THE PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS THAT MADE THE WEST:THE PANAMA CANAL AND THE LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT By Kasandra Bartels History 141
A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL- PANAMA The history of the Panama Canal dates back to the 16 th Century, when in c.1524, Charles V realized the wealth Peru, Ecuador and Asia were bringing and the amount of time it took to reach the ports of Spain for gold supply. He then decided to take of chunk of land out of Panama to better reach it’s goods in a shorter amount of time. And in 1529, the working plan for the Panama Canal came into view, but the wars in Europe and the urges for full control in the Mediterranean Sea put these plans on hold for a good amount of time. In 1534, the Spanish suggested a canal route very similar to the present canal, yet no action was taken. Later, the Spanish government dropped all ideas of this canal. Hundreds of years later, in the 19th century, the books of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt revived interest in the canal idea, and finally in 1819, the Spanish government formally authorized the construction of a canal and the creation of a company was built. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush of would-be miners stimulated Americas interest in digging the canal
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT ANDTHE PLANS FOR THE PANAMA CANAL
A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL- PANAMA Various surveys were made between 1850 and 1875 showed that only two routes were practical, the one across Panama and another across Nicaragua. In 1876 an international company was organized; two years later it obtained a concession from the Colombian government to dig a canal across the isthmus. The international company failed, and in 1880 a French company was organized by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal. In 1879, de Lesseps proposed a sea level canal through Panama. With the success he had with the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt just ten years earlier, de Lesseps was confident he would complete the water circle around the world. Time and mileage would be dramatically reduced when travelling from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean or vice versa. For example, it would save a total of 18,000 miles on a trip from New York to San Francisco.
A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL- PANAMA Dr. William Georges was the doctor who went with Stephans. In 1905 he announced that there was no more yellow Fever. After a year with Stephens as chief engineer, he had 24,000 workers on site and was running things smoothly. Shortly after, he unexpectedly quit. The infuriated Theodore Roosevelt appointed an army officer, Col. George Washington Goethals as chief. Goethals was a strict and very formal officer unlike the laid- back Stephens. Goethals believed that the money being spent on the sanitation campaign was too much. So Dr. Georges convinced Goethals to keep the campaign by telling him what his likelihood of living was without the sanitation. 1912 50,000 workers were on site. Less than 10 percent of them were Americans. Most were English speaking West Indians. Foreign Black workers were paid in Silver and American Whites got gold.
A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL- PANAMA More money was spent on explosives to blow out Panama then on all the wars until then. Premature explosions were occurring which killed and injured workers. There was lots and lots of rain and the mountains began to slide; crushing steam shovels like they were nothing. Also, miles of railroad track were obliterated by these mud and rock avalanches. The deeper the cut, the more the slide; and these landslides are still a problem today. A concrete mixing plant was built on site, and to deliver the wet concrete, a spectacular cable-way was devised with 85 ft. towers on tracks so that they could be moved. With an overall length of 1000 feet, and a width of 110 feet, each lock was considerably larger than a ship the size of the Titanic. On May 20, 1913 two worn steam shovels met at the bottom of the cut, and by May 31, the last of the concrete was laid down. They then opened the dam to fill gaptoon lake was filled, generators at gaptoon dam would generate electricity to operate the locks so the canal would provide its own power. The grand opening of the great Panama Canal came the next summer Aug 15, 1914.
CADILLAC DESERT: WILLIAMMULHOLLANDS DREAM Los Angeles that a city used to develop itself, all it had was a little water. Los Angeles was always just a place of earthquakes and drought. The land was originally claimed my Spaniards and later conquered by the U.S. In 1878 William Mulholland arrived in LA from Ireland after stowing away in a sailing ship. He found work as a ditch digger on the growing towns dilapidated water system which was just old water wheels. Mulholland taught himself to keep the entire L.A. water system in his head and worked hard to climb through the ranks. In 1886 when his boss died, Mulholland found himself as the superintendant of the L.A. water system. By 1903, L.A. had sucked dry the tiny Los Angeles river, and by then Mulholland knew that LA would have to stop growing, or he would have to find a new source of water.
CADILLAC DESERT: WILLIAMMULHOLLANDS DREAM The closest source was the Owens river, over 200 miles north of L.A. After seeing this river, Mulholland changed from an efficiency and conservation worker to an innovative engineer. He wanted to get the water from the river to L.A. by building a great aqueduct using only gravity. The area around the river was all the land of farmers and ranchers. To take that water from the farmers and the federal government would be a very hard task. After convincing the ranchers and townspeople by Owens Valley, it was left up to the people of L.A. to vote on whether they wanted the aqueduct built. Mulholland campaigned as if his life depended on it. And he won with 10 to 1 people voting for him. Mulholland never even passing grade school was given the engineering project of a lifetime. One unlike anyone has ever seen. In extreme heat and with no air conditioning or refrigeration, they crossed the Mojave desert in 5 years with a pipe big enough to hold a locomotive. In the end the chief Mulholland and his lieutenants finished the job under budget, and ahead of schedule.
CADILLAC DESERT: WILLIAMMULHOLLANDS DREAM A crowed of 30,000 to 40,000 Los Angelinos gathered at the base of the spillway to see the grand opening. Once it was opened, thousands ran to the water with cups to drink it. Mulholland then announced: “There it is. Take it.” He built the aqueduct so well that it still brings water to people in L.A. today. The water coming from the north, in effect, created contemporary L.A. 10 years after he built his aqueduct, L.A. had grown to a size that had itself running out of water again. The Owens river was being sucked dry, leaving not only L.A. in a drought, but leaving the farmland around the river dry as well. So Mulholland immediately began thinking of new options. In anger and frustration, over 700 people from nearby towns would go to the spill site and use the water. Mulholland sent L.A. police to stop them, but the local Sheriff stood between the officer and the towns people. The City of Los Angeles then “fixed” the problem and bought out the towns and ranchers for the remaining water.
CADILLAC DESERT: WILLIAMMULHOLLANDS DREAM On Nov. 16 1924, vandals closed the aqueduct by opening the emergency spillway, and Mulholland was furious when he found out. In April of 1926 and July 1927, every once in a while, scandals would blast the aqueduct with dynamite, and Mulholland was seen as the bad guy to many. Preoccupied Mulholland, still tried to find new sources with water and decided to try the Colorado River. In 1925 voters, once again, passed a 2 million dollar project on the engineering of an aqueduct from the Colorado River. And in 1931 they voted again for a 220 million dollar and 10 year project to stretch the aqueduct 300 miles to L.A. The project was completed in 1941and provides water for plenty of cities today.