successful bond sale of $351,255,000 Thursday, June 26.

The majority of the funds from the bond issue will be used to finance construction of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project at the existing Red Rock dam site on the Des Moines River near Pella, Iowa. Proceeds from the sale also will finance the completion of the WMMPA share of the CapX 2020 Fargo and Brookings transmission projects, and capital improvements at existing generation facilities, primarily the coal-fired Laramie River Station. Most of the bonds were sold at a premium, meaning that the total proceeds to be received from the sale will be about $390 million.

WMMPA will be the owner of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project, which will be operated by Missouri River Energy Services (MRES). WMMPA has provided financing for all of the power generating and transmission facilities MRES uses to serve its 61 member municipal electric systems in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This was the largest bond sale in the history of WMMPA and will more than double the amount of debt outstanding.

WMMPA and MRES have a power supply agreement that entitles MRES to the output of all WMMPA-owned facilities. MRES also provides administrative services for WMMPA.

The true interest cost of the bonds was 4.05 percent and the average maturity is 21 years. The final maturity on the bonds is January 1, 2046.

“Due to the favorable market, we decided to upsize the deal by about $40 million,” said MRES CEO Tom Heller. All of the maturities were oversubscribed and several were oversubscribed by more than 10 times.  Due to the strong demand for the bonds, we were able to re-price the bonds resulting in significant interest savings for our members.”

MRES projects that its total capital needs through early 2018 will be $420 million, so Thursday’s transaction will provide funding for more than 90 percent of those needs. In addition to Citi, four other firms – JP Morgan, Barclays, Wells Fargo Securities, and US Bancorp – were involved in the sale. Dougherty & Co. served as financial adviser while Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP was bond counsel.

“We are very pleased with all aspects of the sale,” said MRES Finance Director and CFO Merlin Sawyer. “Demand for the bonds was very high, due in large part to the strong credit ratings of WMMPA. The rates on these bonds were actually lower than for some recent transactions for slightly higher-rated entities. The favorable interest rates will help us maintain very competitive wholesale electric rates for our members.

“This was one of the last large transactions of the week, and, with a lack of other large issues on the docket for the next few weeks, investors were attracted to the WMMPA bonds. Also, WMMPA isn’t a frequent issuer of debt, so when we do come to the market, the bonds are well received. “An article about the planned bond sale in Wednesday’s Bond Buyer also may have been beneficial,” Sawyer said.  Thursday’s issue, along with the existing $230 million of WMMPA debt, is rated AA-minus by Fitch Ratings and Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service. Both agencies assigned a stable outlook to all WMMPA debt.

Moody's and Fitch affirm Aa3 and AA-ratings for WMMPA bonds

Two major financial ratings agencies have affirmed their ratings and stable outlook for the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA) in advance of a planned WMMPA issuance of approximately $320 million of revenue bonds. 

Moody’s Investors Service assigned a rating of Aa3 to the planned 2014 bond issue and affirmed its Aa3 rating on about $230 million of previously issued bonds.

Fitch Ratings assigned an 'AA-' rating to the planned 2014 issue and also affirmed its AA- rating on current outstanding bonds.

WMMPA plans to price the bonds June 26. A copy of the preliminary official statement is available on the MRES website. Proceeds will be used primarily to fund a significant portion of the construction of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (RRHP) and to complete the WMMPA share of certain CapX 2020 transmission projects. In addition, a portion of the funds will be used for capital improvements at the existing coal-fired Laramie River Station power plant and for costs relating to the bond issuance. The 2014 bond issue is expected to provide funds for more than 80 percent of the 2014 through 2018 capital additions for WMMPA.

WMMPA is the provider of financing for all power supply and transmission facilities utilized by Missouri River Energy Services (MRES). MRES and WMMPA have a power supply agreement that entitles MRES to the output of all WMMPA-owned facilities. MRES provides administrative services to WMMPA and provides wholesale electricity and energy services to 61 members in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Moody’s and Fitch cited the low-cost competitive power costs of MRES, the sound financial policies of MRES and WMMPA, and the increasing diversity of power supply resources in assigning their ratings. 

