There was a time in our fair county when electricity did not exist as we know it today. There were places, some of the mines around the town of Pioche for instance, and other isolated pockets that had electric generators, but not service to a wide segment of the population.
Enter Lincoln County Power. Current General Manager Dave Luttrell said in 1937 a petition by several local individuals, “and primarily the mining companies located in and around Pioche and Caselton, to the Public Service Commission (now Public Utilities Commission) under Chapter 72 of the Nevada laws to create an electric utility that would allow the utility to construct facilities at the old Combined Metals Reduction Company mill, where it still is today, and bring in power from the new constructed Hoover Dam into Lincoln County.” The petition was granted and the power district was then created with a three-member board and general manager.
Luttrell said the first task was to get an allocation of power from Hoover Dam and the Colorado River Commission, and to build a substation, and construct the backbone transmission system from Hoover Dam to the substation. A 69kv line, which still exists, was built directly from the dam covering about 161 miles to the present day substation.
At the same time, Luttrell said, power lines to distribute the power were built to serve the mining operations, the town of Pioche and Caliente as well as the farms in Meadow Valley, Ursine and Eagle Valley.
In Pahranagat Valley, Alamo Power District formed around 1944 as an independent utility and bought power from Lincoln County Power, as it does today.
Before the coming of the power lines, some places, like the mines, did have generators providing electric power to small, isolated pockets, but not connected together. Union Pacific Railroad in Caliente had a small generator that provided some limited service in the town.
In Alamo, it has been noted a small generator at the home of M. K. Stewart gave power to some places in town for about two hours a day, then was switched off. He used it for his own home and mostly the rental properties he owned along Broadway Street, providing power to them for a short time in the evenings.
He would also take the generator to the grocery store he owned on the corner, next to where the post office is today. Doug Miller of Alamo Power said Stewart had a well there and would pump water for the town from time to time. Stewart’s daughter Marva Sullivan, said she remembers her dad would take the generator to an individual’s home and run it for a while. She thought he had a regular schedule upon which to do this, but couldn’t remember for certain. “He didn’t charge them anything for the service, though she said.”
Luttrell said, “Over time, LCPD has evolved it’s purpose to be more of a full service, full scale, county wide provider of wholesale service to Pioche, Panaca, Caliente, Alamo and Rachel, all who have independently operated utility systems, and then retail service to everywhere else in Lincoln County”
Luttrell is just the sixth general manager, beginning in 2012, after working for the district as a consultant since 1988, becoming chief engineer in 2007.
He said the main focus of the company over the past number of years has been to replace aged facilities of the main transmission line built from Hoover Dam in 1937 with new poles, cross arms, wire, and insulators. “They are all way beyond their service lives, but it’s very expensive, well over $1 million for every 10 miles. “It’s a huge bill, so what we have started doing in recent times is on average about every three years, we try to do a 10 mile section.”
The repair work is a little more than halfway complete, Luttrell said, “and it should take about 10-11 more years before all of that line will be replaced and able to last about 60 more years.”
The district did consider building new facilities for itself in 2008 on a 17-acre site it purchased east of the entrance to Cathedral Gorge State Park, looking at the Coyote Springs development, which is within the service area of the power district. Facilities have been built there, all funded by the developers, to service Coyote Springs should it ever be developed as planned.
However, the board of directors has since determined building a new facility at present is not economically feasible, and now feels that at sometime there will be a need to expand, but not at this time.
Looking to the future, Luttrell said “Coyote Springs is still out there, but right now we are highly dedicated and focused on devoting our efforts to rehabilitating the electric infrastructure here in Lincoln County.”