Wenatchee, Wa –TVW, Washington’s Public Affairs Network has released a video of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. The footage was produced by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation between 1933 and 1942 when the dam was dedicated.
Grand Coulee Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Columbia River, built to produce hydroelectric power and provide irrigation water. Constructed between 1933 and 1942, Grand Coulee originally had only two powerhouses. The third powerhouse, completed in 1974 to increase energy production, makes Grand Coulee the largest power station in the United States.
Grand Coulee Dam Construction Focus of Debate
The proposal to build the dam was the focus of a bitter debate during the 1920s between two groups. One group wanted to irrigate the ancient Grand Coulee with a gravity canal while the other pursued a high dam and pumping scheme. The dam supporters won in 1933, but for fiscal reasons the initial design was for a “low dam” 290 feet (88 m) tall which would generate electricity without supporting irrigation. That year, the US Bureau of Reclamation and a consortium of three companies called MWAK (Mason-Walsh-Atkinson Kier Company) began construction. After visiting the construction site in August 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began endorsing the “high dam” design which, at 550 ft (168 m) high, would provide enough electricity to pump water into the Columbia basin for irrigation. The high dam was approved by Congress in 1935 and completed in 1942. The first waters over-topped Grand Coulee’s spillway on June 1 of that year.
The reservoir is called Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake, named after the United States President who presided over the authorization and completion of the dam. Creation of the reservoir forced the relocation of over 3,000 people, including Native Americans whose ancestral lands were partially flooded.