Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook/Hoover Dam

This casebook is a case study on the Hoover Dam by Leul Lakew, Abrar Samimi-Darzi, Cooper Gandy, and Karen Herrera as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-001 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2021 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Transportation Systems Casebook. Under the instruction of Prof. Jonathan Gifford.

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[References - Part 1 [1]]

Hoover Dam at Night

SummaryEdit

The Hoover Dam (formerly know as the Boulder Dam) is located in Clark County, Nevada, and Mohave County, Arizona in the United States. Originally proposed in 1922 by Arthur Powell Davis, the Hoover Dam was meant to prevent flooding, divert water to budding communities, and generate hydroelectric power. The proposition for the dam would be authorized in 1928 by president Coolidge, signed in as “The Boulder Canyon Project Act” it appropriated an estimated $165 million for the project. Being built in the Black Canyon of the Colorado river the Hoover Dam would begin construction in 1931, the Dam would be built by Six Companies Inc. At the time of construction, the Hoover Dam would be both the largest concrete structure and dam ever built. With construction taking place during the Great Depression the construction of the dam attracted tens of thousands of workers to travel to Nevada in order to find work, many of them going to; at the time; the small city of Las Vegas.

The construction of the dam was surrounded by controversy and pushback. Due to the nature and sheer size of the project, many of the techniques used during construction were experimental and untested. With a price tag of $165 million attached to it, many policymakers were hesitant about the project, worrying about the potential failure of the dam and that the diverted water would go almost exclusively to California. This problem would be solved by then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover who created the 1922 Colorado River Compact which divided the water proportionally among the seven states affected by the dam. Several years after the Colorado River Compact was signed construction of the dam would begin.

Annotated List of Key Actors and InstitutionsEdit

Private Sector Actors and InstitutionsEdit

Six Companies, Inc.Edit

The Hoover Dam was built by the Six Companies, Inc. which was a joint venture made up of eight companies, the first five of which were Morrison-Knudsen Co., Utah Construction Co., J. F. Shea Co., Pacific Bridge Co., MacDonald & Kahn Ltd.; the next three companies that make up the Six Companies are [Another Joint Venture] Company consisting of W. A. Bechtel Co., Henry J. Kaiser Co., Ltd. (also known as Kaiser Paving Co. Ltd.), and the Warren Brothers Company (also known as the Warren Brothers of Massachusetts).[2][3][4][5][6]

  1. Morrison-Knudsen Co. (Morrison & Knudsen Co.): was a construction company headquartered in Boise, Idaho,[5] founded by Harry Morrison and Morris Knudsen[7].
  2. Utah Construction Co. (Utah Construction Company): was a construction company headquartered in Ogden, Utah.
    • Two of its key leaders Edmund O. Wattis and William H. Wattis took a leading role in the creating the organizational structure and incorporation of the Six Companies Joint Venture. [5]
  3. J. F. Shea Co.: is a construction company that at the time of the Hoover Dam's construction was based out of Portland, Oregon.[5]
  4. Pacific Bridge Co. (Pacific Bridge Company): was an engineering firm[8] and construction company based out of Portland, Oregon.[5]
  5. MacDonald & Kahn Ltd. (MacDonald & Kahn Construction Co.): is a construction company headquartered in San Francisco, California[5]
  6. [Another Joint Venture] Company (due to the companies not having enough money to enter as individual partners to the Six Companies, they combined their resources to qualify):
    1. W. A. Bechtel Co.: is an infrastructure construction, engineering, and energy company that which at the time of the construction of the Hoover Dam was based in San Francisco, California[5] but its successor corporation[9] has since relocated its headquarters to Reston, Virginia[10].
    2. Henry J. Kaiser Co., Ltd. (also known as Kaiser Paving Co. Ltd.): was a road paving and construction company originally operating in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) and Washington State (United States),[11] but by the start of the Hoover Dam construction it had already relocated to Oakland, California (United States)[5].
    3. Warren Brothers Company (also known as the Warren Brothers of Massachusetts): was coal tar, asphalt, and pavement producing company based out of Boston, Massachusetts.[4]
Unified Structure of the Six Companies Joint VentureEdit
  • Frank T. Crowe, a civil engineer, former General Superintendent of Construction of the United States Reclamation Service (now knows as the Bureau of Reclamation), at the time employed by Morrison-Knudsen Co. was designated the (Six Companies) joint venture's lead General Superintendent for Hoover Dam due to his prior technical experience in dam building and water reclamation.[5]
  • Henry John Kaiser of Henry J. Kaiser Co., Ltd., was one of two architects who designed the Hoover Dam.[12]
  • Gordon Bernie Kaufmann, was one of two architects who designed the Hoover Dam.[12]

