During the Depression of the 1930s, one of the darkest economic times for the United States, a beacon of light shone forth from a monumental project spanning the Columbia River.
The Bonneville Dam and the Bonneville Power Administration were created by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt 75 years ago, bringing jobs and easily accessible electricity to the Pacific Northwest.
This Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who now control the dam, will hold a commemoration of the anniversary that will feature educational displays, music, regional Native American representatives and a recreation of FDR’s dedication speech with a professional re-enactor.
According to Diana Fredlund, public affairs specialist for the dam, the event is “an opportunity to share with the public information about BPA, the Corps and Bonneville Dam and their mission to serve the people of the Pacific Northwest.”
One of the special events of the day will be the arrival of “FDR” via vintage motorcade, who will then give the speech originally offered by the original FDR, who dedicated the dam personally in 1937.
“He will read a portion of the original speech and then speak about the dam in the present, as well,” said Fredlund.
Acknowledging that the damming of the Columbia also represented a severe loss to the Native Americans who lived along the river, the ceremonies will also include tribal elders from regional tribes, and information on the impact.
To welcome visitors and encourage people to learn about the dam’s history, the day will feature live music, booths and activities suitable for the whole family.
Several Oregon and Washington state representatives are slated to attend the event. Featured speakers will include Steve Wright, BPA administrator and chief operating officer; Col. Anthony Funkhouser, commander, Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Lori Faeth, deputy assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, Bureau of Reclamation; and tribal representative Roy Sampsel, Institute for Tribal Government, Portland State University.
With more limited parking on the Oregon side of the dam, visitors may use the larger lots on the Washington shore, with shuttles running to the dam available throughout the event.