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Glen Canyon Dam

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Glen Canyon Dam
The Glen Canyon Dam was constructed on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1956 to provide electricity and irrigation to the southwestern states, including Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah. Located in Page, Arizona, the dam officially opened in 1966.

The second largest dam in the U.S. next to the Hoover Dam, the Glen Canyon Dam was one of the biggest construction projects in the U.S., requiring not only the construction of the dam, but the Glen Canyon Bridge, two diversion tunnels, a road to connect Highway 89 to the bridge, as well as a town for the workmen and their families.

It remains one of the largest ever contract competitions to be won by a single contractor, Merritt-Chapman & Scott. Construction began in 1956 and took approximately 10 years to complete.

The Glen Canyon Dam project created a stir during its construction and continues to raise controversy today. David Brower of the Glen Canyon Institute referred to the dam as “America’s most regrettable mistake.”[1]

The dam reaches 707 feet (215 m) across the 1,200-foot (366-m) wide canyon and currently produces 9,000 kilowatts of hydroelectricity.

Contents

[edit] Construction History

The site of the Glen Canyon Dam was chosen by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation despite being was highly inaccessible to construction workers who had to travel distances of 200 miles (322 km) to get to the site. The site was chosen by the Bureau’s geologists after a series of testing between 1944 and 1948 showed the area was large enough to contain a huge volume of water in a basin or solid rock.[2]

The project began on October 1, 1956, when U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower pressed a button detonating dynamite to excavate the foundation of the dam. Further excavation projects saw workers using shovels and excavators to remove sandstone from the site.

[edit] Access Routes and Page Government Camp

Before the dam could be built a Bridge had to be constructed so workers, supplies, and equipment could be transported to the site. The steel arch Bridge underwent construction in 1957 and took two years to complete.

A road was also built to connect Highway 89 in Utah to Arizona. When this was complete, a small town was built to supply the workers and their families with homes while the major construction project was completed. The town became known as the Page Government Camp and houses made of cinderblock were built for the families.

Facing the front of the Glen Canyon Dam

[edit] Tunnel Boring and Excavation

Tunnel boring was carried out between October 1957 and June 1958. The access tunnel was 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter and was drilled into the east side of the canyon to allow access for workers and equipment to pass through.

Additionally, two diversion tunnels were bored on the east and west side of the canyon so the Colorado River could be diverted and water removed from the canyon floor for construction. The tunnels bored were 41 feet (12.5 m) in diameter, 2,700 feet (823 m) in length. Shovels stripped away overburden from the site. Rock from the tunnels were cut from the canyon, loaded into Euclid dump trucks and removed from the site. Once the tunnels were completed, the water was successfully diverted on February 11, 1959. The west tunnel was used for diverting water while the east was constructed 35 feet (11 m) higher and used as a backup for spring runoff. When the boring was completed, cranes were used to erect the equipment and line the tunnels with concrete.

With the water diverted from the dam, workers began excavating below the canyon’s surface. Excavators removed earth as deep as 127 feet (39 m). A "chicken wire" footpath was created to give workers easy access around the site. Soil and rock were excavated from the spillway at the footpath and cable lines were drilled.

[edit] The Construction Process

The construction of the Glen Canyon Dam didn’t actually start until 1960; it was completed in 1963. On June 17, 1960, 400,000 buckets, each containing 24 tons of concrete, began filling the dam site. Concrete batching plants poured five million yards (4.6 million m) of concrete without interruption until the job was completed three years later, on September 13, 1963.

Workers scaled the 707-foot (216-m) long wall to install anchor’s on the dam when no other method could be employed.

[edit] Completion

The dam first officially generated electricity on September 4, 1966. At a dedication ceremony on September 22, First Lady Ladybird Johnson announced that it would named the Glen Canyon Dam. Lake Powell filled first time on June 22, 1980 and for the second time on July 14, 1983.[3]

After the opening ceremony, the Southern Utah News reported:

"Today, the canyon lies serenely and comparatively silent except for the hum of the huge hydro-electric generators and the sound of thousands of people who come to see this newest of Reclamation dams on the Colorado River and its sparkling clear sky-blue reservoir, Lake Powell."[4]

[edit] Equipment Used

[edit] Unique Facts

  • Despite flourishing as a small town, Page was not recognized as a town in the state of Arizona until 12 years after the construction of Glen Canyon.
  • More than 1.3 million kilowatts are produced from each of the 40-ton steel shafts at the plant.
  • The Glen Canyon Dam project was the largest single construction contract the Bureau of Reclamation has ever accepted.
  • At the time of construction, many protesters launched an opposition for the dam, citing the loss of the Glen Canyon. The debate is still ongoing today.
  • Two sacred Navajo sites were destroyed in the construction of the dam.[5]
  • A six-month labor strike ensued against contractors Merritt-Chapman & Scott when the contractors refused to provide extra housing payments for the workers.
  • Prior to construction, Glen Canyon was a known archaeological site, a home to dwelling areas, trails, petroglyphs, and pictographs. Archaeologists engaged in a salvage project during the course of the dam’s construction in 1957. Out of 2,000 sites, only between 80 and 85 were at least partially excavated.
  • The roads and terrain of the site were so remote and inaccessible that rivers became the major medium of travel until the roads were constructed.
  • In 1983, snowfall created excess water for Lake Powell and not enough runoff space was allotted.[6]

[edit] References

  1. Glen Canyon Institute. About Glen Canyon Institute, 2008-09-24.
  2. LakePowell.com History of Lake Powell, 2008-09-24.
  3. Parks, Timothy L. Glen Canyon Dam. Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  4. Bradley, Martha Sonntag. Glen Canyon Dam Controversy: The History of Kane County. Utah History to Go, 2008-09-24.
  5. Utah History Encyclopedia. History of Glen Canyon. OnlineUtah.com, 2008-09-24.
  6. Rusho, W.L. Bumpy Road For Glen Canyon Dam, 2008-09-24.