The Story of the Columbia Basin Project
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This is the story of the Columbia Basin Federal Reclamation Project, of Grand Coulee Dam and Powerplant, and of the 1-million-acre-plus irrigation development.

Though often thought of as separate works, these two monuments of man's ingenuity and engineering ability are part of an overall plan to harness the power of a great river and reclaim a desert wasteland. Neither the dam nor the irrigation features of the project can be considered separately—they are interrelated in too many ways. Benefits to the economy of the Pacific Northwest, the increase in population, increased production of foodstuffs and manufactured articles, the increase in trade and commerce with Eastern States, all are joint products of the dam, powerplant, and the irrigation development of the project.

Information gained through the planning, building, and operation of Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Project irrigation works is another product of this vast development and still serves as source material for students in many fields, since building a dam and irrigation works of this size went beyond existing experience and information. The Columbia Basin Project constantly posed new problems in its building and operation.

The engineering field as a whole benefited from the experience gained on the project, but hydraulic engineering especially gathered a wealth of new information. Farming of the rehabilitated desert lands of the project area has required new farming practices, and new strains of crops have been developed that are particularly suited to this region.

The economist and the community planner have learned a great deal from observing a wasteland turn into a prosperous farming area dotted with new and revitalized towns and cities. Sociologists and legal authorities have also learned lessons from new ideas embodied in regulations governing the project.

The many benefits from the Columbia Basin Project know no boundaries. The San Francisco businessman who lunches on split-pea soup, the Chicago housewife who shops for baking potatoes, the New York hostess who serves afterdinner mints—all may be affected in some measure by the produce of the Columbia Basin Project. The worker in the bauxite mines of Madagascar, the mechanic in a farm machinery factory in Illinois, the freight handler in a Michigan warehouse, the steelmill worker in Ohio, all find a reflection in their weekly paycheck of the expanded economy and purchasing power resulting from the Columbia Basin Project.

The purpose of this booklet is to illustrate further the effect that the Columbia Basin Project has had on the economy and lives of the people of the United States and the Pacific Northwest, as well as to describe its history and physical features. Material for this booklet has come from many sources. Pioneers who lived in the area prior to the inception of the project were interviewed, newspaper files were examined, and much information was taken from engineering reports, beginning with the first stages of construction and continuing up to the present day. The result is a short story of power, water, and people in this part of the Columbia River Basin in central Washington.

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Last Updated: 01-Feb-2008