San Bernardino County
THE NEVADA-CALIFORNIA ELECTRICAL CORPORATION
AND THE SOUTHERN SIERRAS POWER COMPANY
The history of the development and growth of The Nevada-California Electric Corporation and its group of subsidiary companies is typical of the romance of the west. It was started as a small $300,000 project on December 31, 1904, by a group of Denver capitalists who had first expected to develop some mining properties in Nevada. The experts who made the investigation for them, however, returned with the suggestion that, instead of entering the mining business, they should develop hydro-electric power on Bishop Creek to serve the mining camps at Tonopah and Goldfield. While the original estimate of the cost of the enterprise was $250,000 to build to Goldfield and $300,000 including Tonopah, a diversion to Silver Peak increased the total cost to $470,708 up to December 31, 1905. Some of the increase was also caused by enlarging operations as they were undertaken. As an indication of the small beginning of this company, whose successor now has total assets of more than $61,000,000, the report of the president, for the first year of operation, pointed out with pride the fact that the gross earnings of the power company and the two lighting companies for Tonopah and Goldfield for the month of December, 1905, amounted to $14,423, “or at the rate of $161,000 per annum.”
The next highlight in the operations of the system was the organization of The Nevada-California Power Company, which on January 5, 1907, took over The Nevada Power Mining and Milling Company with all of its properties, and the report of that company showed a total expenditure for 1907 of $1,580,031. Construction expenditures for the year amounted to $1,503,850. Extension of the company’s lines was completed September 20, 1907, to Rhyolite. Lands were purchased from the Hillside Water Company to the amount of 5,180 acres, together with its irrigation rights to water of the Bishop Creek and also the principal reservoir site at South Fork. The property has been operated by the Associated Companies up to the present date.
The organization of the Southern Sierras Power Company came in 1911 for the purpose of reaching out into the rich agricultural territory of southern California to supply electricity for pumping water for irrigation and to serve a variety of industrial interests, such as the soda works on Owens Lake, large cement works, numerous municipalities and many industries in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties. In the list of officers and directors of The Nevada-California Power Company at the time of the organization of The Southern Sierras Power Company appear the names of L. C. Phipps, Jr., as treasurer, an office which he still holds, and Arthur B. West, attorney, who is now president of The Nevada-California Electric Corporation. Among the trustees also appears the name of W. E. Porter, who later became president of the corporation.
In December of 1914 was organized the $50,000,000 Nevada-California Electric Corporation, taking over The Nevada-California Power Company, the Southern Sierras Power Company, the Interstate Telegraph Company, organized to handle telephone and telegraph service along the lines of the territory served, the Bishop Light and Power Company, the Corona Gas and Electric Company and the Hillside Water Company. This corporation is the holding company which continues to own the assets of these and other subsidiary companies of this system with their many ramifications.
The principal owners of this corporation in its early years of development are still its controlling force. Their vision and indomitable courage have resulted in the building of power plants among the mountain peaks of the Sierras and the spanning of desert wastes and granite cliffs with transmission lines. They planned and constructed the longest line in the world for transmission of hydro-electric power, opened up a great desert empire in the Imperial Valley, extended service into old Mexico and Arizona, and built the longest power line that has ever been constructed for a single construction job, from San Bernardino, two hundred twenty-four miles to the site of Hoover Dam, now being used to transmit power to the dam site and in the future destined to bring electric power back to southern California from that project.
As an indication of the manner in which the operations of the power companies owned by The Nevada-California Electric Corporation have grown, it is interesting to note that the total power generated and purchased for the service of customers of The Southern Sierras Power Company, The Nevada-California Power Company and the Yuma Utilities Company in 1931, amounted to 275,500,167 kilowatt hours, which was a decline of 5.69 per cent from the peak record of 1930. The total sold, as taken from customers’ meters for 1931, was 194,925,099 kilowatt hours, a decrease of only 4.29 per cent from the 1930 high.
The power companies have direct connections with the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Company by means of a steel pole line constructed from San Bernardino to the Seal Beach plant of that company, built in 1929 at a cost of $850,000; a connecting link with the San Diego Consolidated Gas and Electric Corporation at Rincon in San Diego County, particularly designed for protection to continuous service in the Imperial Valley, and one with the Southern California Edison Company at Colton, thus making possible for scores of western inland industries, farms and cities a service that is reliable and continuous.
In June, 1916, The Imperial Ice & Development Company was incorporated and during the year 1917 the properties of four subsidiary companies, the Corona Gas and Electric Light Company, the Rialto Light, Power and Water Company, the Coachella Valley Ice and Electric Company and the Bishop Light and Power Company, were purchased by and consolidated with the Southern Sierras Power Company, solidifying and condensing the corporate structure. With the formation of the Ice Company, the Coachella Valley Ice and Electric Company was acquired and control of the Holton Power Company, including its ice plants and interurban railroad. This company was operated as a subsidiary until 1929, when it was finally completely absorbed. Ice manufacturing and storage plants were erected for the purpose of serving the vegetable, fruit and melon industries of the Imperial and Coachella valleys with refrigeration service, as well as the domestic needs of the cities. As an indication of the scope of its business, the company sold 273,350 tons of ice to the Pacific Fruit Express, vegetable shippers and domestic users during the year 1931. During that year it also concluded negotiations with the Pacific Fruit Express Company for a new fifteen-year contract covering the requirements of the express company in the Imperial Valley, which makes certain a good load for its ice plants for the next fifteen years, in addition to the increasing demand of Imperial Valley for ice. The Imperial Ice and Development Company owns six plants, located at El Centro, Coachella, Brawley, Calexico, Holtville and Calipatria, with a combined daily production capacity of 970 tons and storage capacity of 91,900 tons.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 751-754, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.