Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion with The Bonneville Project budget. During House debate on March 15, Representative White of Ohio proposed an amendment to reduce the construction appropriation to $6 million. It was rejected. In Senate hearings March 28 to April 7, the president of one of the private utility companies unsuccessfully opposed appropriations for additional transmission lines. The President signed the Appropriations Act May 10.

Carey was Acting Administrator from February 1, 1939, during Ross's hospitalization, until Frank Banks, chief construction engineer for Grand Coulee Dam, was appointed Acting Administrator on May 4 and took over May 11. Barry Diddle of the Bureau of Reclamation became Assistant Administrator.

Banks made a number of personnel changes. He retained Herbert Marks of TVA as General Counsel and C. Alan Hart as Assistant General Counsel. Horace E. Bixby replaced Beck as head of the project and contract division. R. M. Nance became acting chief of the finance division replacing Isaac Comeau. Other new staff members included Walter Cain, rate engineer; Claude A. Miller, electrical construction, and Ben Creim, principal engineer in charge of construction.

The major event while Banks was in charge occurred June 20, 1939, when the construction contract was let for the first Bonneville-Grand Coulee line. The groundbreaking ceremony was August 7 at Goldendale. The line was considered 48 percent complete by the end of 1939. It was placed in service August 4, 1940, initially at 115,000 volts. The President signed Executive Order 8526 on August 26, 1940, directing BPA to market Grand Coulee Dam power.

The Ross decisions of 1938 to start the first BonnevilleGrand Coulee transmission intertie helped pave the way for BPA to market Grand Coulee Dam power, and subsequently the power from almost all Federal hydroelectric projects to be built in the region. The line became the axis, or base line, for the regional transmission grid, and the commitment to the grid system.

PWA funds, as well as WPA help, made construction of the line possible, and insured its completion several years before it could have been built with regular appropriations. Appropriations might have been difficult to obtain because of the opposition of private utility companies.

Construction of the line was a major challenge. It necessitated the rapid buildup of a strong construction team. Completion of the line demonstrated to Congress BPA's ability to undertake major challenges. In building the big line, J. D. Ross took time by the forelock.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed]

16. BPA GOES TO WAR

I should like to see this nation geared up to the ability to turn out at least 50,000 planes a year. Furthermore, I believe that this nation should plan at this time a program that would provide us with 50,000 military and naval planes.

- Franklin D. Roosevelt Message to the Congress Asking Additional Appropriations for

National Defense.

May 16, 1940

By any standard, World War II constituted a turning point in history, a violent wrenching from the past to a different world, affecting the lives of people and the destinies of nations. It was the first really worldwide war, directly involving 57 nations and their colonies. It introduced new technology and new methods of warfare, including the blitzkrieg, massive bombing by aircraft, the shift of seapower from battleships to aircraft carriers, and the finality of the atomic bomb.

The defeat of the Axis powers was not considered a certainty in the early war years. Germany, Italy, and Japan later made serious strategic mistakes, as historians have pointed out. These errors bought time for the Allies to win the war of production. The Allies won the production war primarily because the United States became an inventive and enormously productive arsenal which remained undamaged and intact while destroying the productive capacity of the Axis nations. The war depended heavily on energy, oil for ships and aircraft, and electricity for production.

The Roosevelt Administration's 1933 emphasis on hydroelectric power development paid off with big dividends for war production in the Pacific Northwest and Tennessee Valley. Rural electrification also paid off in terms of increased farm production.

The 1940-1946 period approximates the historical setting for BPA's war-oriented efforts. The defense buildup had, however, begun somewhat earlier. New war clouds had been accumulating since World War I. The United States did not ignore these warnings entirely, and made some preparations, though little and late.

