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Grand Coulee Dam: Defense and Public Power

We are going to see with our own eyes electricity made so cheap that it will become a standard article of use not only for manufacturing but for every home . . . I know that this [empty desert] country is going to be filled with the homes not only of a great many people from this state, but by a great many families from other states of the Union--men, women, and children who will be making an honest livelihood and doing their best to live up to the American standard of living and the American standard of citizenship. Franklin D. Roosevelt, August 1934.

Construction of Grand Coulee Dam, c. 1935. Photo courtesy of Bureau of

With World War II Grand Coulee Dam became an important source of power that fueled the developing Pacific Northwest defense industry, including aluminum plants, Boeing Airplane Company, and the Hanford nuclear facility.

In 1942 the Moses Lake Grange led the campaign to form the region's first Public Utility District to bring electric power to farmers and rural residents. Farmers, who believed that private utilities charged too much for electricity, "kicked Washington Water Power in the seat of the pants" and sent them packing, recalled Dick Deane. Grand Coulee and other Columbia River dams provide the customers of the Grant County P.U.D. with some of the lowest power rates in the nation.


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