WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill that would name the Third Power Plant at Grand Coulee Dam for father-son dam advocates has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-4th District, introduced a bill last week the honor Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Washington and his son, Nat Washington Jr.
If passed by both houses and signed by the president, the facility would be known as the Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Washington Power Plant.
The Washingtons were instrumental in construction of Grand Coulee Dam and in harnessing hydropower as a renewable energy source for the Pacific Northwest, said Newhouse.
“Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Washington and his son, Nat Washington Jr., changed central Washington forever, but their story has largely been untold,” said Newhouse. “Their public service transformed the Columbia Basin, Washington state and the entire Pacific Northwest by securing hydropower as the foundation of our region’s power system.”
The bill’s introduction is supported by state, including 13th Legislative District representatives and tribal community leaders.
“As an earlier pioneer and settler in the area now known as Washington Flats, Nat Washington Sr. clearly envisioned the potential of harnessing the Columbia River as a source of power and irrigation for the Columbia Basin, said Colville Business Council Chairman Rodney Cawston. “Nat Washington’s family went on to become stewards and champions of the native peoples and resources of the Columbia Basin. It is fitting that the Third Powerhouse be named after a visionary such as him.”
The senior Washington, a descendant of President George Washington’s family, left his home in Virginia and established a homestead along the Columbia River in 1908. Shortly after arriving in Washington, he was elected as Grant County prosecutor and later the first president of the Columbia River Dam, Irrigation and Power District.
He played a key role in the conception of and securing approval for construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. He fell victim to the power of the Columbia River when he was swept away in the current, losing his life while attempting to save his brother, James, from drowning.
His son shared his father’s passion for public service and after earning his law degree from the University of Washington and served as Grant County prosecutor. He served in the state Legislature for 30 years.
He was instrumental in development of several hydropower projects across the region and the Columbia Basin Project, which is the largest water reclamation project in the United States and provides nearly $2 billion in economic benefits to the region each year, according to Newhouse’s office.
Grand Coulee Dam is the largest power station in the nation. It supplies an average of 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to 11 states and Canada each year. Reservoirs from the dam are the backbone of the Columbia Basin Project, which supplies irrigation to 10,000 farms on 671,000 acres of farmland in the Columbia Basin.
Legislation authorizing construction of the Third Power Plant was signed June 14, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. Construction included removing a section of the existing dam. Addition of the power plant lengthened the dam to 5,223 feet - 57 feet short of a mile.
The first of six new generators went on line in 1975; the last in 1980.