Thursday, September 3, 2009

SIDE TRIPS part fourteen—Grand Coulee Dam

The Columbia River flows south out of British Columbia, Canada through the middle of Washington State. It picks up the Snake River along the way and becomes the border between Washington and Oregon as it flows to the Pacific.
About half way across Washington the flow of water is blocked by a wall of concrete
called Grand Coulee Dam. The reservoir created by the dam goes all the way back to Canada.

I expected to see a huge tumble of water flowing over the spillway.

But most of the water was probably being diverted to irrigation and the rest was turning the colossal turbines
that produce electricity for a great deal of the Northwestern United States.

Perched on a cliff above the massive cement barrier is a visitors’ center with large windows providing a panorama view of the dam. I didn’t have time to take the guided tour, but I watched most of the movie shown in the theater on the second floor and wandered through the exhibits on the first floor.
“Grand Coulee Dam, hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" when it was completed in 1941, is as confounding to the human eye as an elephant might be to an ant. It girdles the Columbia River with 12 million cubic yards of concrete, stacked one mile wide and as tall as a 46-story building, backing up a 150-mile long reservoir, spinning out more kilowatts than any other dam in the United States. “

“The biggest thing that man has ever done” provided jobs during The Great Depression and harnessed the power of the river to produce electricity. The irrigation water turned a desolate desert into the breadbasket of the Pacific Northwest. (The Three Gorges Dam being built across the Yangtze in China will be a much greater structure).
I was looking for a bathroom or I would have missed the display tucked under the stairway.

A gentleman with long grey hair who was most certainly a Native American sat at a table ready to tell anyone who would stop to listen how Grand Coulee Dam completely blocked the migration of salmon on the upper Columbia. The reservoir destroyed 1,400 miles of salmon spawning grounds, inundated ancient fishing villages, fishing spots and ancient burial grounds.


Butternut Squash said...

I think about the Indians when I hear them talking about building that giant Dam in China. They are actually paying the villagers to destroy their ancient homes so that they can flood them.

Thanks for the tour.

Janie said...

Interesting photos of the damn and Native American protests. Energy creation and water usage are good. Salmon spawning grounds lost is bad. When man changes nature, there's always bad as well as good.
I like your comment on my post about "knowing" through blogging.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Leenie. I found that salmon-spawning loss very sad.I feel more respect needs to be shown world-wide ie. sculptures, plaques, acknowledgement with native spiritual losses, instead of such a gung-ho attitute in construction and progress (?). At least a Native American is given representation in the visitor centre, to explain.In my state of Australia,many public functions and school asssemblies now acknowledge that we are on "Kaurna land". It goes a small way in acknowledgement, but it's important.Thanks for presenting all sides with this fascinating construction story.

The Weaver of Grass said...

You certainly go in for dams in a big way over there Leenie - I suppose it is because of the mountains. I have visited one or two in my travels - they are most impressive.

Anairam said...

Wow - did you do this entire trip on your own (instead of that failed art thing?) Good for you! I like travelling on my own and have been abroad thrice on my own. Wouldn't do it here in my own country though! (PS About my picture - the tulle netting is actually behind the giftwrap - if you click on the pic you will see it better.)