Another Dam Day Trip! (To Hoover Dam)

Trip Start Jan 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We put the top down on the car and headed towards Hoover Dam for the day. We'd driven across the Dam before, but had never experienced the tour, which we were sure would be an interesting one. We paid our entrance fee (gotta love those Senior discounts, combined with an additional $1 discount coupon which we had found online!), stood in line and then watched the 15 minute movie about the building of what was originally called Boulder Dam. As the movie ended, a brief, but rude-sounding fire alarm sounded, but nobody instructed us to do anything other than exit the auditorium and queue up for the next part of the tour. As we stood in the line which snaked back and forth directed by stanchions, one of the workers (the Dam and its tourist center are the responsbility of the Bureau of Reclamation, which is under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior) started opening the ends of each row, and, next thing we knew, we were all being evacuated from the building! An interesting start to the program, we thought!
The evacuation went very smoothly, as we were all told to leave the building and take the outside elevator up to street level. After standing around up there for about 5 minutes, they started letting everyone back in. Odd that there was not an all-clear signal, and we never heard any more about what, if any problem, there had been.
We got back in the line to descend to the tunnel level (some 500' down), where we could see the original tunnels into which the Colorado River had been diverted when the damn was built, back in the Depression Era. In 1928, the boulder Canyon Project Act authorized the building of the Dam for "flood control; improvement of navigation and regulation of the Colorado River; storage and delivery of Colorado River waters for reclamation of public lands and other beneficial uses exclusively within the United States; and hydroelectric power production." Interestingly enough (and similar to what we learned at Niagara Falls last year), the entire dam construction and power-generating project was completed in only FIVE years - two years ahead of schedule. Construction began in 1931, and the last of the 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete was poured in 1935. They're currently bulding a bridge to alleviate traffic across the dam, and the bridge alone is taking five years! A few details about the Dam - it is an "Arch Gravity" type, with a height of 726 feet, and a Base Width of 660 feet. The Powerplant includes 17 commerdcial generating units. One of the really interesting facts is that the water diverted by the Dam provides the domestic water needs of more than 20 million people in Las Vegas, L.A., San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, and other communities in Arizona, Nevada, and California; as well as providing more than 4 billion kilowatt-hours of low-cost hydro-electric power per year, enough to serve 1.3 million people. The boulder Canyon Project's original $165 million cost hsa been repaid, with interest, to the Federal Treasury through the sale of Hoover Dam power. The energy is marketed by the Western Area Power Administration - and 56% of the power goes to Southern California.
After the tour, we drove into nearby Boulder City (BTW, early on, the Dam was called Boulder Dam - the name was changed to Hoover Dam in 1947 by an Act of Congress to honor President Hoover, who had signed the bill calling for its construction), where we enjoyed a good old fashioned dinner (hot turkey sandwich for Greg and meatloaf for me) at Bob's Restaurant, which boasted of "Best food by a dam site"!
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