In anticipation of Pensacola Dam’s upcoming 75th birthday celebration, we’ll be looking back at some of the interesting events from its past …
The concrete arches of the Grand River Dam Authority’s Pensacola Dam were new and gleaming in the Oklahoma sunshine in November 1941 when the facility was drafted into the World War II effort.
Although that war was still looming, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation directing the Federal Works Administration to take possession of Pensacola, operate it and generate the power necessary to manufacture munitions for war.
Transmission lines from the dam carried electricity to Camp Gruber, to the Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority (present-day MidAmerica Industrial Park) and to an aluminum plant near Malvern, Arkansas.
Before the government takeover, the dam had been serving the electricity needs of Collinsville, Chelsea and Claremore. The federal government continued to serve those customers and also added Wagoner, Tahlequah, Miami, and the B.F. Goodrich Plant in Miami, during its control of the dam.
Later, as the war was winding down, GRDA began the effort to reclaim the dam.
Oklahoma Governor Robert S. Kerr event sent a telegram to President Truman asking for his assistance.
Truman replied: “I agree with you that the cessation of hostilities in Europe makes timely the preparation of plans for the return.” However, he went on to say that, due to the modifications and improvements made by the federal government, there were plenty of details to work out before the dam’s return could be completed.
Back and forth negotiations took a quite some time, but finally, at midnight on August 31, 1946, the “Grand River Dam Project” was returned to GRDA and Oklahoma.
Ever since, it’s been operated by GRDA, to produce electricity, support recreation and provide flood control in Oklahoma.
GRDA and the surrounding communities viewed the dam’s “return” as a reason to celebrate.
Photo Above – Let’s celebrate! The Pensacola Dam doubled as the parade route when hundreds gathered to celebrate the dam being placed back under the control of GRDA and the state of Oklahoma. During the war years, Uncle Sam had been in charge of the project.