The perspective on the role of electricity in war production begins with the start of World War I in 1914. As the call to arms became a call for German submarines cut or severely reduced shipments of airplanes and aluminum. Soon BPA Chilean nitrates needed for defense production, the Wood- electric power was helping produce al.

most half of the Nation's aluminum for row Wilson Administration sponsored the National De- the defense effort. Boeing's B-17 was in fense Act of 1916. It included authority for the Army Corps tress,

shown in the facing picture.

of Engineers to build a dam on the Muscle Shoals reach of the Tennessee River, a nitrate manufacturing plant, and an interim steam electric generating plant. Wilson Dam construction slowed after 1918, and finally was completed in 1925. It became part of TVA in 1933.

The United States and England both were faced with insufficient electric power during World War I. In England this spurred a major investigation and authorization by the Conservative Baldwin government of the British Electricity Grid in 1926. In the United States, military production planners were well aware of the power shortage but the sudden Armistice prevented widespread public knowledge of the problem. Colonel Charles Keller edited the official report, "The Power Situation During the War," published in 1921. Brigadier General William Crozier, Army Chief of Ordinance during World War I, often called attention to the effect of power shortages on the war effort.

Governor Pinchot had in mind wartime power shortages in Pennsylvania when he persuaded the Assembly to establish the Giant Power Survey Board in 1923. This resulted in the Giant Power Report of 1925, proposing a statewide transmission grid system. A flurry of magazine articles on giant power appeared at the same time.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's knowledge of power shortages, gained while he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy dur

ing World War I, was apparent during the 1930s. Soon after BPA had as many as 87 guards on duty he became President, he signed the National Industrial at its substations and other facilities as a precaution against sabotage. Recovery Act which included authority to construct proj

ects such as Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams. Also on June 16, 1933, he signed Executive Order 6174 allocating $238 million in PWA funds to construct 31 naval ships. Every year he obtained additional funds for naval expansion. His 1933 decisions were fortuitous for national defense, but if he had a premonition of a future war, he kept his own counsel. The same year Hitler became Chancellor of Germany

[graphic]

The likelihood of war increased yearly. Hitler began rearming in March 1935. Congress passed the Neutrality Act, a setback for Roosevelt. Mussolini seized Ethiopia in October 1935, Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in March 1936, the Rome-Berlin Axis evolved in October 1936, and the Sino-Japanese War began in July 1937. The Japanese sank the USS Panay in December 1937. Roosevelt spoke of world lawlessness. He asked Congress on January 28, 1938 to authorize a two-ocean Navy, resulting in the Vinson Naval Act. Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938. The notorious Munich Pact of September 29, 1938 for "peace in our time” was another warning.

President Roosevelt began to act to increase the electric power supply March 18, 1938, when he directed the FPC and Army to survey the nation's power capacity. Their July 1 report urged immediate attention to the problem. In August 1938 Roosevelt asked J. D. Ross to study and make recommendations. Ross recommended a national, directcurrent, high-voltage transmission grid system, preferably underground. Ross wrote a strong paragraph in the first annual report of the Bonneville Project on the need of power for national defense.

Although Banks moved ahead after Ross' death to construct the Bonneville-Grand Coulee line, he had no enthusiasm for building customer service lines. He pulled the Bonneville Project back from promoting or supporting public power. Secretary Ickes sought as Bank's replacement someone who believed in public power, and would report to the Secretary.

In seeking an Administrator, Ickes, a Bull Moose Republican from Chicago, remembered Dr. Paul J. Raver. Raver was the newly selected Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman. He had written articles on municipal electric systems and had been a public utility economics professor at Northwestern University. When Ickes asked if he believed in public power and received an affirmative answer, he exclaimed, "I don't see how you can and be a professor at Northwestern University!” Raver first turned down the job, then accepted. When Ickes took him to the White House, President Roosevelt said, “Raver, you are stepping into some big shoes,” referring to those of the late Ross. At a 20th BPA anniversary dinner in 1958 Raver said, "I always knew from the time of the interview, to the time of his death, that FDR was back of what we were trying to do.”

Raver needed all the moral support he could get. He was greeted in his new post as an outsider and carpetbagger. He found the Bonneville Project in what Ickes described as a

[merged small][graphic]
« PreviousContinue »