Grand Coulee Dam
The Grand Coulee Dam was hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" in 1941 when it was finished being built. It blocks the Columbia River with 12 million cubic yards of concrete, and spreads over a mile wide with the height of a 46-story building all holding back a 150-mile long reservoir called Lake Roosevelt. The dam produces more kilowatts than any other dam in the United States. The Grand Coulee was only part of the Columbia Basin Project that included four additional dams, three reservoir lakes, and approximately 2,300 miles of irrigation canals all making their way through a half a million acres of desert. It has been deemed as the largest public works project that has had the greatest impact on the economic development of the Pacific Northwest. But, the social and environmental costs were severe that the Grand Coulee Dam more than likely could not be built today. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) hired folksinger Woody Guthrie in May 1941, to promote the federal dams on the Columbia River. The issue was who should build the dams: private power companies or the federal government. The power companies had a stable of influential lobbyists. The government had Guthrie, whose generation felt the undammed river was a resource going to waste. Guthrie earned $266.66 and spent the month traveling around the Columbia Basin writing 26 songs in 30 days. The most famous of these is "Roll on Columbia, Roll On," sung to the tune of "Goodnight Irene" which was later adopted as the state song for Washington. It was the "Ballad of the Great Grand Coulee (Grand Coulee Dam)" that Guthrie wrote in which solidified the government’s role in building the dam’s and harnessing the "wild and wasted stream" for future generations. . "Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea," Guthrie wrote, "but river, while you’re rambling, you can do some work for me." The triumph of man over nature and what nature had "wasted" as the river...
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