LOCUST GROVE, Okla. “Grand indeed,” is what many attendees said while in attendance at the Grand River Dam Authority’s 130-MW Robert S. Kerr Dam at Lake Hudson in Mayes County, north of Locust Grove, Okla. The facility marked its 50th Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 25.
The Kerr Dam, which opened in 1964 and took two years to build, is a concrete gravity and earth-filled embankment that has a concrete ogee weir spillway. When the dam began to produce hydroelectricity, its powerhouse put four 28.5-MW generators into operation along with 17 floodgates – each 40 feet by 17 feet – that give the facility a total discharge potential of 599,000 cubic feet per second.
The structure is 4,494 feet long and it is one of three hydroelectric facilities constructed by the GRDA network that have an effect on the entire state, according to GRDA Chairman Thomas Kimball.
”Kerr Dam is part of the GRDA network of power generating facilities that in total has transmission lines in 75 of the 77 counties in Oklahoma,” said Kimball during a video interview with PennWell’s Hydro Group.
Kerr Dam forms Lake Hudson, situated on 12,000 acres in eastern Oklahoma, and it has 200 miles of shoreline. Lake Hudson is the second in a chain of three lakes – Grand Lake and Lake Fort Gibson – along the Grand River.
GRDA’s initial hydroelectric generation began in 1935 when the 120-MW Pensacola Dam came online near Langley, Okla., (Grand Lake). In 1968, GRDA added to its hydroelectric abilities with the addition of the 260-MW Salina Pump Storage Project (SPSP).
SPSP is Oklahoma’s first pumped-storage facility, built in the hills southeast of Salina, along the Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson. The project pumps stored water uphill from its W.R. Holway Reservoir at night when power needs from the electric grid are at their lowest. Then, in the daytime, it uses the water’s downhill flow rate to generate electricity as needed.
The GRDA network and its inventory have an illustrious history that includes helping the U.S. in its World War II efforts.
“When World War II came about, we supplied power to munitions plants in Pryor, Oklahoma,” said Kimball from the viewing platform at the Kerr Dam. “We also supplied power to Spartan Aviation to make [training aircraft] and to McDonnell Douglas Corporation in Tulsa to make needed items for the U.S. war effort.”
GRDA rebuilt all of the Kerr Dam turbines in the past four years and, in total, GRDA is the 16th largest public power supply region in the U.S.