The debate between building a dam versus constructing a gravity canal lasted for nearly fifteen years until the October 1931, when the proposal to build a dam won the support of the Army Corp of Engineers. In his closing remarks to the massive crowd, President Roosevelt said, “I leave here today with the feeling that this work is well undertaken; that we are going ahead with a useful project, and we are going to see it through for the benefit of our country.”[13]. The Douglas County portion of Coulee Dam is part of the Wenatchee-East Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area. Several other dams in the world are larger, but they include earthen berms (when completed 2009, the Three Gorges Dam in China will be roughly three times the size of Grand Coulee). [5] As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer put it, “Army engineers agree with the reclamation bureau engineers that the cheapest most feasible plan for developing the Columbia Basin is by erection of a great dam at Grand Coulee.”[6]. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies supported the concept of multiple purposes dams — dams that generate power and also provide water for irrigation, recreation and flood control. Its completion at the beginning of World War II quieted its many critics, who had derided it as a colossal dam in the near-wilderness of a remote state, and whose only customers, according to one detractor in Congress, would be “sage brush and jackrabbits.” While it is true Grand Coulee contributed energy to the war effort by helping to power the Army’s nuclear facility at Hanford and the region's aircraft and aluminum industries, its impact was overrated at the time, according to historian Paul Pitzer, who has written extensively about the dam. Today it stands as a lasting symbol of the New Deal and the public works projects that contributed to the recovery from the Great Depression. Big Bend Railroad History This site features daily postings about historical information on the railroad lines of the Big Bend/Columbia Plateau region of Washington state. These appear to be the first publicly discussed proposals for the dam that would be Grand Coulee, but they were just the ideas of a dreamer at the time. The Okanogan County portion lies within the Colville Indian Reservation, and forms the southern limit of the Okanogan Highlands. The History/Archaeology Program specializes in Columbia Plateau cultural resource management including archaeology, ethnography, history, botany, preservation of traditional skills, collections rehabilitation and management, and NAGPRA. 1986), p. 19. It was estimated that the foundation contract alone included $16,000,000 worth of purchases of materials and equipment from states outside of Washington. After years of delays and setbacks, the state of Washington realized they had a strong shot at getting the dam proposal passed with the help of President Roosevelt, who was a major proponent of public works projects. Go to this page on the current site or keep browsing. Roosevelt created and approved projects that took many years to complete and provided long-term employment, while Obama is looking to approve projects that can be completed quickly and have an immediate impact. The construction of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River was the crown jewel of President Roosevelt’s public works projects in the Pacific Northwest. (Read the March 2016 Smithsonian article on the 75th anniversary of the dam's completion.). I've got me a piece of ground back yonder from the high water mark and I've got most of my house already built on it. As described in the Grand Coulee Dam and a Last Frontier, “The overflow, for lack of any provision for them, sought and built places to live in the towns “on the hill” where schools and churches were provided with state government assistance, and where private capital provided theatres, hotels, fraternal halls, stores, shops, and so forth, for their spiritual and material welfare.”[22] The widespread positive economic effect the Grand Coulee Dam had on the region is truly immeasurable. Grand Coulee Dam, hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" when it was completed in 1941, is as confounding to the human eye as an elephant might be to an ant. [16] Due to the large employment numbers, payroll figures were also impressive. In 1942 with the end of the contract in sight, CBI transferred control of Mason City to the Municipal Division of the Columbia Basin Project. The government could have diverted power from domestic uses but Grand Coulee, among other projects, made this unnecessary. Government began the process of selling the town to the public in 1957, finishing in 1959. Today, the United States is faced with many of the same economic challenges as it was during the 1930s. See new interactive exhibits at the Visitor Center, even fly through the dam in a virtual reality game on a plasma screen. Grand Coulee impounds a reservoir, Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, named for the president who authorized construction of the dam, which began in 1933 (see construction photos). [15] Fred M. Weil, A Curb-Side Story of Grand Coulee Dam and a Last Frontier: Slumbering Riches (Grand Coolee, WA: Tepee Information Services, 1938), p. 4. Roosevelt and Obama are similar, however, in their ultimate goal of creating jobs and pumping money into the economy in order to stimulate growth. [5] Rufus Woods, The 23 Years Battle for Grand Coulee Dam (Wenatchee, WA: Wenatchee Daily World, 1944), p.6. It is 5,223 feet (1,592 meters) long, or 57 feet short of a mile. States besides Washington benefited due to the sheer size and scope of the project. Ocean and Plume Science and Management Forum, Conservation Resources Advisory Committee. Both men were elected during times of economic hardship and both were Democrats vowing to take a Keynesian approach to stimulating the economy. One narrative celebrated the social, economic, and cultural power of modernity. [4] The dam, however, was not the only proposal of how to irrigate the Columbia Basin; other ideas that had the support of influential politicians and local citizens. Today, the Grand Coulee Dam stands as one of the top producers of hydroelectric power in the world and is still the largest concrete structure ever built in the United States. O’Sullivan personally lobbied Arthur Powell Davis, the Commissioner of Reclamation, to support the dam. As President Harry Truman said, “Without Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams it would have been almost impossible to win this war.”