The Economic History of the Glen Canyon Dam

The Glen Canyon Dam is one of the more recently built dams in the United States. Given the success of earlier projects like the Bonneville and Hoover Dams, the initiative was high to begin the Glen Canyon project. Under the Colorado River Storage Project, the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell would form the primary storage unit for the area (Desert USA , 1998). In addition, it would supply water to California, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico (Glen Canyon Institute , 1998). Much of this water supply would go towards irrigation projects to increase agricultural production. Finally, as with most dams, the Glen Canyon's control of water would be used to provide hydropower and cheap electricity.

The United States Congress first authorized the Glen Canyon Dam in 1956 (National Park Service , 1998), and by June of 1960, the first concrete structures were placed in the canyon, beginning the construction of the dam. By 1963, the dam was complete and its reservoir, Lake Powell, began filling. The location chosen for Glen Canyon Dam was ideal given the narrow canyon and absence of any nearby faults. In addition, the Wahweap Creek bed provided the hard rock aggregate necessary for the concrete to build the dam. This setting provided for cheaper construction of this dam than others in the past. Including construction of the dam, power plant, facility roads, a bridge, and dam facilities, the total cost of the Glen Canyon Dam was about $272 million. This money was loaned to the Bureau of Reclamation by the United States Treasury, and is being repaid, at interest, through electricity sales (Desert USA , 1998).

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