“We are pleased that Fitch and Moody’s continue to recognize the financial strength of WMMPA, MRES and the members, especially since the planned 2014 bond issue will more than double our debt outstanding.” said MRES Director of Finance and CFO Merlin Sawyer. “WMMPA is one of just a handful of public power joint-action agencies in the nation to earn ratings in the AA category from both agencies.”

WMMPA Preliminary Official Statement released

The Preliminary Official Statement for the planned Western Minnesota Muncipal Power Agency's bond issue was released June 19, 2014. The pricing is expected to be June 26, 2014.

WMMPA Preliminary Official Statement

MRES CEO receives national public power award

Tom Heller, CEO of Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) received the American Public Power Association's (APPA) Alan H. Richardson Statesmanship Award at the Association's national conference in Denver, Colo. The award recognizes public power leaders who work successfully and tirelessly on APPA's behalf forging consensus on national issues that achieve public power's goals.

"I am honored to be given this award by APPA, but the real credit should go to the staff at MRES who do such an excellent job of keeping things going day to day and to the MRES Board of Directors for allowing me to participate in APPA activities that are so essential to our long-term survival."

Heller is active in a wide variety of industry organizations, including the Public Power Government Relations Working Group, Power Marketing Administration Task Force, and the Transmission Access Policy Study Group. From 1988 to 1994, Heller served on the APPA Board of Directors.

As vice chair of the CURE coalition, a Washington-based coalition of captive rail shippers, Heller works to achive fair and reasonable rates for utilities using the railroads. Before joining MRES, he was the general manager of Moorhead Public Service in Minnesota, and served on the board of directors for the Minnesota Municipal Utility Association.

Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency announces details of plan to sell tax-exempt bonds

Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (Western Minnesota) plans to price approximately $320 million of tax-exempt fixed-rate bonds the week of June 23, 2014 through a negotiated sale.

The largest portion of proceeds of the sale will be used for the development, construction, and equipping of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project. The project will add hydroelectric generating facilities to the existing Red Rock Dam located on the Des Moines River near Pella and Knoxville in Marion County, Iowa. The power plant will have a nameplate capacity of 36.4 megawatts – enough to power about 18,000 homes.

In addition to the Red Rock project, a portion of the proceeds of the sale will be used to fund the remainder of Western Minnesota’s share of the CapX 2020 transmission projects and for capital additions at existing generation and transmission facilities.

The sale will be led by book-running senior manager Citigroup with J.P. Morgan, Barclays, Wells Fargo, and US Bank serving as co-managers. There also will be a selling group consisting of Cronin & Co., D.A. Davidson, Edward D. Jones, Northland Securities, and RBC Capital Markets. A Preliminary Official Statement is expected to be available the week of June 16.

Western Minnesota is a municipal corporation and political subdivision of the State of Minnesota and has financed the construction and acquisition for all of the electric generating and transmission facilities used to serve the municipal members of Missouri River Energy Services (MRES). The 23 members of Western Minnesota also are members of MRES.

MRES is a not-for-profit joint-action agency that provides wholesale electricity and energy services to 61 member municipalities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. All MRES members own and operate local electric distribution systems.

Western Minnesota and MRES have a power supply agreement under which Western Minnesota sells to MRES all of the output of its generating and transmission facilities. MRES provides all administrative services for Western Minnesota.

Construction of recreation facilities nearly finished in Red Rock area

Work is nearly complete on recreation features near the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project site, according to Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), which will begin construction of the hydroelectric facility later this summer. 

MRES added these new recreation facilities so that area residents and visitors will have additional opportunities to enjoy the Red Rock area during and after the construction of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project.  “We know that the Red Rock area is very popular for fishing, camping and other water activities,” said MRES Director of Member and Public Relations Bill Radio. “We hope the new recreation facilities we have constructed will offset any impact the project could have on recreation activities during the construction of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project.”

The following is a list, by location, of features that have been added.

