June 22, 1963, marked the groundbreaking ceremony of Basin Electric’s first power plant, Leland Olds Station. More than 8,500 people gathered at a site south of Stanton, ND, near the banks of the Missouri River to celebrate what would be the location of the largest lignite-fired power plant in the western hemisphere.
The ceremony had a county-fair atmosphere with a large tent, servings of barbecued beef for lunch and music by a band from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
The station was named for former Federal Power Commission chairman, Leland Olds. East River Electric Power Cooperative manager, Virgil Hanlon, spoke of the legacy of Leland Olds. “Lee Olds was a friend of all electric consumers,” Hanlon said. “Lee Olds represented – and represented well… the electric consumers of America. He was dedicated to low-cost power.”
Art Jones, Basin Electric president, turned the first shovel, followed by other dignitaries, including Mary Olds, Leland Olds’ widow, and their son, John.
Basin Electric’s first employee and general manager, Jim Grahl, told directors, “We are gratified that we will be able to provide abundant, low-cost power to our members in the Missouri Basin.”
Two days later, Lawrence Carlson of Washburn, ND, an employee of Northern Improvement Co., rolled his Caterpillar bulldozer out across the site. His dozer blade sliced into the prairie, and, with that, construction began.