Page images
PDF
[graphic]

waters of the Mississippi and making the Des Moines rapids do the work of man. As long ago as 1848 the Mississippi River Improvement Association was formed, with a capital of $1,000,000, its objects being to improve navigation and harness the water power that might be developed in the process. The Civil War passed and still the project remained a dream. The United States government went a long ways toward shattering the dream for all time by building a ninemile canal alongside of the perilous rapids where many a steamboat and many a raft had met demolition, establishing three locks for the purpose of raising and lowering craft from one level to another. Flowing through the high, limestone gorges on either side, step by step the solid lime rock of the river's

xjttom drops twenty-four feet to the navigable depths of the open river below Keokuk. At an annual cost of $50,000 the government has maintained this canal for forty years. Within the next two years it will have disappeared under twenty feet of water, part of the bed of a new inland lake forty miles long and from one to five miles wide. For the dream of two-thirds of a century is being realized at last. Five years ago, after numberless disheartening failures, a bill was passed through Congress granting a franchise and the first glimmerings of a realized dream began to appear.

It was no small task to get both houses of Congress to agree on a franchise which establishes the precedent of building a dam entirely across the country's largest river. Hut the Keokuk boosters were shrewd. They introduced old river pilots and captains before the committees to testify that the dam would improve navigation rather than hinder it; they

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

enlisted the co-operation of the army engineers and voluntarily agreed to replace the canal and its three locks with a single lock, which would answer every purpose, and the twenty-year old dry dock with a new one, and from now to the end of time to supply the power to operate the new lock and the new dry dock, absolutely free of charge. On January 27, 1905, the lower house passed the bill granting the desired franchise. On February 2, it passed the Senate and on February 9, 1905, President Roosevelt signed the bill.

Immediately there began the hunt for capital. The bill required that the work begin within five years and be completed within ten. It was not until a month or two before the five-year limit had expired that work actually began. Even then the doubters remained, crying that the limestone cliffs were being uncovered simply to keep the franchise and that the dam would never be built. But as the weeks passed and the gangs of workmen grew, from a few score to several hundred, and the approaches to the dam on the Illinois shore gradually began to show, the scoffers fled and all Keokuk joined in such a jubilation as the old Mississippi Valley has not known since the palmy days of steamboat racing. On January 8, 1910, definite announcement was made that the dam would be built. By the first of February several score of men were at work. The construction was continued uninterrupted from that time, and early in December, 1910. five hundred men started to work on the Iowa shore.

Mr. Hugh L. Cooper, the engineer in charge, has given Keokuk assurances that the work can be completed in thirty months. The first year has been one of preparation mainly, but the end of 1911 will find the dam well under way, extending out from both the Iowa and the Illinois shores, and the power house practically completed.

The project gives to the Mississippi Valley the largest water-power development in the entire country, with the single exception of the combined plants at Niagara Falls, and the largest dam in the world, with the single exception of the Assouan dam across the Nile in Egypt. There will be required in the construction 500,000 cubic yards of masonry, 500,000 barrels of cement, and 7,000 tons of steel.

The dam, including abutments, will be 4,700 feet long. It will extend from a point a little north of the center of the town of Hamilton, Illinois, due westward across the river to a point near the Iowa shore, under the bluffs at Keokuk, where the power house, 1.400 feet long, will link shore with shore. The mammoth dam will be of solid concrete, thirty-five feet wide on the bottom and about thirty feet high. The upper stream face will be vertical with a rounded top eight feet wide, the lower side ending in a curve connecting with the bottom, so that the water coming over will not fall, but slide down the face and be given a horizontal direction at the bottom of the river. The whole height is thirty-seven feet, the dam being locked into the rock bottom seven feet deep, to prevent any

[graphic][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

the heavy machinery. In the alley nearest the river will be ten ton cranes for lifting the heavy screens guarding the entrances to the turbines and for the handling of the headgates for shutting off the water. There will be forty-seven immense generators of 4,500 horsepower each, working on a vertical shaft like the generators at Niagara. These generators will be twelve feet in diameter. On the same vertical shaft will be three different turbines, one over the other, about nine feet in diameter, all working together to drive the generator. Besides the big 4,500 horse-power generators, provision is made for three exciter generators, which are intended to furnish current to excite the magnets of

front of each turbine opening, to prevent the entrance of sticks and stones, which would injure the blade of the turbines. The maximum head of water on the wheels will be at low water and will amount to thirty feet. At extreme high water the head is expected to be twentyone feet. At high water, therefore, the plan is to use all three turbines to drive the generator, when the head is least, but the flow is abundant; at low water, when the head is large, two, or even one, of the turbines in action will be sufficient. The turbines will be made so they can be discontinued when not in use.