Public Sector Actors and InstitutionsEdit

United States Federal GovernmentEdit

The Federal Government of the United States of America played a key role in the building of the Hoover Dam and related Boulder Canyon Projects dealing with the Colorado River System and Colorado River Basin. [13][14][15] The United States Government is also the current owner of dam.

  • United States Congress
    • Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928, introduced by Senator Hiram Johnson (R-CA) and Representative Phil Swing (R, CA-11) [14][16] was the law that commissioned the construction of a dam and appropriated money designated for the Department of the Interior to hire a firm or firms to construct the Boulder Dam (now known as the Hoover Dam)[15][17]
  • Executive Office of the President of the United States: Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States, signs the Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928 into law.[16]
  • Department of the Interior (DOI): was the lead government department that handled the government side of planning the Boulder Canyon Project[15]
    • United States Bureau of Reclamation: is the agency within the Department of the Interior that commissioned the bid looking for companies to that would build the dam, it eventually chose the joint venture known as the Six Companies, Inc.. The Bureau of Reclamation is currently the operator of the Hoover Dam.[15][5]
    • United States Geological Survey (USGS):
      • Arthur P. Davis (Arthur Powell Davis), one of the first people to propose the building of a dam on the Colorado River.

Signatories to the Colorado River Compact of 1922Edit

The Colorado River Compact of 1922 is an interstate compact between seven Colorado River Basin states and the United States Government that deals with the sharing of water resources between the states relating to the Colorado River on which the Boulder Dam (and other Boulder Canyon Projects) are built on. [13]

  • State of Arizona: represented by Commissioner W.S. Norviel
  • State of California: represented by Commissioner W.F. McClure
  • State of Colorado: represented by Commissioner Delph E. Carpenter
  • State of Nevada: represented by Commissioner J.G. Scrugham
  • State of New Mexico: represented by Commissioner Stephen B. Davis, Jr.
  • State of Utah: represented by Commissioner R.E. Caldwell
  • State of Wyoming: represented by Commissioner Frank C. Emerson
  • United States of America (U.S. Federal Government): represented by Herbert Hoover as Representative of the United States Government[13] in an appointed position and was simultaneously holding the position of Secretary of Commerce - Department of Commerce (he later becomes a President of the United States).

Timeline of EventsEdit

Timeline of events:

May 1869 - Major John Wesley Powell (a one-armed Civil War veteran, and Director, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)) makes his first recorded trip through the Grand Canyon and down the length of the Colorado River to record topography information for public use/intel.

April 1902 - President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Reclamation Act. Reclamation Service engineers begin investigating the Colorado River for possible uses.

March 1905 -  Rains cause the Colorado River to flood into the Imperial Valley, creating an inland sea across a hundred and fifty square miles. About $3 million in damages were done before the water levels reached normal.

April 1920 - Congress passes the Kinkaid Act authorizing the Secretary of Interior to investigate the Imperial Valley inland sea formation.

February 1922 - Arthur P. Davis (responding to congress regarding the Kinkaid Act. after his investigation) proposed the construction of a high dam on the Colorado River. He stated the government could recoup the cost of construction by selling the electric power generated by the dam to the cities in Southern California.

December 1928 - The Boulder Canyon Project Act, introduced by Senator Hiram Johnson and Representative Phil Swing, both of California, passes in the House and Senate and is signed by President Calvin Coolidge.

June 1929 - Herbert Hoover takes charge of negotiations as six of seven basin states approves the Colorado River Compact. The basin states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Arizona did not approve the dam construction.

March 1931 - The Bureau of Reclamation opens bids for the construction of the dam. The winning bid was $48,890,995 to a private joint venture made of 6 renowned construction and design firms.

November 1932 - November: The Colorado River is diverted around the dam site.

June 1933 - First concrete is poured at Hoover Dam site.

February 1935 - The Hoover Dam starts impounding water in Lake Mead.

May 1935 - The last concrete is poured at the dam site.

September 1935 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt attends and speaks at the dedication of Boulder (Hoover) Dam.

