Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records, 1924-1992  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Washington Public Utility Districts' Association
Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records
1924-1992 (inclusive)
95.70 cubic feet (129 boxes including 1 sound disc)
Collection Number
Records, correspondence and administrative papers of the Association
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

Consult the access restrictions information for each of the accessions listed below.

Additional Reference Guides


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Washington Public Utility Districts' Association has long been the political and research arm of public utility districts (PUDs). The group formed in 1936 as the Washington Public Utility Commissioners' Association. It was the first association of public utilities in the United States. The Association originally spent most of its time doing research and assisting political campaigns to create PUDs and get them running. It also coordinated successful fights against two initiatives (Initiative 139 in 1940 and Initiative 166 in 1946) designed to make it more difficult for PUDs to buy property.

PUDs could be created by a county-wide vote, but they came into existence without property. PUDs could acquire the property of private power companies in two ways--through a negotiated sale or through a condemnation suit, a procedure that forced the company to sell its assets to the PUD at what the county court determined to be a fair price. Some advocates of public power favored condemnation, while others thought negotiated sale was the only ethical way to put a PUD in business. This difference of opinion nearly split the Public Utility Commissioners' Association. Association President Harry Pierson was forced to resign in 1942 after he took a trip to the East Coast funded by investment bankers who favored the negotiated purchase strategy. The Association then fell under the control of the Washington Public Ownership League (WPOL). WPOL sponsored Initiative 12 to expedite the condemnation process by allowing many PUDs to join together and condemn an entire company in a single suit. This measure passed the state legislature in 1943, but private power firms collected enough signatures to hold a referendum (Referendum 25) on the law in 1944. The divisions in the public power movement contributed to the narrow defeat of the measure. WPOL further frustrated its critics by endorsing a socialist candidate for state senate and using the Commissioners' Association office as his campaign headquarters. WPOL's control ended in 1947, when the Association elected its leaders from the ranks of the avowedly anti-socialist Public Power League of Washington

Ken Billington, former head of the Public Power League of Washington, was elected Executive Secretary of the Commissioners' Association in 1951. Billington changed the name of the group to the Washington Public Utility Districts' Association (WAPUDA). Since most PUDs had already bought out private power companies and begun selling electricity, Billington redefined the mission of the organization. Instead of concentrating on getting fledgling PUDs into business, WAPUDA began to focus on doing research and lobbying on the problems ofPUDs already in operation. Under Billington's tenure, WAPUDA helped PUDs band together to purchase insurance at low rates and to conduct joint labor negotiations.

WAPUDA was a major player in all the big public vs. private power conflicts in the Pacific Northwest. It endorsed the creation of a Columbia Valley Authority and the building of additional federal dams, such as John Day and Ice Harbor. WAPUDA led the failed effort to convince Congress to authorize a federal Hells Canyon High Dam. WAPUDA successfully lobbied the Federal Power Commission (FPC) to allow PUDs to build their own dams. In the 1960s W APUDA derailed the proposed Columbia River Interstate Treaty, which would have weakened the law that gave public utilities preference in the allocation of power from federal dams. WAPUDA instead supported the legislation that became the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act of 1980. This law renewed PUDs' contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration (BP A) and reinforced public utilities' preferential rights to federal power. The law also created the Pacific Northwest Power Planning Council and mandated conservation as the preferred way of meeting the region's future power needs.

WAPUDA was also the driving force behind the creation of the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS). WPPSS was designed to build power plants that individual PUDs could not afford on their own. W APUDA convinced the Washington Department of Conservation and Development to charter WPPSS in 1957. In 1966 WAPUDA got approval for its plan to turn one of Hanford's plutonium-making reactors into a power-producing nuclear plant operated by WPPSS. In the 1970s WAPUDA helped WPPSS gain federal authorization to build five nuclear power plants simultaneously. WAPUDA also joined private power companies in defeating antinuclear Initiative 325 in 1976. Due to declining power demand and cost overruns, WPPSS completed only one of its five .proposed nuclear plants. In 1983 WPPSS announced it could not pay its creditors, triggering the largest municipal bond default in American history.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Consult the scope and content information for each accession listed below.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Consult the restrictions governing reproduction and use for each of the accessions listed below.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Accession No. 0181-001: Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records, 1936-1961Return to Top

23.00 cubic feet (55 boxes)

Scope and Content: Records.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Literary rights of representatives of the records-creating organization transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by WA PUD Assoc., 8/3/1961.

Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records

Accession No. 0181-012: Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records, 1948-1990Return to Top

6.00 cubic feet (6 boxes)

Scope and Content: Correspondence, speeches and writings, research material, agenda, minutes, statistics, clippings, testimony. Primarily files of executive secretary Ken Billington. Includes Billington's personal papers and research for his 1988 book, "People, Politics and Public Power."

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Billington's literary rights transferred to Libraries.

Processing Info: These records are Ken Billington's own office files created during his tenure as Executive Director of WAPUDA. Some may duplicate records found in other WAPUDA accessions, which were general office files. For this reason, the chronological files (boxes 3-5) were not refoldered. These files were compared to the minutes series and Billington "mailings" series in Accession No. 0181-010 and no duplication was found.

No attempt was made to subgroup the chronlogical correspondence files. Some of these letters may more properly represent Billington's activities with other organizations. Names of correspondents were entered into the CNI from the chronlogical files as well as the individual name folder, and may not appear in the inventory.

Billington retired from WAPUDA in 1978. Material date beyond that time can be characterized as personal papers. The letters to the editor series has been divided between the WAPUDA records and Personal Papers at the date of Billington's retirement. No attempt was made to divide the papers in other record series or subgroups. Nearly all of the records reflect Billington's activities in the field of public power, both with WAPUDA, and later as a consultant and author.

Two folders were added to the subgroup., Cirizens Committee on Washington Courts, in the summer of 1955. They were transferred form Accession No. 0181-013.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Ken Billington, 11/12/1992.

Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records

Accession No. 0181-013: Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records 1924-1990, 1924-1992 (bulk 1938-1992)Return to Top

66.70 cubic feet (68 boxes including one sound disc)

Scope and Content: Correspondence, minutes, reports, historical writings, legislation, labor negotiations, subject series, financial records, testimony and statements, advertisements, clippings, ephemera, press releases, student papers, newsletters, phonodisc, by-laws, committee records. Concerns activities of the association on behalf of member PUD's, lobbying, and advocating public power projects. Also documents WAPUDA's role in the creation and operation of the Washington Public Power Supply System.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Washington Public Utility Districts' Association, 3/13/1980.

Washington Public Utility Districts' Association records 1924-1990

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Personal Names :
  • Brewer, William A
  • Corporate Names :
  • Association of Washington Cities
  • Columbia Basin Inter-Agency Committee
  • Columbia Interstate Compact Commission
  • El Paso Natural Gas Company
  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • Electric Research Council
  • Idaho Power Company
  • Inland Empire Waterways Association
  • Pacific Power and Light Company
  • Tacoma (Wash.). Dept. of Public Utilities. Light Division
  • Washington Public Utility Districts' Association--Archives
  • Washington Water Power Company
  • Geographical Names :
  • Hanford Nuclear Power Plant
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Billingsley, Kirby (creator)
    • Billington, Ken, 1916- (creator)
    • Bone, Homer Truett, 1883-1970 (creator)
    • Ely, Northcutt (creator)
    • Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983 (creator)
    • Magnuson, Warren G. (Warren Grant), 1905-1989 (creator)
    • Mitchell, Hugh B. (Hugh Burnton), 1907- (creator)
    • Terrel, John U (creator)
    • Corporate Names :
    • American Public Power Association (creator)
    • Chelan County Public Utility District No. 1 (Wash.) (creator)
    • Columbia Valley Authority (creator)
    • Electric Consumers Information Committee (Washington, D.C.) (creator)
    • Grant County Public Utility District (Wash.) (creator)
    • Grays Harbor County Public Utility District (Wash.) (creator)
    • National Grange (creator)
    • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (creator)
    • Northwest Power Planning Council (U.S.) (creator)
    • Northwest Public Power Association (creator)
    • Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee (creator)
    • Puget Sound Power and Light Company (creator)
    • Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Lighting (creator)
    • Seattle Chamber of Commerce (creator)
    • Thomas, Christy & Associates (creator)
    • United States. Bonneville Power Administration (creator)
    • United States. Bureau of Reclamation (creator)
    • United States. Federal Power Commission (creator)
    • Washington (State). Thermal Power Plant Evaluation Council (creator)
    • Washington Public Power Supply System (creator)
    • Washington Public Utility District Commissioners Association (creator)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)