This story appeared on NationalGeographic.com on April 11, 2016.
Glen Canyon Dam began its life with an explosion. Congress authorized the dam’s construction on this day in 1956, and about seven months later, then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower pressed a telegraph key in the Oval Office, sending the signal to blast a string of dynamite wedged in the side of a sinuous canyon. Boulders sprayed through the air at Arizona’s northern border, and workers began drilling a tunnel to temporarily redirect the flow of the Colorado River while they built the base of the dam.
Monstrous Lake Powell filled in behind the 710-foot dam, drowning Glen Canyon’s otherworldly red-rock amphitheaters and slot canyons under its silty depths.
These days, when dams in the U.S. make news, it’s often concrete getting blasted, not bedrock. And last week, the biggest dam-removal project in history got a crucial endorsement.
Federal officials, the states of Oregon and California, and the utility PacifiCorp signed a pair of agreements opening the way for removal of a whopping four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon through Northern California. More…