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Water Power in The "Wilderness": The History of Bonneville Lock and Dam

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Engineering and building Bonneville Dam in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge proved a monumental task. The complex geology of the gorge combined with the great volume of the swift flowing Columbia to present many complex problems of site selection, proper construction techniques, and equipment design. The project first received serious consideration in a 1931 Corps of Engineers report to Congress. This study, the famous 308 Report, recommended constructing Bonneville Dam as part of a ten-dam effort to tap the enormous hydropower potential of the Columbia River. In addition, Bonneville and other proposed dams in the plan were to contain locks providing improved inland navigation. Depression-era politics drove the process leading to adoption of Bonneville project by the Federal Government. Conceived as a way to quickly employ large numbers of unemployed laborers and engineers while producing long-term hydropower and navigation benefits, Bonneville Dam amply lived up to the hopes and dreams of its promoters and designers. In the short term, Bonneville supplied essential power for the Portland area shipyards and aluminum plants that helped win World War II. After the war, Bonnevilles power spurred a period of regional economic growth and opportunity. With the completion of a second powerhouse and construction of a new navigation lock, the Bonneville project continues as a vital part of the Northwest economy. Todays Bonneville Dam, named for an Army captain who had explored and described the Columbia River Basin and its resources over 100 years before the dams construction, stands as a testament to his vision of the regions future greatness. This book is dedicated to the thousands of men and women whose energy and commitment built this engineering marvel in the wilderness of the Columbia River Gorge. Bonneville Dam has repaid the original investment of dollars, imagination, and toil many times over through the continuing benefits of jobs and affordable living.

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  • Hydrology, Limnology and Potamology
  • Civil Engineering

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