Devil's Gate

Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant, Weber Canyon

The Weber Hydroelectric power plant has been in operation in 1910. Despite decreased usage, the plant continues to provide power to the local grid.

Devil’s Gate-Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant is located in Weber Canyon. The power station was completed in 1910 on the Weber River. Crowded between steep, winding canyon walls alongside the Union Pacific Railroad and Interstate 84, the plant has stood for over 100 years.

The conservation movement at the turn of the century was a scientific movement focused on rational planning to increase efficient use of all natural resources. Dams were a solution to making water usage more efficient. Dams conserve water for agriculture and municipal needs as well as provide flood control and electricity. This was the Progressive Era’s ideal approach to managing water resources. Ogden and Salt Lake City were rapidly industrializing at the end of the 1800s with the construction of railroads and and better public transportation. However, an efficient power grid was needed to maintain these advances. Thus, Devil’s Gate was a vital component to support a well-organized system for Ogden and Salt Lake City. 

During construction, a conflict with the Union Pacific Railroad almost prevented Devil’s Gate from being built. C. K. Bannister, an engineer involved in the construction of the Pioneer hydroelectric plant in Ogden Canyon, began work on Devil’s Gate in 1900. However, with the railroad next to the Weber River, Union Pacific Railroad officials were concerned a dam would damage the railbed and temporarily halted the dam's progress. Bannister died before work resumed, and his associates, Thomas D. Dee and David Eccles, sold the property rights to the Utah Light and Railway Company. Around the same time, the president of the Union Pacific Railroad, Edward Henry Harriman, purchased sixty-percent of Utah Light and Railway Company’s stocks, thus gaining majority control of the firm. Harriman intended to upgrade the Northern Wasatch Front’s electrical output to make it efficient for his electric streetcar operation in Salt Lake City. Unable to acquire more water rights in Ogden Canyon to improve the Pioneer plant, Harriman authorized the construction of Devil’s Gate with the stipulation that precautions be taken to protect the railroad embankment from potential erosion. Construction on the dam was completed two years later. 

With the rapid urbanization of the Wasatch Front at the end of the 1800s, several small power companies sprung up, creating intense competition. This led to corporate consolidations and larger power grids. Devil’s Gate was completed in 1910 and was one of the first power plants in Utah intended to feed an electrical grid. Previously, power plants adjusted their output based on the local daily or seasonal needs, but Devil’s Gate would run continuously at full capacity to meet the needs of the overall system powering all of Salt Lake City and Ogden, including Salt Lake City’s electric streetcars. In 1914, ownership of Devil’s Gate passed into the private hands of Utah Light and Traction, who lost all of its power stations to the Utah Power and Light Company in 1915. 

Under the ownership of the Utah Power and Light Company, several modifications were made to Devil’s Gate to increase its electrical capacity and efficiency. In 1989 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It still functions within a power grid today, but its role is far smaller due to the construction of larger dams which surpass Devil’s Gate electrical output. 

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