What No One Knows About Hydroelectricity on the Columbia River

Most history credits Grand Coulee Dam with being the first hydroelectric generation facility on the Columbia River. However, many people do not know that Hanford Irrigation Company purchased a hydroelectric turbine from Picatti Brothers, which was installed at Priest Rapids, WA and became operational in 1934.

Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company (now Siemens Electric) manufactured the turbine/generator in Milwaukee, WI. Picatti Brothers sold the unit to Hanford Irrigation Company and performed the final machining procedures, as well as the foundation, turbine/generator installation, start-up, and testing procedures.

For some unknown reason, my father, George Picatti, kept this material that related to the installation, including the original purchase contract between the two parties at our business for all these years.

We have the original blueprints (yes, they were still blue in those days—and they still have a light ammonia odor), the original correspondence, photographs of the turbine impeller, and a large box of other data.

Check out this letter from Allis-Chalmers to Picatti Brothers, Joseph Picatti regarding a vent pipe installation.