Title Image of Lexington & Tacoma

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The city of Tacoma sits where the mouth of the Puyallup river meets the Puget Sound in Washington State. Incorporated in 1875, it derives much of its power from hydroelectric power generated by dams in the area. While this form of energy is relatively inexpensive over the long term, it is susceptible to environmental factors such as drought.

This was dramatically demonstrated during the winter of 1929-30. An extended drought in the fall had failed to fill up the reservoires on the Nisqually and Skokomish rivers, and the resulting power shortage was so critical that local businesses had to lay off workers due to lack of power and the Army's nearby Fort Lewis had to turn out the lights to its barracks at 4PM.

The City appealed to the President of the United States for help, and President Hoover referred the matter to the US Navy. Lexington class carriers were among the first to have electric drive motors, meaning that their power plants were designed to generate electricity that would then drive powerful electric motors. This made them ideal for use as temporary power plants.

After much discussion, debate, and countermanding, LEXINGTON arrived at Tacoma and began supplying power to the city on December 17th. LEXINGTON remained tied up at Baker Dock supplying power until January 16. During this time the skies opened up and rain poured down, allowing the reservoirs to fill.

The Navy was not above using the situation to its advantage and performed tests and close monitoring of the power plant during this period. Below is the final report and attachements submitted for review following a port-trial inspection.

USS Lexington report following supplying power to the City of Tacoma for a month.

Further Reading:

  • U.S.S. Lexington provides electricity to Tacoma -HistoryLink.org

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