March 1947 - House Resolution 140, officially declaring that the dam at Boulder Canyon be named Hoover Dam, for former President Herbert Hoover, is introduced to Congress. It is passed two days later, moves on to be approved in the Senate.

April 1947 - President Harry S. Truman signs a resolution officially declaring that the dam at Boulder Canyon be named Hoover Dam.

Present-day - The water level in the largest reservoir of the United States (Lake Meade) is the lowest it has ever been. Starting 2022, water allocations would be cut over the next year. The biggest cut will come to Arizona, 8 percent.

Maps of LocationsEdit




Risk AllocationEdit

Being the biggest concrete structure of the time the Hoover Dam had a lot of risks involved in its construction. There was a significant amount of risk placed on the government, which had appropriated $165 million or $2.6 billion today. As previously mentioned a lot of the construction methods used for the Hoover Dam were experimental and largely untested. This put a lot of pressure on the government as if this project failed there would be a lot of negative attention put on them, and when combined with the upcoming depression would have shifted public perception against the government.

The further risk was involved with the 7 states who stood to benefit from the Dam. As if the dam failed many of the cities that formed around the river likely wouldn’t have prospered if the dam failed and would have hurt the development of the southwest. Without the Dam, the lack of irrigation water in these cities would devastate the farming industry in these areas. Even there is the risk of the dam breaking. If the Dam were to break more than 3.5 trillion gallons of water would set loose and cause massive damage to everything in its path. And all of the cities that rely on the water from the dam would dry up and suffer from massive droughts.

During its construction, there were a lot of risks put onto the workers who had to construct the dam. Beyond the risks that come with building a dam, due to the lack of tested construction techniques and bad weather, an official count stated that 96  workers died during construction. Further deaths that weren’t included in the official counts were deaths by pneumonia, heatstroke, or other deaths caused by things not immediately related to the Dam.

Policy and Technical IssuesEdit

Geology

The beginning to the creation of the Hoover Dam involved the diversion of tunnels, these tunnels served as waterway sources. Due to so many rocks being in the way, engineers had to use dynamites in certain sections to remove the rocks. This project was created due to its engineering and with the help of workers. From this point on, workers had to then shovel 382 cubic meters of deposits to reach the bedrock layer. On June 6, 1933, concrete was applied to the base of the dam. Then again on May 29, 1935, another layer of concrete was applied to finish this portion of the project.  This was one of the most important things that led to the building of the Hoover Dam but was a challenge that the engineers faced. The use of concrete would take too long to dry which would lead to the project being delayed by years. The solution to this problem was to use rows and columns and using pumps that would transfer cold water through pipes. This was a success since they were able to build the dam 2 years before its expected built time.

The Dam was created in interlocking blocks, the biggest blocks measured at 25 x 60 feet, and the smallest block measured at 25 x 25 feet. The engineers had to become creative as to how they chose to deliver the concrete. They decided to use buckets to transfer the concrete into the blocks. From this point on, “Pullers'' would pack the concrete in place. This was an important part to the project, since if done wrong air pockets could later form.

Economic

In 1922 the Federal director Arthur Powell Davis designed a plan to propose to congress called the “ Boulder Canyon Project” to propose to congress. This plan indicated that with the benefits to building the dam would include flooding control, irrigation, it would incorporate the use and sale of hydroelectric power. Congress was hesitant to sign off on the project due to it costing nearly $165 million dollars. Something that helped the Hoover Dam be built was The Colorado River Compact, which was created in 1922 by Herbert Hoover.  This made sure that the water was dispersed evenly between the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and California.  Due to the contribution of the president in December 1928, the Hoover Dam was named after the president.

The Hoover Dam faced economic issues due to the time frame.  The Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression, which made it difficult to fund and workers were needed. In order to solve this problem, the state of Nevada built 5,000 houses for the workers in Boulder City.  This became an incentive for many jobless men facing difficulties during the Great Depression. The city had no elected officials and was run by the U.S by the U.S Bureau of Reclamation. To bring revenue the construction of the Boulder Dam hotel had also been done. This hotel was used to host events and have important political figures come and bring awareness to the Dam.

