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A Modern Marvel: The Hoover Dam

1439 words - 6 pages

The Hoover Dam is a modern marvel and a testament to American ingenuity. At over six million six hundred thousand tons and jetting seven hundred sixty feet from the canyon floor, six hundred sixty feet across the bottom and, one thousand two hundred forty four feet across the top, the structure is awe inspiring even to a modern audience. Three quarters of a century since its completion it still stands as a symbol of one of the greatest construction projects of the ages. The need for a dam to block the Colorado River was not a new idea when construction began in 1931, but had been mulled around since the dawn of the century. Flooding due to runoff from the Rocky Mountains had devastated crops, and a need for hydroelectric power increased the need for a dam. In 1922 Black Valley was chosen as the spot for the dam’s construction. No one construction company was large enough to take on the project alone, so a group of companies formed a joint venture in order to bid the job. The Six Companies Inc. made up of Morrison-Knudson, the J.F. Shea Company of Portland, MacDonald & Kahn Ltd, Pacific Bridge Company of Portland, Henry J. Kaiser, Bechtel Company of San Francisco were awarded the winning bid for the dam at forty eight million eight hundred ninety thousand nine hundred fifty five dollars. The construction management team had a Herculean task in building this behemoth and faced many problems in its construction. A few of the major issues posed to the team were diverting the Colorado River, provisioning the men and material to get the job done, and the actual construction of the Hoover Dam. The heights involved with project led to many safety obstacles that had to be overcame.
Diverting the powerful Colorado River had to be done before construction could even dream to begin. This was accomplished by excavating four fifty six foot in diameter tunnels into the side of the canyon. The total distance the tunnels spanned was sixteen thousand feet. Two were drilled into the Arizona side of the river and two were drilled into the Nevada side. The construction management team faced a three thousand dollar per day fine if they did not meet their October 1933 deadline. The only times the Colorado was low enough to divert were in late fall and early winter because the water level would otherwise be too high to complete the colossal task. Excavation began in earnest in May 1931 on the Nevada side of the river with the Arizona tunnels beginning shortly afterward. Nearly a year later the teams began to line them with concrete. Gantry cranes were installed along the entire lengths of the tunnels to place the aforementioned concrete. The concrete is three feet thick along the diameter of the tunnels. To complete the diversionary tunnels temporary cofferdams were blown up and allowed the river to flow. The construction management team completed the tunnels on time and were thus not subject to the fine.

Thousands of unemployed American descended...

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