Engineering Marvel- The Hoover Dam

05 Apr

It’s not the world’s biggest dam, but it was the one that changed the way we build them.The first of the large concrete arch dams that dominated the 20th century, Hoover also marked the birth of America’s dam-building boom. Its Depression-era construction cost $49 million and used so much concrete that engineers had to pipe cooled river water through the dam face to help the concrete cool faster.The sweeping, 60-story-high concrete arch, along with its water works, power station and intake towers, were all designed in classic art deco style, reminding us of the days when plans for public works projects included intricate stone and metalwork, ornate plaques, and elegant statues of massive seraphs guarding the gates.

Once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression, and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives.

Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc., which began construction on the dam in early 1931. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before, and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and the lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.

Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, and is located near Boulder City, Nevada, a municipality originally constructed for workers on the construction project, about 25 mi (40 km) southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction; nearly a million people tour the dam each year.

Hoover Dam Construction

The Hoover Dam’s construction began in 1931, and it was completed five years later.   It was built as a source of hydroelectric power generation, to provide water for agricultural purposes and to prevent floods.

  • A conglomerate titled Six Companies Inc. was created especially to build the Hoover Dam.  The sextet of companies involved comprised of Morrison-Knudsen, the Utah Construction Company, the Pacific Bridge Company, the Bechtel Corporation/Henry J. Kaiser, MacDonald and Kahn and J.F. Shea.
  • When finished, the Hoover Dam stood as the largest electric-power generating site in the world, as well as the largest structure made out of concrete.
  • The Dam weighs over six-and-a-half million tons, and incorporates over three million cubic yards of concrete – enough to construct a motorway connecting New York to San Francisco!  Sited on the 18th longest US’ river, the Colorado, the Hoover Dam was named after then-US President, Herbert Hoover.  The body of water trapped behind the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, took its name from the principal authoritative figure in charge of the Dam’s construction, Elwood Mead.
  • The Hoover Dam’s construction features 17 turbines, of which one is rated at 86,000 horsepower, one at 100,000 horsepower and the remaining 15 at 178,000 horsepower each.

Facts and Figures

  • Hoover Dam is named after Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States. For some years, it was referred to as Boulder Dam
  • The backwater is named as ‘Lake Mead’ as ‘Elwood Mead’ was the principal authoritative figure in charge of the dam’s construction. Lake Mead is spread over 146,000 acres and it is recognized as the largest reservoir of the world.
  • Six Companies, a conglomeration of six well-known companies was awarded the contract to build the dam. The lowest wage paid to a dam worker was 50 cents an hour while the highest was $1.25!
  • During construction, 96 men lost their lives in various accidents. The mascot dog, the pet of all construction workers, was buried at the site of the Hoover dam.
  • Hoover dam was built near the border of Arizona and Nevada to control floods, to generate hydroelectric power and to provide water for agricultural purposes.
  • Hoover dam, being one of the seven modern engineering wonders, thousands of tourists visit Hoover Dam everyday. It is believed that rubbing the toes of the two 30 feet tall winged figures (made of bronze), standing on the Nevada side’s approach to the dam, brings good luck.
  • Here are some interesting Hoover dam construction facts. In all, about 16,000 employees were involved in the construction of Hoover Dam. About 3,500 people were employed at a time. About $49,000,000 were required to complete the construction of the Hoover dam.
  • The Hoover dam bypass project involving construction of a bridge whose arch span stretches 1,060 feet and whose deck stands 900 feet above the river, is also one of the wonderful projects of this century.

Hoover Dam Power Output

  • The Hoover Dam’s approximate annual power output is 4 billion Kilowatt-hours (KW-h), while the maximum power output produced by the 17 water turbines is a combined 2.08 Gigawatts.

Environmental Benefits

  • The Hoover Dam provides a vast supply of renewable energy, which is fed across a significant area of the US.  This type of energy has no associated greenhouse gas emissions, although emissions were created and released during its construction phase.
  • Once activated, the Hoover Dam allowed the Colorado River to be controlled, providing local farmers with a regular supply of water.

Environmental Drawbacks

  • The Hoover Dam had an immediate impact on local biodiversity.  While it created Lake Mead, it also stopped water flowing to the mouth of the Colorado River.  Four species of fish were killed to the extent that, in modern times, they have become regarded as endangered.

Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Engineering Marvel- The Hoover Dam

  1. faqihn

    April 12, 2011 at 7:57 am

    i agree with your opinion about hoover dams… i’m from indonesia, the dams in my country was not as big as one. good luck n thx

  2. maddie

    April 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I like your facts!!!!!


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