A new $1.2 million hydroelectric plant near the town of Boulder in Garfield County has gone on line and will provide about 25 percent of electricity needs for the Garkane Power Association's 6,000 consumers.

"Power production from the Lower Boulder Hydro is the culmination of years of hard work by directors, managers and employees of Garkane, both past and present," said general manager Carl Albrecht. "Those efforts will result in long-term savings."The utility was established in 1938 as an electric cooperative to provide electricity in rural southern Utah and northern Arizona. Its first section of power line was energized in 1939, and it is now the second-largest rural electric cooperative in Utah.

Final testing and fine-tuning of computer controls for the new facility were completed in November.

The new plant will provide 800 kilowatts of clean, low-cost hydroelectric power to supplement that produced by another Garkane plant in the area and power purchased from other sources. Garkane buys supplemental wholesale power from the Upper Colorado River Storage Project through the Bureau of Reclamation and from Utah Power & Light Co.

Albrecht said the payback period for the loan that was obtained from the Rural Electrification Administration will be 10 years. That was arrived at by calculating the difference between the cost of generating the electricity and purchasing power.

The project also has an environmental benefit, according to Garkane's president, Michael Blackburn. Water has cascaded into the area for years and has scarred the hillside, causing erosion, but that has been corrected.

"We've been working with the U.S. Forest Service for years to resolve the erosion problem. By constructing the plant at the bottom of the hill and putting the water in an underground penstock, we will eliminate the erosion sources."

The water used to generate the power exits the plants and is then returned to the stream for irrigation and recreation use.

The new plant was built in about six months with Jones and Demille Engineering in Richfield as the consultant.

The cooperative's distribution system supplies power in Utah to all of Wayne County, Garfield County (except Panguitch), Kane County (except Kanab), and portions of Piute, Sevier, Washington and Iron counties. Garkane also has consumer members in Mohave and Coconino counties in northern Arizona.