Dam the Columbia: Umatilla Rapids Association

My wife was. . . a dam widow, and my children dam orphans.
Elmer P. Dodd, lifelong dam booster


D.C Brownell points to the site of the future McNary Dam.
Courtesy of the Umatilla Museum and Historical Foundation

In a 1911 speech, Captain S.V. Winslow, who blasted rocks at Umatilla Rapids to create passage for sternwheel steamboats during low water, strongly advocated a Umatilla Rapids Dam. Local businessmen and politicians banded together in an effort to court federal funding for a dam at the Umatilla Rapids. In 1920 D.C. Brownell called a mass meeting at Umatilla where regional leaders formed the Umatilla Rapids Association and began earnestly promoting a dam.

Proponents, including the East Oregonian, Elmer P.Dodd, president of the Umatilla Rapids Association, and Oregon and Washington politicians, argued that a dam at Umatilla would back up the river making navigation possible for 110 miles upstream, opening the Snake River to development. It would provide cheap power, and irrigate 250,000 acres or more. Dreams of turning the desert into a garden became an almost religious endeavor. Some believed a planned paradise could be shaped by a series of dams on the Columbia, beginning at the Umatilla Rapids.

Hermiston Herald article - "E.P. Dodd Speaks at Irrigation Meet"



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