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Hello everyone!

With Spokane in my rear view mirror I reflected during my drive today of the time spent there. Dining overlooking Spokane Falls, exploring Riverfront Park, having brunch in the historic Hotel Davenport, dinner with my friends, the Bakers, at their lovely home all left very pleasant memories. The nostalgic trip to Reardan, seeing Fairchild Air Base, and visiting Nine Mile Falls capped off a melancholy visit to those places, knowing at my age this would be the last time there.

The campground I chose near Grand Coulee is a small 'Two Star' family-operated one. Friendly people, and a diner on the premises. The Dam is about 12 miles away so after getting set-up I drove over to see it. The rolling topography from Spokane is covered with seemingly endless wheat fields in every direction, as far as the eye can see. Smoke from nearby forest fires obscured vision today to about 2 miles. I learned that before Grand Coulee Dam was constructed this arid land was nothing but sagebrush, sand & rocks.

The construction of the Dam was a 'New Deal' project of FDR's during the Great Depression of the 1930's designed to help put people back to work and to stimulate the economy. The Columbia Basin of Washington State offered great potential, recognized by visionaries in the early 1900's. The Columbia River, our nation's second largest, was wild and untamed. The River drains the west side of the Rocky Mountains, beginning in Canada and flows to the Pacific Ocean at the Washington/Oregon stateline. The Basin, a rugged, rocky, arid valley, called a 'Coulee', is about 5 miles across and a forboding place where few white people lived prior to the construction project. An Indian Reservation is located adjacent to the river from which the Indians depended on for their for food, mainly salmon.

Construction of a dam to tame the wild river was a daunting task, one which attracted thousands of men seeking work. These men worked in shifts round-the-clock for 9 years until completion in1942. At the time it was the world's largest construction project. It also created the largest concrete structure in the world, & it is our country's largest hydroelectric project ever built. It towers 550' above bedrock and is 5,223' wide. Hoover Dam, while higher at 726' is 1,244' wide. Grand Coulee produces 3 1/4 times more electricity than Hoover. Like Hoover Dam on the Colorado River the benefits to their respective regions have been flood control and river regulation, water storage, irrigation, power generation, and recreation. Hoover Dam created Lake Mead, and Grand Coulee created 129 mile-long Lake Roosevelt which stretches north to within 13 miles of the Canadian border. Water dammed by Grand Coulee is pumped uphill to Banks Lake reservoir where it is stored and controled for discharge for irrigation to hundreds of thousands of acres in the Pacific Northwest. As a result of the Grand Coulee project 11 other dams were built on the Columbia River. A story told at the Visitor's Center was that as Lake Roosevelt was filling up, by stages, thousands of rattlesnakes were washed into the river. Construction workers were tasked to shoot the snakes as they approached in the water.

An irony occurred at the completion in 1942, the irony being that the project designed for peaceful purposes was forced into the wartime effort. Our nation was then at war with Germany & Japan and demand for power was critical to the cause of war. Grand Coulee's enormous hydroelectric power was used for the smelting of bauxite to create aluminum used in production of airplanes, in steel production for shipbuilding, and for supplying the massive power needs of the Hanford Project, located in southern Washington. Hanford developed the plutonium bomb which was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan to end WWII. The irrigation aspect of Grand Coulee began after the war. It grew to include 330 miles of lined canals feeding irrigation water to 670,000 acres of productive farmland creating countless agriculture-related businesses and employment. Pretty impressive!

The Dam Project created 4 new communities; Elmer City, 2 miles north of the dam, Grand Coulee above the dam, Coulee Dam directly below the dam, and Electric City, 2 miles west of the dam and America's first total electric community. So, in a previously uninhabited area (except for the Indians forced on a Reservation) the project created communities where people live with employment and recreational opportunities. Quite a story!

Posted by dixter 21:08 Archived in USA Tagged dam coulee

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