By most measures Tri-State is looking pretty good for a 60-year-old. The G&T’s official birthday is this Saturday, May 19. (Editor’s note: As an employee who has been around for more than half of those years, I can say without hesitation that the transformation during just the last few decades has been nothing short of amazing.)
But, that’s not surprising when you consider that the mindset and the vision of the people who banded together to form the association back in the early 1950s has never wavered in the face of a lot of daunting challenges over the years. Despite all the growth and new assets that the association has accumulated since then, it still comes down to the Tri-State people, who have carried forward that same founding vision and commitment to the membership that continues to make this a unique and successful organization.
Tri-State was formed in 1952 as an administrator of electric co-op contracts with no real assets to step in for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), which had recently announced that it would no longer be able to meet all of the co-ops’ power requirements as it had in the past. In light of the decree, Tri-State was formed by 26 electric co-ops and public power districts in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming to secure generation beyond what the federal government was willing to provide. However, Tri-State would not take on that role of power generator for nearly another quarter of a century.
In 1957, a “master contract” was signed between the Bureau and Tri-State setting forth an agreement under which the USBR would supply power to member systems’ delivery points and Tri-State would serve as the administrator of those contracts. With that agreement in place, Tri-State opened its first office in Loveland, Colo., and hired its first general manager, Dick Tremmel.
In 1964, Tri-State formed a key partnership with another fledgling power supplier – Basin Electric Power Cooperative – which would later play a significant role in its history. In 1966, Tri-State built its first transmission line, the 230-kV, Stegall to Sidney, Neb., line.
Throughout the ’60s, the G&T continued to grow and add more employees and moved its main offices from Loveland to Denver.
The history of Tri-State would later become intertwined with the now defunct Colorado-Ute Electric Association, which was based in Montrose, Colo., and originally formed in 1941. The Montrose G&T built its first power plant – the 36-megawatt Nucla Station – in 1959 and added the 165-megawatt Hayden Station in 1965. By the mid-’60s, Colorado-Ute was providing 225 megawatts of capacity to its 10 member electric cooperatives on Colorado’s Western Slope.
The 1970s marked a time of growth in Tri-State’s service territory and the G&T finally added its first generation – two combustion turbine power plants in eastern Colorado. In 1976 Tri-State solved the problem of moving power between the eastern and western power grids to serve its loads in Nebraska by constructing the David A. Hamil DC Tie in Stegall. By the early ’70s, Tri-State also moved its growing workforce from Denver to Northglenn, Colo.
By the late 1970s, Tri-State would invest in its first baseload generation as work began on the Yampa Project (Craig Station) in northwestern Colorado and the Missouri Basin Power Project (Laramie River Station) in southeastern Wyoming. The G&T also moved employees into a brand new headquarters building in Thornton, Colo., in 1976.
Read part 2 in tomorrow’s Powering the West.