The dam will impound the waters until a lake will be formed which will overflow the lowlands along the Iowa and Illinois shores for a distance of approximately forty miles above Keokuk. Immediately adjacent to Keokuk the river is lined with high, limestone bluffs so that there will be little change in the contour thereabouts, the main alteration being the submerging of the narrow lowland shelf now occupied by the tracks of the Burlington railroad and their removal to a ledge of the bluffs or cliffs. On the Illinois shore, however, immediately adjacent to Hamilton, there will be hundreds of acres of lowlands, now annually planted to grain, which will be submerged. The Keokuk and Hamilton Water Power Company, which is building the dam, has already purchased three-fourths of the property which will be submerged and has options on practically all the rest. It is estimated that approximately $1,500,000 has been or will be paid out for riparian rights before the dam is completed.

THIS NINE-MILE CANAL. BUILT AT A COST OF J8.000.000. WILL. WITH ITS LOCKS. BE SUBMERGED TWENTY FEET BY THE BACK WATER OF THE DAM.

The initial installation is expected to be 100,000 horse-power, of which 60,000 has already been contracted for by the Union Electric Light and Power, the Laclede Gas, and the United Railways companies of St. Louis, leaving only 40,000 to be disposed of in and around

Keokuk. When entirely completed the project calls for 25O,O0O horse-power, although it is expected that 200,000 will be nearer the amount developed for some years to come. St. Louis, 167 miles distant, is in the market for a large share of the power, which can be sold there at $18 per horse-power per year. Steam power within 250 miles of Keokuk now averages about $55 a horse-power per •year, so that the saving from the electric power is going to be great.

But Keokuk is not expecting to build this immense engineering project and then transmit the power to other cities, to grow at its expense. Known in the old historic trail and waterways days as the Gate City of the West, Keokuk lies at the convergence of three great states: Iowa—which leads the nation in the production of oats—Illinois—which leads in corn—and Missouri—which leads in hogs. Iowa has never figured very prominently as a manufacturing state, being content to rest on its laurels as an agricultural state. The same is true of Missouri and western Illinois. But the awakening has come and now these three states are looking forward to a time in the near future when their home-grown raw materials shall he converted into the. finished products of commerce and when they shall dominate the manufacturing world as they long have the agricultural. Iowa has numerous cereal mills, one of the largest being located in Keokuk. But its farmers have been obliged to send to Ohio and Indiana for their implements and machines. With cheap power available in immense quantities and with the Mississippi flowing unchecked at its feet, furnishing a cheap means of transportation to the north and south and east, Keokuk looks forward to the day when factories will line the bluffs and the city

[graphic]

THREE LOCKS. SIMILAR TO THIS. IN OPERATION FORTY YEARS. WILL BE COMPLETELY SUBMERGED.

THE BEGINNING OF THE DAM ON THE ILLINOIS SHORE A FEW MONTHS AGO.

become a rival to Niagara Falls in very truth. Already plans arc being laid to divert to Keokuk the shipments of bauxite, the clay used in the manufacture of aluminum, from Niagara Falls, where it is shipped by rail from Arkansas. Keokuk argues, and with apparent reason, that bauxite might far better come to a cheap water power by a cheap water route. Negotiations are also in progress for the establishment of a factory for the conversion of the limestone, with which the community abounds, into commercial fertilizer by electrolysis.

The man who is building the dam,

[graphic]

HAULING ROCK FROM THE QUARRY TO THE CRUSHERS FOR THE ILLINOIS END OF THE DAM.

« PreviousContinue »