Environment

The construction of the Dam has brought negative impacts to the environment. For starters, the Dam has disturbed the aquatic life and ecosystem. For starters, it has led to the destruction of many habitats. This has led to water flow direction changing drastically, which has led to an increase in sediments into the water. The Dam has lowered the water temperature and due to this many fish have died. Studies have stated that 76% of the wildlife population has been lost. Dams have also been linked to the destruction of many ecosystems.  There are raising concerts due to the water drought that has been occurring throughout the years. The water level has dropped 1,071.56 feet and has raised some concerns. Due to the drought, many farmers have been affected and have abandoned their farms.

Water Rights:

In the 1890’s water stopped flowing down the Hila River and was now being distributed to other areas to help local farmers, settlers etc. Many of the Native Americans were left with no water, which affected their crop growth. In 1908 this went to court and the supreme court was not able to make any changes to this. In order for the Hoover Dam to be built, they had to include providing a water source for the Pima tribe. They came to an agreement which later on ended being one of the reasons as to how the Dam was built. Sadly, nothing really changed and the tribe was not getting enough water. As a result of this, they were not able to economically grow and many died. Many believe that the building of the Dam killed more than 500 Native Americans. Arizona ended up benefiting from the water source the dam was able to provide.

Narrative of the CaseEdit

Background

During the late 1890s, the United States was trying to develop the southwest, and the Colorado River was seen as an ideal source of water for budding cities. Initial attempts to use the river's resources were done by creating a canal to divert the water for irrigation purposes. While the canal did provide enough water to encourage settlement of the surrounding valley, the canal would soon prove to be too costly to maintain and operate and would eventually breach and flow into the Salton Sink, filling it up creating the Salton Sea. [1] In 1902 the Edison Electric Company would survey the river in hopes of creating a hydroelectric dam, but due to technological limits of the time, the project would end up falling through. However, Arthur Powell Davis would take that idea and expand upon it, proposing what would eventually become the Hoover Dam. After his initial proposal was rejected in 1922, Davis would work with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and would create a new report suggesting to build a dam on the Colorado River at Boulder Canyon for flood control and hydroelectric power generation.  Despite initially being called the Boulder Canyon Project, the dam would end up being constructed in Black Canyon after the BOR investigated the site and found Black Canyon to have the ideal conditions for construction. The Hoover Dam would be the victim of immense scrutiny and criticism, as the states involved were worried that the water and power generated by the Dam wouldn’t be split equally and the flourishing California would reap most of the benefits. In order to relieve this criticism Delph Carpenter; a Colorado Attorney would propose that the seven states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) should form an interstate compact. After meeting with then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, the Colorado River Compact would be signed in November of 1922. [5] Even with the Colorado River Compact, the dam would suffer heavy scrutiny, especially after the failure of St. Francis Dam in California which was similar in design to what the Hoover Dam was proposed to be. After this incident congress issued a board of engineers to review the dam, they would find the project feasible but still cautioned them to be constructed with great care. On December 21, 1928, President Coolidge would sign the bill that authorized the Boulder Canyon Project Act, appropriating an estimated $165 million for the project. A consortium called Six Companies Inc. would eventually win the bid to construct the dam.

Construction

Since the dam needs to be constructed on a dry riverbed, the Colorado River water had to be diverted first. Four, 56 feet wide diversion tunnels were built (two on each side of the river) by blasting through the canyon using dynamite. Then workers used hammers to further break down rocks from the canyon. Then they used the excavated rocks to create cofferdams to force the water flow into the diversion tunnels.

Once the dry riverbed was exposed, the workers had to smooth the canyon surface to prevent leaks and allow the installation of the designed dam. The Hoover Dam uses a gravity-arch design which enables it to stay in place using the weight of its concrete and the weight of the water it holds, forcing it into the canyon floor and walls, which is why it is important for the surfaces of the canyon to be smooth. The concept of hardhats was also invented during this phase of the Hoover Dam’s construction.

If the entire dam’s concrete was poured in a single pour, the concrete would dry for 125 years and would also break under its own weight. So the dam was divided into several rectangular moulded sections. The moulds were fitted with steel pipes that carried river water through them so the concrete would cure faster. Once that section cured, they built a mould section above it using the same method until the entire wall of the dam was built. As the wall got taller, it got harder to get concrete up to where it had to be. So they designed suspension cables which carried buckets of concrete above. Almost 90 million cubic feet of concrete was used to build the dam. This was the largest concrete structure that had ever been built. The 726 feet high dam was complete and the diversion tunnels were sealed shut, creating the reservoir we know today as Lake Meade. The power plant component of the structure was constructed during the structure of the main dam. The hydroelectric facility produces 4.2 billion kilowatt-hours.

