Hoover Dam

The Story of Hoover Dam - Articles

Fortune Magazine - September 1933 (continued)

What are they building? Boulder Dam, named for the abandoned Boulder Canyon site twenty miles up river, is a concrete-arch, gravity-type dam which will tower 730 feet from canyon bedrock--almost as high as the aforementioned Woolworth Building. The base width will equal two city blocks. It will measure not much less than a quarter-mile across the top. The concrete used would build a standard sixteen-foot highway from Pensacola to Seattle--if you can visualize that. When complete it will back up the largest artificial body of water in the world, sufficient to cover Connecticut to a depth of ten feet. This will form a grimly beautiful lake 115 miles long and full of tourist steamboats.

What is it for? Boulder Dam has four purposes:
1. Flood control. The yellow Colorado water has for many years watered the rich desert farms of southern California and western Arizona. Often it flooded them, sweeping away budding crops, farmers' fords, and the farmers themselves. Boulder Dam will not only block the largest flood on record but it will hold almost two full years' flow behind its bulk, releasing a normal stream throughout the year. A subpurpose is silt removal, whereby the muddy content will precipitate above the dam, simplifying and cheapening distribution to irrigation lands. Flood and silt have cost Southwest ranchers an estimated $2,000,000 yearly. This bill will have been paid for the last time when the Colorado, for the first time in thousands of years, flows evenly and clear to the Gulf.

2. Water conservation. Below the dam the Colorado now irrigates 660,000 acres of land. This acreage is limited by the low water (summer, fall, and winter) flow. By storing spring floods, from five to seven times as much water will be available in summer, permitting irrigation on about 1,500,000 acres of new land 2,160.000 acres in all. Principally planted will be alfalfa, cantaloupes, lettuce, barley, corn, milo maize, small fruits, and cotton. This new acreage is roughly half as much as all new land opened to date by all government irrigation projects, totaling twenty-nine.

3. Domestic water supply. The Metropolitan Water District, comprising many cities and towns in southern California - principally Los Angeles - has contracted to take about a billion gallons daily from the river to wash southern California faces and water southern California lawns." For this purpose the district will build a $220,000,000 aqueduct. For this water the district will pay the U. S. about $250,000 yearly.

4. Power. Under the mighty shadow of the dam will be built the biggest powerplant in the world. This will develop 1,800,000 horsepower four times Niagara's power, thrice the ultimate capacity of Muscle Shoals. Already the electricity has been sold on fifty-year contracts to the city of Los Angeles and the Southern California Edison Co., which in turn subcontract 79 per cent of it (on percentages fixed by law) to Arizona, Nevada, the Metropolitan Water District, and smaller California valley towns.

What does it cost? The Boulder Canyon Project Act authorized federal appropriations not to exceed $165,000,000. They were apportioned as follows:

Dam and reservoir . . . . . . . . . . . .$70,600,000
Power development . . . . . . . . . . . .38,200,000
All-American Canal . . . . . . . . . . . . 38,500,000
Interest during construction . . . . .17,700,000

The A11 American Canal is a subproject by which water will be carried to southeastern California's Imperial and Coachella valleys. There is at present a canal feeding these territories which is dug partly in Mexico. Mexico is not famed for administrative efficiency; Mexico is not devoted to these United States; Mexico has revolutions. A new canal, all-American, was deemed sage insurance.

From the figures it might be estimated, roughly, that Boulder Dam will cost every man, woman, and child in the land $1.25. Actually, the promise is that it will cost no man, woman, or child a cent. Sale of power plus sale of domestic water is budgeted to repay the entire cost of the dam in fifty years--plus a 100 percent profit.

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Last Updated: 3/13/15