Old 05-29-2008, 04:10 AM Offline   #1 (permalink)



 
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Default May 29, 1935: Hoover Dam Set in Concrete

1935: The last concrete is poured at the Hoover Dam site, four months before President Franklin Roosevelt dedicates one of the largest hydroelectric projects in U.S. history.
Hoover Dam was conceived in the early 1920s as a way of reclaiming California's flood-prone Imperial Valley, improving water supply to the seven Colorado River-basin states, and generating electric power for Southern California, which was already growing rapidly.
Because the site chosen -- on the Colorado River about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas -- was adjacent to Boulder Canyon, the undertaking was christened the Boulder Canyon Dam Project.
It was a formidable project. At the time of its completion, Hoover Dam was the world's largest concrete structure, a distinction it held until 1942 when the Grand Coulee Dam opened. It was also, at the time, the largest public-works program in U.S. history.
Construction began in 1932 with the diversion of the Colorado River around the site and the building of two cofferdams to protect against flooding. The surrounding canyon walls were cleared of loose rock and reinforced, and the first concrete was poured in June 1933.
Owing to the problems of uneven cooling and contraction -- which could cause the dam face to crack under stress -- concrete was poured in five-foot increments rather than continuously, to assure structural integrity. A special system of cold-water pipes sped the cooling of the concrete.
The dam stands 725 feet high, now ranking it second behind California's Oroville Dam. Its 17 turbines generate up to 2,074 megawatts of hydroelectric power. (Capacity was increased incrementally until 1961.) The damming of the Colorado River also created Lake Mead, named for the dam's project manager, Elwood Mead.
The dam was built at considerable human cost: 112 workers died from various causes, including accidents, heat stroke and heart failure. A brief workers' strike in 1931 failed, although working conditions improved in its wake. The Six Companies, which ran the project, began providing water on a regular basis: probably a good idea, because temperatures at the work site routinely reached 120 degrees.
The real controversy came later. Although originally referred to as the Boulder Canyon Dam Project, it became known as Hoover Dam after President Hoover's interior secretary, Ray Wilbur, so named it during a speech at the site. Given Hoover's unpopularity at the time -- his policies were widely blamed for helping start the Great Depression -- it was not a popular choice.
Nevertheless, the name stuck, even appearing on official documents, until Hoover was swept out of the White House by FDR in 1932. Roosevelt's interior secretary, Harold Ickes, no fan of Hoover's, officially changed the name to Boulder Dam. It remained that way until President Truman, under pressure from Congress, restored Hoover's name in 1947.
(Source: PBS)

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