[23] Specifically, the Grand Coulee Dam provided the electricity needed to produce aluminum, which was crucial for the airplane construction taking place at Boeing in Seattle. [27] There is nothing in Obama’s plan remotely close to the ambitious scope and nature of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. It will be just like living on a lake." [22] Grand Coulee and the Pacific Northwest Grand Coulee Dam and a last Frontier, 1938, University of Washington Digital Collections, p. 4. Grand Coulee Dam is the largest concrete structure ever built. The construction of Grand Coulee Dam was exactly the type of project that Roosevelt envisioned when he created the Public Works Administration in June of 1933. Securing the necessary funding to build a structure of the size and complexity of the Grand Coulee Dam proved to be a major challenge. By 1935, the plans were upgraded and the high dam was under construction. [18] Downs, The Mightiest Of Them All, p. 47. One of the first, if not the first, published reports of a proposal to irrigate the Columbia Plateau with water from the Columbia River was in 1892, when the Coulee City News and The Spokesman-Review reported on a scheme by a man named Laughlin McLean to build a 1,000-foot-tall dam to divert the entire flow of the Columbia back into the Grand Coulee; he also earlier proposed a 95-mile canal across the Columbia Plateau from a diversion point somewhere farther upriver. Coulee Dam Town Hall, 300 Lincoln Ave, Coulee Dam, WA. [25] The adverse affects of the dam have been numerous as well. Woods objected to the federal takeover, too, but he had to accept the inevitable. The study by Major John S. Butler of the Seattle district of the Corps, completed in 1932, recommended a series of 10 dams on the river, including one at Grand Coulee and others in British Columbia. Roosevelt responded that he would support a low dam — 150 feet tall from bedrock instead of 550 feet as proposed — that could be raised later, if necessary. Beyond the employment and economic boon provided by the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, there have been other lasting legacies. [11] Pitzer, Grand Coulee: Harnessing a Dream, p. 75. [1] In the central part of Washington State, farmers were faced with a harsh climate that brought insufficient rainfall to produce healthy crops. More specifically, the project unpacks the history of Grand Coulee Dam as a landmark of contested narratives. At the core of President Roosevelt’s support for the dam was that its construction would provide much-needed employment in a struggling economy. ), Two months after a contract was awarded to build the dam, President Roosevelt made a trip out to Grand Coulee to visit the dam site along with Governor Martin, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, and his wife Eleanor. But with the great depletion of the fuel and oil supplies of the country, the development of electrical energy to the amount of 1,000,000 horsepower up to a tremendous total of 3,800,000 horsepower becomes added interest.”[3], A.H. Smythe and his wife with a WPA administrator, in Kettle Falls, WA, April 12, 1939. This was a blow to the ditchers. The pumpers distrusted the ditchers, whose backers were the big business and power interests in Spokane, including Washington Water Power, Spokane’s biggest employer at the time. Washington Governor Ernest Lister was a “ditcher.” In a speech in November 1918, he commented that “at least 50,000 families could be accommodated on the lands mentioned in the project.” Lister died in office in 1919, and the acting governor, Louis F. Hart, did not feel so strongly about the gravity project. Geological history. [24] Also, the Grand Coulee Dam provided the power needed for the plutonium production reactors at the nuclear production facilities at the Hanford site. It was estimated that the foundation contract alone included $16,000,000 worth of purchases of materials and equipment from states outside of Washington. Other problems such as downstream erosion have also negatively affected peoples’ view of the dam.[26]. [9] L. Vaughn Downs, The Mightiest Of Them All: Memories of Grand Coulee Dam (New York: ASCE Press 1993, orig. While no one person can be considered the “father” of the dam, these three men were among its earliest, most active and enthusiastic promoters. ), Despite the overwhelming positives of constructing the dam, there were several obstacles that delayed construction. [20] Grand Coulee and the Pacific Northwest Grand Coulee Dam and a last Frontier, 1938, University of Washington Digital Collections, p. 7. [18] Total cost figures for the construction of the dam from the time period of 1933–1986 is estimated at $1,687,000,000.[19]. [16] Downs, The Mightiest Of Them All, p. 47. [14] President Roosevelt viewed major public works projects as a way to improve the country’s infrastructure while providing jobs to those who were out of work. [14] Pitzer, Grand Coulee: Harnessing a Dream, p. 72.