SHOSHONE FALLS • It was raised in the name of progress.
And soon, the first hydroelectric power house at Shoshone Falls, built by Twin Falls founder I.B. Perrine, could be razed in the name of progress.
“Most visitors to Shoshone Falls don’t even notice the original gray building built by Perrine,” Idaho Power Co. spokesman Dan Olmstead said. The power company purchased Perrine’s plant in 1916 and built another power house next to the original in 1927. Dwarfed in size and production by its successor, the first power plant still produces electricity.
Idaho Power plans to salvage the historic turbines and demolish the Perrine building in order to build a 60 megawatt facility. The 1927 power plant will remain.
The two power plants stand side by side, on the north side of the river at the base of Shoshone Falls. Water is piped from the top of the falls, through the rock to the power houses below. The falling water turns large turbines in the power houses to generate electricity.
The power plants generate a total of 12 megawatts.
Perrine first talked about building a power plant at Shoshone Falls in 1900, when he persuaded Harry Hollister, from Chicago, to invest in the hydroelectric project. Perrine then filed a claim for 3,000 cubic feet per second of water from each side of the Snake River. The claims were first intended for irrigation water, then later used for the plant.
Construction of the tunnel for the pipe, or penstock, began the following year. Crews blasted rock from the base of the canyon and tunneled upward.
In August 1907, water was released into the penstock, and 500 kilowatts of electricity were produced by the power plant. A second generator was installed in 1909, increasing production to three megawatts, the same as it produces today.
“The huge turbine wheel and the massive generator revolve at top speed with a sound like the purr of a satisfied tomcat,” wrote the Twin Falls Times when the Perrine plant came on line.
Mychel Matthews is the chair of the Twin Falls County Historic Preservation Commission and the director of the Twin Falls County Historical Museum. The Hidden History feature will run every Thursday on Page 2. If you have a question about an object that might have historical significance, email Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org.