Artists: Mark Klett and Joann Verburg, William Henry Jackson
Commentary by Barret Lybbert
In the early 30s and 40s many families, including my paternal grandparents, moved to the Columbia Basin in Eastern Washington because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation-led construction of the Grand Coulee Dam had begun. Farmers, engineers, and workmen of all trades moved to the basin to find jobs created by what would become one of the largest concrete structures in the world and the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States.
The dam formed two giant reservoirs: Lake Roosevelt and Banks Lake. Banks Lake is actually a 27-mile long reservoir that supports much of the agriculture of Eastern Washington. Certainly the dam has impacted the landscape of not only the gorges and valleys in the basin area, by flooding and creating giant reservoirs, but the dam has also impacted the lives of five generations of my family (and countless others). My dad grew working on the family farm about an hour away from Banks Lake, irrigated by the water from the reservoir. Now. Each summer my family enjoys a week of camping, boating and vacation on the waters of Banks Lake. At dark when we all walk over to watch the dam show—a laser-light production about the history of the dam—I like to think about the landscape of the Columbia Basin and how it has transformed a desert into an agricultural oasis. And in the afternoons when I jump off high cliffs into the clear, refreshing lake, it is impossible to care about anything but having fun.
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