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Avista rate increase is less than utility sought from PUC

The Oregon Public Utility Commission has approved a rate hike substantially lower than Avista Utilities had requested for customers in Southern Oregon.

After reviewing the application for nearly six months, the PUC approved a settlement — agreed upon by its staff, customer groups and the Spokane-based utility — to raise rates by $5.2 million annually, or 5.94 percent. The PUC said the figure is $4.2 million less than Avista originally sought.

The higher rates will be phased in starting next month.

On Feb. 1, customers will see bills increase 4.39 percent, or $3.83 million overall. A typical residential customer using an average of 48 therms per month will see a monthly increase of $2.65, or 4.9 percent, pushing the bill to $57. However, Medford's average nightly low in January has been 10 degrees colder than normal, pushing up usage for many customers.

In November, the second increase — of 1.55 percent, or $1.35 million overall — kicks in. Customers using 48 therms per month will see bills go up another 92 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $57.92.

Avista shareholders will see a 7.47-percent return on capital and a 9.65-percent return on equity. The utility said the increase will help it replace its customer information system and pay for pipeline replacements.

Umpqua Holdings Corp., parent company of Umpqua Bank, saw its profit slide in 2013, reporting net income of $97.6 million, or 87 cents per share, down from $101.2 million, or 90 cents a share, in 2012.

During the fourth quarter, the largest Oregon-based bank recorded net income of $25.1 million, or 22 cents a share, down from $27.8 million, or 25 cents a share, a year earlier.

During 2013, Umpqua's loans and leases grew by $422 million, or 6 percent, and total loan commitments increased $528 million. Its mortgage banking revenue was $78.9 million on closed loan volume of $1.9 billion.

Umpqua's acquisition of Sterling Financial Corp. is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to shareholder approval.

Compiled from staff reports