In the South Tailwater Area, MRES enhanced existing features with a picnic shelter and group grill, new playground with play features, a fish-cleaning station with shelter, and additional parking spaces.

MRES constructed the new Robert’s Creek Trailhead which includes a restroom, picnic shelter with group grill, parking lot, and a kiosk for posting information.

In Cordova Park, MRES added a large picnic shelter to existing features. This area will be closed to the public until Marion County finishes related work in the area.

MRES also expanded the Volksweg Bike Trail 1.25 miles from the Fifield Recreation Area to the new Robert’s Creek Trailhead.

In addition, MRES has purchased two water fountains and two additional group grills that will be installed by the Army Corps of Engineers and Marion County at a later date at sites they select.

The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project is expected to be completed in 2018. This project will add electric generating equipment to the existing Red Rock Dam. When complete, it will be capable of supplying enough electricity to meet the needs of 18,000 homes.

MRES is an organization of 61 member municipalities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. MRES provides wholesale electricity and energy services to its members.

Preliminary construction work to begin June 9

Preliminary work will start soon on the construction phase of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project. Beginning June 9, Ames Construction will be moving personnel into the area in preparation for the beginning of plant construction later this summer.\

Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) is adding hydroelectric generators and equipment to the existing Red Rock Dam. The project is expected to be completed in 2018. MRES is an organization of 61 member municipalities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. MRES supplies its members with wholesale electricity and a wide range of energy-related services.

MRES, in March, selected Ames Construction of Burnsville, Minn., as general contractor for the power plant. Ames is a family-owned enterprise that was established in 1963. The company has extensive experience in large, complex construction projects in many industries and sectors including energy.

U.S. District Court ruling strikes down Minnesota law

A federal judge on Friday ruled that the State of Minnesota cannot block utilities from entering into agreements for additional power from either new or existing coals plants and selling the electricity in Minnesota.

Red Rock Hydroelectric Project developers choose construction firm

The Boards of Directors of Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA) have approved moving forward with the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project and have chosen Ames Construction, Inc., as the general contractor.

The hydroelectric plant will be built at the existing Red Rock Dam along the Des Moines River near Pella, Iowa. With a nameplate capacity of 36.4 megawatts, it will be the second largest hydroelectric plant in the State of Iowa. It will be capable of meeting the electrical needs of about 18,000 homes. At certain times of the year, when water is plentiful, the plant will be capable of generating up to 55 megawatts of power.

“Since we first announced our intentions to build the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project in 2011, we have been working our way through an intense, time-consuming regulatory process with state and federal agencies,” said MRES CEO Tom Heller.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the final two approvals needed before construction of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (RRHP) can begin. Those approvals were for the 408 process, which is designed to ensure that the project will not impact the Corps’ operations at Red Rock and that the project will be constructed safely, and for the 404 Permit, which covers dredge and fill for the project.

MRES is an organization of 61 municipalities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. WMMPA will provide financing for the project on behalf of MRES. WMMPA is made up of MRES members in the State of Minnesota and has provided financing for all of the major generating and transmission facilities that MRES uses to serve its member municipal electric systems.

Ames Construction Inc., is headquartered in Burnsville, Minn., and has offices in several locations throughout the Midwest, Western U.S., and Canada.

Construction of RRHP could begin late this year and the plant could be ready for commercial operation in the second quarter of 2018.

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For more information, contact MRES Director of Member and Public Relations Bill Radio, phone: 605-338-4042; e-mail: bill.radio@mrenergy.com.

2014 MRES Scholarship Program

Graduating high school seniors from MRES member communities are invited to apply for MRES scholarships. For more information about our scholarship program, click here.

Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency granted permit to study Gregory County Pumped Storage Project

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a preliminary permit to the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA) to study a pumped storage hydroelectric project along the Missouri River in south central South Dakota. WMMPA filed for the permit July 30, 2013 to study the feasibility of the Gregory County Pumped Storage Project to be located on Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River in Gregory, Charles Mix, and Brule Counties in South Dakota.