Impact and Operations

Today, the Hoover Dam is owned by the United States Government and is operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. The Hoover Dam brought an innovative way of generating water known as Hydropower. Hydropower helped energize many mills and factories.  The creation of Hydropower also helped many farmers since now they would have a water source. The Dam became not only the biggest project to be built but also became the largest Electric power. During this time period, this project helped provide jobs at a time where it was really needed. The Hoover Dam also brought attraction to the West and increased tourism, ultimately leading to an increase of both social and economic growth. Currently the Hoover Dam produces 4 billion kilowatt-hours per year and for electrical power it serves the states of Nevada, Arizona, and California.[18]

Discussion QuestionsEdit

What can we do to combat the drought that is threatening the Hoover Dam and bring the water level back up to its original state?

If the Hoover Dam does dry up, what would be a viable alternative to provide the states that rely on it with new power and water?

Without the Hoover Dam, how do you think the American Southwest would have developed?

Lesson Learned / TakeawaysEdit

1. Using federal funding to pay for domestic infrastructure, which generates revenue (in this case generation of electricity), is a very low risk investment of federal funds and has high long-term return. By 1987, the cost of construction of the Hoover Dam was paid back to federal funds with interest.

2. The sooner we understand our environment and agree on an end goal for development, the sooner we can act to improve our environment. The Colorado river was useful in this case because of its high slopes that carry water. We were able to harness the power of the flow of the river to generate electricity, irrigate farmland, prevent flooding, create jobs, and stimulate the economy. But this understanding of the environment and passing the bill to create this infrastructure was a 50-year process.

3. Due to climate change, we must build infrastructure that is meant to control a much larger range of water conditions. Southwestern states are experiencing the longest drought in U.S. history. We must increase the range for the conditions which our water resource infrastructure must control. This is done by designing water resource infrastructure which can handle significant changes in water conditions such as flow rate and velocity.

Additional ReadingsEdit

Change Name of Boulder Dam to Hoover Dam. (1947). [s.n.].

Dunar, & McBride, D. (1993). Building Hoover Dam : an oral history of the Great Depression . Maxwell Macmillan International.

Hiltzik. (2010). Colossus : Hoover Dam and the making of the American century (1st Free Press hardcover ed.). Free Press.

[19][20][21]

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  17. United States Bureau of Reclamation. “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on the Hoover Dam.” Hoover Dam | Bureau of Reclamation, https://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/faqs/powerfaq.html. Accessed 17 Nov. 2021.
  18. Wikibook (November 17, 2021): Leul Lakew, Abrar Samimi-Darzi, Cooper Gandy, Karen Herrera; (Hoover Dam Group / Group 5). “Hoover Dam (Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook/Hoover Dam).” Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook: George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government -  Volgenau School of Engineering (GOVT 490-004 Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government / CEIE 499-001 Special Topics in Civil Engineering - Fall 2021), Nov. 2021, https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Infrastructure_Past,_Present,_and_Future_Casebook/Hoover_Dam.
  19. Hoover Dam Presentation (November 19, 2021): https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1OMEQDC4bLyUAnQHMNx6ecKKUBncmgKAwoAhinayeW44/edit?usp=sharing
  20. Hoover Dam Group: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fs4yTk1n7O-nxXaxXKkZBpqNPMLzHB4jshbflYQPSiY/edit?usp=sharing

Leul Lakew, Abrar Samimi-Darzi, Cooper Gandy, Karen Herrera; (Hoover Dam Group / Group 5). “Hoover Dam (Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook/Hoover Dam).” Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook: George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government -  Volgenau School of Engineering (GOVT 490-004 Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government / CEIE 499-001 Special Topics in Civil Engineering - Fall 2021), Nov. 2021, https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Infrastructure_Past,_Present,_and_Future_Casebook/Hoover_Dam.

Leul Lakew, Abrar Samimi-Darzi, Cooper Gandy, Karen Herrera - Hoover Dam Group). “Hoover Dam (Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook/Hoover Dam).” Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook: George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government - Volgenau School of Engineering, Fall 2021 (Nov. 2021), https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Infrastructure_Past,_Present,_and_Future_Casebook/Hoover_Dam.