Seattle City Light
Seattle's foray into electricity generation began with an opportunity - an existing dam at the Cedar River that could be used to generate power - and a need - cheap electricity to power street lights in a rapidly growing city.Although originally part of the water utility, voters amended the City Charter in 1910 to create the Lighting Department (popularly and now officially referred to as Seattle City Light). Under the leadership of Superintendent J.D. Ross, City Light built hydroelectric dams on the Skagit in the North Cascades. Both public and private power was supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the private electrical power supply operations, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. In the 1960's, City Light built the Boundary Dam in Northeast Washington that now generates over a third of the utility's power output. City Light remains the largest municipally-owned utility in the Pacific Northwest.
Power Generation: Introduction
Seattle City Light built, owns, and operates four major hydroelectric dams and powerhouses: Gorge, Diablo, and Ross, all on the Skagit River in the North Cascades, and Boundary on the Pend Oreille River in the northeastern corner of Washington. The utility also operates smaller generation facilities on the Cedar and Tolt Rivers and contracts for additional power from environmentally-friendly sources and the Bonneville Power Administration. City Light owns hundreds of miles of transmission right-of-way and infrastructure to deliver this electricity to Seattle.
Diablo Dam Spilling, 2003
Power Generation: Cedar Falls Plant
In 1902, Seattle voters approved a $590,000 bond issue to finance construction of a hydroelectric plant on the Cedar River. This facility began operation in 1905, powering the City's street light network.
|Cedar River Power line and Powerhouse, 1922||Cedar Falls Powerhouse, 2000|
Power Generation: Steam Plants
The Lake Union Steam Plant, completed in 1917, augmented City Light's electricity supply. The City acquired the Georgetown Steam Plant from Puget Sound Power & Light in 1951.
Lake Union auxiliary steam station, 1930
Power Generation: Skagit Project - Gorge Dam
City Light completed Gorge Dam, its first hydroelectric dam on the Skagit River, in 1924.The Gorge High Dam replaced the original dam in 1961.
|Gorge railroad bridge, Gorge powerhouse at Newhalem, 1938||Gorge Dam spilling, 2002|
Power Generation: Skagit Project - Diablo Dam
Diablo Dam was completed in 1930 and began generating electricity in 1936.
Diablo Dam, 2002
|Diablo Dam & Diablo Lake, Ruby Mountain in background, 1935|
Diablo Dam workers on incline, 1928
Ross Dam and Powerhouse, 2002
Power Generation: Skagit Project - Workers
|View of Camp, Skagit River, mountains, and railroad, 1930||Gorge lunchroom, 1935|
Power Generation: Skagit Project - Tourism
|Crowd on train between Rockport and Camp, 1931||The Alice Ross on Diablo Lake, 1936|
Power Generation: Boundary Project
In 1967, City Light finished construction of the Boundary Dam on the Pend Orielle River in Northeast Washington near the Canadian and Idaho borders.
|Boundary Dam Construction, 1966||Generating Turbine, 1999|
Boundary Dam Spilling, 1999