The following was originally released by GRDA and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in early 2015, discussing the economic impact of GRDA in Oklahoma.

The Economic Impact of The Grand River Dam Authority study, compiled by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, can be viewed online here: 2015 GRDA Economic Impact.

The GRDA Economic Engine

The words “economic engine” have been associated with the Grand River Dam Authority for many years.

It is fitting when you consider that GRDA’s low-cost, reliable power has been an attractive inducement for business and industry to locate in Oklahoma since the first megawatts of electricity were produced at Pensacola Dam.

It is also fitting when you consider that the popularity of GRDA’s Grand Lake, created with the 1940 completion of the dam, continues to grow.

Finally, it all fits when you consider that electricity, economic development and environmental awareness (caring for the resources under its control) are all central to the overall GRDA mission.

And to see exactly where it all fits, you can reference numbers like those found in a new study, commissioned by GRDA and conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

Released in March, this Economic Impact of the Grand River Dam Authority study takes a closer look at the impact GRDA’s operations, new construction and other positive externalities will have on the state in the years ahead.

According to the study, when focusing on the operational impact alone, GRDA’s economic impact in 2016 is projected to be:

  • $541 million in economic activity (output)
  • 2,870 jobs (supported by GRDA operations)
  • $150 million in real disposable income across the state

However, those are just the key figures from the report’s executive summary. There is much more information –looking further into the future and broken down into more detail — about GRDA’s impact on tourism, quality of life, and more.

Pensacola Dam 75th Anniversary

An updated look at the Grand River Dam Authority’s economic impact in Oklahoma shows that it will continue to grow steadily, while the economic benefits of a new GRDA construction project will also be very significant over the short term.

In March, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce released new economic impact numbers on GRDA, updating a study first commissioned by the Authority in 2012.

“It’s been three years since we first looked at the GRDA impact in this way,” said GRDA Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan, who presented the study’s findings during the April 8 meeting of the GRDA Board of Directors. “Today, with a major construction project underway, we felt it was a good time to revisit and update the study.”

The Impact of The GRDA Construction Project

This new study does take into account that major construction project: a $400 million, 495 megawatt (MW) combined cycle generation plant. In January, GRDA broke ground on that facility, which will be fueled by Oklahoma natural gas when it begins operations in 2017.

Combined with GRDA’s operations, quality of life contributions and low cost power, this new construction and investment in Oklahoma is estimated to facilitate an annual economic activity impact ranging between $960 million and just over $1 billion during the first two years of construction.

Meanwhile, the impact generated solely by the utility’s operational impact, is estimated to range between $510 million and $581 million in economic activity during the period between 2015 and 2020.  During that same period, GRDA is estimated to support an annual real disposable impact of $310 to $337 million in the state’s economy.

“We think it’s very significant that GRDA continues to generate economic activity that exceeds our revenues of approximately $500 million each year,” said GRDA Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “This organization’s role is to be a positive contributor to the state in terms of economic development and quality of life for Oklahomans, and we are pleased that this study reveals we are doing that.”

The study also took a close look at the Oklahoma jobs supported by GRDA and found the utility’s positive externalities are estimated to support over 7,100 jobs in the state’s economy in 2015-16. Also, between 2015 and 2020, GRDA’s operational impact is estimated to support roughly 40 percent of those 7,100 jobs statewide.

“We’re very pleased with these numbers,” said Sullivan. “They serve as a benchmark and show that GRDA is meeting its mission as an asset for all of Oklahoma. However, with our construction project underway, and other new initiatives related to caring for the Grand River watershed, we feel that GRDA’s ability to support the economy of Oklahoma will only grow in the years ahead.”

Impact on Population

When construction began on Pensacola Dam in 1938, thousands of people flocked to the region, looking for work.

Over the next two years, those people helped to build one of the state’s grandest structures, which also served to create the 46,500 surface acres of lake waters that comprise Grand Lake.

By the fall of 1940, the lake was mostly full and suddenly, a region that had been rugged and rural, was now home to what would become the state’s premier water recreation destination.

And close by, the dam was creating abundant electricity to help fuel growth in the area and draw even more people to live, work and play in the lakes region.

According to the study, “in the 10 years after the Pensacola Dam was finished in 1940, the region’s population grew 8.2% compared to the 5.0% decline experienced by Oklahoma’s non-metro counties over the same period.

Over a longer period of time (1940 – 2010), the region around Grand Lake and Lake Hudson posted a 33% population growth rate. Comparatively, Oklahoma’s non-metro counties experienced virtually no population growth.”

Of course, population growth translates into economic development and a broad tax base that supports the services and infrastructure that allows those residents to live, work and play near the waters of GRDA lakes.

More to Come

Not only were the waters of the Grand River harnessed to make electricity in 1940, but they were also harnessed to help transform a large region of Oklahoma, while also providing benefits statewide.

Earlier this year, GRDA entered an interagency agreement with Oklahoma State University that will lead to a new study focused solely on the economic impact that recreation has in the Grand River watershed.

When those numbers are compiled, Sullivan added that GRDA will have even more data to better define its positive impact and help it plan ways to maintain that in the future.

A closer look at this water-related information is merited when the history of the lake region is considered.

The OSU study will provide “very specific data, focused on the water-related economic activity and will complement the commerce department’s study very well,” said Sullivan. “I think it will further strengthen GRDA’s position as an important economic engine for Oklahoma.”

Aerial photo of Duck Creek at Grand Lake OK