I’ve been to the Hoover Dam twice, visiting Gabrielle both times, and seen it from two perspectives: as a pedestrian crossing it on foot, and as a passenger on a boat on Lake Mead. far more impressive than the Gavins Point Dam on either account.
the first trip was just before I headed back to Knox for my senior year of college. it was also same week as Katrina, and I’d spent no small part of the week digesting news reports and coming to understand the scope of the devastation wrought on New Orleans. as such, it was nice to get out of the house and into the unrelenting desert sunshine for a view of something so massive and iconic.
initially known as the Boulder Dam (since it was to be constructed in the Boulder Canyon but relocated to Black Canyon), the dam was officially named for then-President Herbert Hoover, who was instrumental in getting the project initiated while Secretary of Commerce under Harding. it had been common practice to name dams after presidents — but not sitting presidents. at the time construction got underway, Hoover had an eye towards using the job-creation associated with the project in conjunction with his reelection bid; after he lost to FDR in 1932, Harold Ickes (the new Secretary of the Interior) admonished members of the project to revert to the Boulder Dam appellation. it wasn’t until a California Congressional representative (Jack Anderson) submitted a resolution to the House of Representatives in 1947 that use of the “official” Hoover name resumed.
construction of the dam began in 1931 and was completed in 1936 (two years ahead of schedule) and although there have been obvious benefits for the lower members of the Colorado River Pact (signed in 1922 to decide how to divide resources associated with said river), the environmental consequences of the Hoover Dam are also quite massive. in the six years following the completion of the dam, as the basin for Lake Mead filled, virtually no water reached the Colorado River Delta. the delta’s saltwater-freshwater zone which, at one time stretched some 40 miles south of the river mouth, turned into an inverse estuary, whereby the salinity at the mouth of the river is actually higher than in the ocean water surrounding it. additionally, the Hoover Dam eliminated the pattern of natural flooding that occurred along the lower portion of the Colorado River which, naturally, profoundly and adversely affected numerous species native to the river. of course, those who benefit from the energy generated by the dam accept the endangerment of this flora and fauna (whether tacitly or implicitly). of the energy generated by the hydroelectric turbines, 29% goes to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, 23% to the state of Nevada, 19% to the state of Arizona, and fully 15% to the city of Los Angeles. the price for cleaner energy?