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Thousands of men began arriving at the Grand Coulee Dam construction site in June 1933, enticed by the promise of jobs. Located hundreds of miles from the nearest big city, there was no easy way to get to the construction site. The dam would have to span beyond the width of the river -- almost a mile across -- and would need to rise 500 feet in the air to stop up the river to build the reservoir.
On December 6, 1935, the first bucket of concrete was poured onto the dam site. To prevent the possibility of cracking, concrete was poured into hundreds of 50 foot square blocks every 72 hours. After each pour, workers would scrub the concrete with wide brushes to remove scum. Millions of cubic yards were poured, and in February 1938, the foundation was completed 14 months ahead of schedule.
Construction of Grand Coulee Dam had a significant effect on the lives of the Colville Indians. In 1940, seven years into the construction of the dam, the reservoir behind the dam (Lake Roosevelt) began to fill. The water level rose rapidly, submerging around 18,000 acres of land in the Colville Reservation -- inundating homes, ancient fishing spots, and historic cemeteries.
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