Celebrating 80 in 2020

Feb 05, 2020

The work begins … Much of the dirt work for Pensacola Dam was just getting underway when this photograph was taken in September of 1938. It would be approximately two more years before the dam was complete in 1940. Since then, it has produced renewable electricity for 80 years. Throughout 2020, we want to celebrate this milestone by sharing more about historic Pensacola Dam.

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

The “official” birth date occurs sometime later in 2020, but since this year marks the 80th anniversary of Pensacola Dam, we plan to share information all year long about this historic structure and the important role it has played in the development of Oklahoma and the surrounding region.

Of course, it is more than historic. Today, the six hydroelectric turbine-generators located inside the Pensacola Dam powerhouse continue to produce electricity in the same way that the dam’s original builders intended, all the way back in 1940. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, those generators were upgraded with new components so that both generation capacity and efficiency would increase, but still, capturing the power of falling water to create renewable hydroelectricity continues as it always has throughout Pensacola Dam’s lifetime.

However, the importance of Pensacola Dam goes beyond just power production, and also includes other areas like economic development. Of course news of its construction beginning in 1938 fell like much-needed rain on the ears of those struggling to find work during the Great Depression.  Thousands of men and women flocked to the region surrounding the construction site in those early days to help turn the dream of a mile-long dam across the Grand River Valley into a reality. Today, everyone who enjoys the waters of Grand Lake and relies on the electricity the dam produces, still benefit from the work done by so many people, so long ago.

So, throughout the year, be looking for more stories here that celebrate the 80th anniversary of Pensacola Dam, its past, present and its future. Some of those stories you may know well, but others will be new. We hope they all are of interest to you.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility, funded by revenues from electric and water sales. GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.

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