The 75-year relationship between the City of Claremore (Oklahoma) and the Grand River Dam Authority can be described with many different words including historic, longstanding, powerful and beneficial.
It is historic because Claremore was among the very first communities to receive electricity from GRDA’s Pensacola Dam, according to a media release. The state’s first hydroelectric facility, Pensacola was completed in late 1940 and, soon after, was generating the electricity to power the seat of Rogers County.
However, with the United States’ entrance into World War II looming, the federal government, by virtue of the Federal Power Act, took control of the dam in November 1941. The hydroelectric power produced by the brand-new turbine-generators would be used to support the war effort by powering locations such as Camp Gruber, the Oklahoma Ordnance Works (present-day MidAmerica Industrial Park) and an aluminum plant near Malvern, Arkansas.
As for GRDA? The new agency (just created in 1935) ceased much of its activity in anticipation of the day when it would again control the dam. That finally and officially occurred on September 1, 1946; the same day when the current 75-year, uninterrupted Claremore/GRDA relationship was born.
Thus, the relationship’s longstanding status speaks for itself.
In fact, GRDA has provided wholesale electricity to Claremore longer than it has any other customer. The relationship began at a time when many considered electricity to be a luxury and continues through the present-day when abundant and reliable electricity fuels the economy and quality of life, 24/7/365.
On Thursday, September 16, the City of Claremore and GRDA came together at Claremore’s Will Rogers Memorial Museum to celebrate the first 75 years of the relationship. The celebration took place as part of a special luncheon in conjunction with the September meeting of the GRDA Board of Directors.
During his presentation, GRDA President/CEO Dan Sullivan highlighted many historical details of the powerful history between Claremore and GRDA, adding that the relationship has made a positive difference in Claremore and all Northeast Oklahoma.
“On behalf of the GRDA Board of Directors and our 600 employees, we want to thank the City of Claremore for this longstanding relationship,” said GRDA Sullivan. “We look forward to that continuing.”
According to Claremore City Manager John Feary, the relationship has been a major contributor to the community’s success, growth, and development for all 75 years.
“It has helped us grow in residential development, quality job recruitment, manufacturing recruitment and with an electric reliability level unlike many other communities,” said Feary.
In Claremore and GRDA’s other customer communities, the relationship works like this: citizens own and govern the municipally owned electric distribution system, typically as a function of the overall city government. This electric utility buys wholesale power from GRDA and then resells it, at retail rates, to end-users in the community. The revenue generated from these power sales is then used to maintain the electric distribution system, purchase more power from GRDA and help to fund other city services, like streets and parks, police, and fire protection. This is the public power model, and it is all accomplished without using tax dollars.
“Claremore has been very blessed over its 75-year relationship with GRDA from the point of infrastructure, and economic development,” said Feary.
Meanwhile, abundant, reliable, competitively priced, public power is also an attractive inducement to new business and industry considering a Claremore location.
“We are very thankful to have public power throughout Claremore in order to support our businesses, our citizens and their quality jobs and all that the community endeavors,” said Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority Executive Director Meggie Froman-Knight. “As a benefit of public power, you get a relationship. There is local control, you have somebody there to advocate on your behalf.”