Friday, February 19, 2010

Hoover Dam

What did the fish say when he hit the wall?


Hoover Dam is big, impressive, and well-deserving of the moniker, one of the "Modern Wonder of the World."

Built in the 1930s to tame the Colorado River's frequent and devastating floods, this $175 million project was financed with a 50 year mortgage, now paid off thanks to the revenue generated from the hydro-electric power plants. No tax payer money was used in the construction, and no tolls have ever been collected. As our tour guide said, this is a major government project that totally paid for itself without the need for any tax payer money -- so, of course, the government has never done it again.

It was constructed by first diverting the Colorado River through four tunnels that were dug two-to-a-side along the banks. This alone would be a major project, but added to it were the creation of a city to house the workers and a railroad to move supplies! Once the water was flowing around the dam site, the silt deposits and gravel were removed to expose the bedrock, and then concrete -- lots and lots of concrete --- was deposited in blocks to create the dam. It is so massive that the concrete is still curing today.

We took the tour of the dam and the electric plant. Here are the turbines, which the flowing water spins to create electricity:

Before we set out, our guide pointed out the four louvered doors on the face of the dam. Here is a closer look at one of them:

Finally we reached the circular tunnel that led us to the louvered door. Here are photos of John in the tunnel, the view of the louvers from inside, and the view of the dam, pointing the camera UP from the louvers:

Cracks and leaks seeps (oops... don't use the "L" word when talking about a dam!) have been monitored since the dam was built. This small crack, marked in red, has an identification date in 1942. We also saw an earthquake monitor, which our guide pleaded with us "not to kick it." OK, I can see how that might lead to bad things!

An amazing project, its sense of greatness is not in the least dimmed by years. And now, a new bridge is under constructions that will give the best ever view of the dam. Maybe in another few years it will be done...

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