“The Biggest Thing on Earth!” and “The Eighth Wonder of the World!” were among the accolades frequently lavished on Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. They highlight a monumental construction effort that spanned the 1930s through the 1980s. Now, for the first time, the story of the gigantic undertaking is told in this definitive history.
When completed, the eleven-million-cubic-yard monolith at Grand Coulee on the Columbia River in north central Washington became the largest single block of concrete ever laid. Still one of the world’s largest energy-producing stations, it is at the heart of a dynamic power grid that supplies all of the western United States with energy.
The product of a long struggle over how to irrigate the Columbia Basin, Grand Coulee Dam resulted from the visions of eastern Washington residents, who saw the undertaking as a dynamic plan to bring prosperity to their region. Yet today the reclamation enterprise stands only half finished. Its future depends on the nation’s need for food and the willingness of the public to pay the rapidly spiraling economic and environmental costs associated with such large-scale irrigation plans.
The fight for Grand Coulee Dam, and the story of its construction, is a vital and animated saga of people striving for dazzling goals and then working, often against both each other and nature, to build something spectacular. They accomplished their goal against the backdrop of the worst economic depression in the nation’s history. The dam, and the extensive irrigation network it supports, stands today as a monument to their dreams and their labors.
Photographs / notes / bibliography / index / 552 pages (1994)