86 years of milestones (and counting) …

Apr 21, 2021

This shot, from the late 1960s, captures a moment early in the construction of GRDA’s Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP), on the Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson. That facility’s completion was just one of the many milestone moments in GRDA’s first 86 years of service to Oklahoma.

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

April 26 marks the Grand River Dam Authority’s 86th birthday. It was back on that date in April of 1935 when the 15th Oklahoma legislature passed the “GRDA Enabling Act” to create the agency to be a “conservation and reclamation district for the waters of the Grand River.”

GRDA embraced that responsibility from the beginning and, just over five years later, it had constructed Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility and the longest continuous multiple arch dam in the world — Pensacola Dam — across the Grand River Valley. The dam not only harnessed the water to produce renewable electricity (something it has done now for over 80 years) but it also created Grand Lake, which suddenly became the foundation for a thriving recreation and tourism industry and economic development engine. According to numbers from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, population in the Grand Lake region grew by 8.2 percent in the first decade after the dam’s completion.

There are other highlights during GRDA’s first 86 years… In 1968 it completed the first phase of the Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP). Oklahoma’s only pumped storage project, the SPSP was considered experimental by many critics who claimed it would “break GRDA” during its construction. However, the hydro facility continues to play a key role in GRDA’s overall generation portfolio today, over half a century later.

More recently, in 2017, GRDA completed construction on its Unit 3 combined-cycle gas generation unit. Not only was it the first unit of its kind in the Western Hemisphere but it was also the most efficient 60 hertz power plant in the world when it began operations.

Today, all that hydro and gas generation is still part of GRDA’s diverse and beneficial electric generation portfolio that also includes coal and wind resources. Meanwhile, the agency created to be a steward for the waters of the Grand River, oversees roughly 70,000 surface acres of lake waters as well as the scenic Illinois River. Through it all, the collective efforts of Team GRDA works 24/7/365 to meet the mission, carrying on the good work that began 86 years ago.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.