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Fort Peck Dam: 75 Years of Service, 1937-2012

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The Fort Peck Dam Project was authorized in late 1933 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who hoped it would serve the dual purpose of providing jobs for a Depression-plagued workforce and providing flood protection on the Missouri River, which had been a major problem since the 1860 s. Later to become part of the famed Pick-Sloan Plan, which includes the six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed dams on the upper Missouri River basin, Fort Peck was not thought of by its creators in the same way it is thought of today. In those days it was considered a project of salvation which breathed new life into a populace desperate for work. They could not see, nor did they care, that one day it would be seen as a memorial to human skill, stamina and the ability to overcome hopelessness. To grasp the size and scale of the Fort Peck Project almost defies comprehension. Numbers such as 125,000,000 cubic yards of fill in the dam, 34,000,000 pounds of steel in the cut off wall, and 53,000,000 pounds of steel in the spillway help tell the statistical tale. It doesn t however, convey the whole story. Engineers were tasked with building the world s largest dam in a remote location with no roads, no power, and no housing, where temperature extremes of 110 degrees F to -60 degrees F were not uncommon. It became the single largest project of the New Deal, employing 10,560 at the peak of construction, nearly doubling the work force at Hoover Dam and topping Grand Coulee Dam by more than 2500 workers. One of the most formidable obstacles faced by the workforce is described by Major Clark Kittrell, who arrived at Fort Peck in 1933 and served as District Engineer from 1937 to 1940. He wrote no engineering job of this magnitude had ever been attempted with so short a time for planning. Indeed, the work on the dam began a mere ten days after its authorization.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Civil Engineering

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