Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Water & Power

Water is essential to our existence. In addition to our bodily need to drink it, we have found ways to harness its power and direct it for our benefit.

At the Portal Powerhouse site (el. estimated 7100 ft), Engineer Eastwood and Construction Director Ward are recognized for their vision, engineering, and execution of a 13 mile tunnel through a granite mountain, under Kaiser Pass (el. 9184 ft).
This is one component of the "Big Creek" project (c. 1920s) that gathers water from a rugged sierra 1200 square mile watershed that drains into the San Joaquin River and its tributaries.
The words on the plaques eloquently describe the accomplishments achieved given the technology of the time. It's really a testimonial to great thinking. [Click on the image and zoom in.]
The tunnel diversion provides flood control as the water is directed into lakes until it is released again in a controlled manner for irrigation. In the 1950s, a hydroelectric powerhouse was constructed at this outlet.
Upstream, to the east, a concrete dam with horizontal arches contains one lake in the system. Remnants of construction with work and power embedded in them are here.

Sunglasses provide scale.

On the other side, Florence Lake. Spillway 7328 ft.
Reigns, territories, and civilizations flourish or fall based on their ability to control this essential fluid. What follows after the fundamental ability to harness water for our benefit is the luxury to embellish and pay homage to it.

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