Matanuska Electric Association – Palmer AK

City:
Palmer, AK

Site Type:
Electricity, Infrastructure and Utilities, Forestry and Agriculture, Resettlement Communities

New Deal Agencies:
Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Public Works Funding

Started:
1940

Completed:
1942

Quality of Information:
Very Good

Marked:
Unknown

Site Survival:
Extant

Description

What is now the town of Palmer was founded in 1935 as the Matanuska Colony Project. It was one of 100 New Deal resettlement programs and involved major efforts the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Admininstration. The town site of Palmer expanded rapidly with the relocation of 203 colonists from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in 1935.  Prior to that, the area was composed of independent homesteads. 

A large number of new homes and buildings went up between 1935 and 1940 as part of the Matanuska Colony. A non-profit organization, the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation (ARRC), was incorporated to implement the plan. There are still around two dozen historic structures from that era, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

An additional element of the colony was the creation of an electric cooperative with the help of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).  Requested in 1937, the Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) was authorized in 1940.  It was Alaska’s first electric association.  MEA created a transmission line to the hydroelectric plant at Eklutna and began buying wholesale power and distributing electricity to its 127 members in early 1942. 

Other cooperative electric associations sprang up after the war, the largest of which was the Chugach Electric Association.  In 1952, six cooperatives, including MEA, joined forces to create ARECA, a statewide electric association, which still serves hundreds of thousands of customers across Alaska.

Source notes

Frank Gallant, 'Dance Your Way to Electric Lights', Rural Electric Magazine, July 8, 2020.
https://www.cooperative.com/remagazine/articles/Pages/Flashbacks-Dance-Your-Way-to-Electric-Lights.aspx

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Matanuska Colony Community Center, accessed on June 14, 2017.

 

Site originally submitted by Joan Greer on June 23, 2024.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

Location Info


163 E. Industrial Way
Palmer, AK 99645
Alaska County

Coordinates: 61.59246, -149.11605

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