WMMPA is an organization of 23 municipalities in the State of Minnesota that own and operate municipal electric distribution systems. All of the WMMPA members also are members of Missouri River Energy Services (MRES). WMMPA provides financing for generation and transmission facilities that are used to serve the wholesale electricity needs of 61 MRES member municipalities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The history of the Gregory County concept dates back to 1977, when a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study identified the area as the best location on the Missouri River for a pumped storage project. Since that time, there have been several technical and economic studies related to the project.

A pumped storage project works by pumping water from a lower-elevation reservoir to a higher elevation reservoir, where the water is stored. Pumping would occur during low-cost times. Then, during times when electricity prices are high, the stored water is released through turbine-generators to produce electricity. “Gregory County has an added benefit in that it would provide the necessary control to support a significant amount of intermittent wind generation in the region,” said Ray Wahle, director of Power Supply and Operations for MRES. Wind energy facilities can only produce electricity when the wind is blowing, meaning that other generation sources are needed to maintain a reliable flow of energy.

If built, the Gregory County Pumped Storage Project would consist of a new upper reservoir with a storage capacity of 47,000 acre-feet, a powerhouse containing eight 100-megawatt turbine units, a new tailrace from the powerhouse to Lake Francis Case, a new substation and transmission lines, and other necessary facilities.

It is estimated that the annual generation of the project would be three million megawatt-hours of energy or enough to meet the electrical needs of 250,000 to 300,000 average homes.

The permit is in effect for three years or until WMMPA submits to the FERC a development application for the project and that application is accepted for filing.

For more information, contact MRES Member and Public Relations Director Bill Radio, phone: 605-338-4042;  e-mail: bill.radio@mrenergy.com.

Benson City Manager Rob Wolfington named to WMMPA Board of Directors

Rob Wolfington, the city manager at Benson, Minn., is the newest member of the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA) Board of Directors.

Wolfington has served as Benson's city manager since September 1996. Prior to that, he served for more than four years as city administrator for Rushford, Minn.

WMMPA has provided financing for and owns the electric generation and transmission facilities used by Missouri River Energy Services (MRES). MRES is an organization of 61 member communities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. All of the members own and operate municipal electric distribution systems. Twenty-three of the 24 Minnesota members of MRES make up the membership of WMMPA.

The WMMPA Board meets monthly in conjunction with the MRES Board.

Wolfington will complete the term of John Harren, formerly of Melrose, Minn. Harren has taken a new position with the Willmar (Minn.) Municipal Utilities.

3rd Quarter Financial Statements

The 3rd Quarter Financial Statements for Missouri River Energy Services and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency are now available. Click here.

MRES awards contract for bike trail extension near Red Rock Dam

In conjunction with its plans to build a hydroelectric facility at the Red Rock Dam in Marion County, Iowa, the Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) Board of Directors approved a contract for construction of a 7,000-foot extension of the Volksweg Bike Trail near the dam.

Norris Asphalt Paving Co., of Ottumwa, Iowa, was the successful bidder for the bike trail project, which will extend from the Fifield Recreation Area to the Robert’s Creek Trailhead. Construction of the trail extension will begin soon and is projected to be completed in November.

Other features also are planned for the area, including picnic shelters, a playground, a fish-cleaning station, restroom, parking facilities, and water fountains. MRES is still developing a plan for completing those features.

MRES, an organization of 61 municipalities that own and operate electric distribution utilities, plans to begin construction of the hydroelectric power plant in early 2014. The project is slated for completion in late 2016. During construction, the project will provide 400-700 jobs and nearly $250 million of economic benefits to the four-county region.

The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project will be the second largest hydroelectric plant in Iowa and will provide enough electricity for about 18,000 homes.

Two MRES members and one associate receive national recognition for reliability and safety practices

Three municipal electric systems that are affiliated with Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) were among the 90 public power utilities from across the nation to earn recognition from the American Public Power Association (APPA) for providing consumers with the highest degree of reliable and safe electric service.