Your power is turning our darkness to dawn,
Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
— Woody Guthrie, “Roll On Columbia”
NORTH BONNEVILLE — Saturday’s celebration of Bonneville Dam was as much a tribute to the Columbia River as it was to the structure that first harnessed it.
But the ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the dam’s dedication included plenty of adoration for the landmark hydroelectric facility that helped reshape the Northwest’s energy landscape. Perhaps none said it better than President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself — depicted Saturday by impersonator Gary Stamm — who spoke at the dedication of Bonneville Dam in 1937.
“Truly in the construction of the dam,” Roosevelt said, “we have had our eyes on the future of the nation.”
Bonneville Dam was the first of 31 federal dams built in the Columbia Basin, including 11 on the Columbia itself. Bonneville and Washington’s Grand Coulee Dam were among the largest regional power sources to the massive war effort that took off shortly after their construction.
The Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Bonneville Dam, celebrated the facility and its history with an elaborate event Saturday. The gathering included federal executives, Native American tribal leaders, members of Congress, local officials and hundreds of American-flag-waving visitors. Honored guests arrived in a motorcade of 1930s-era cars. All spoke against the dramatic backdrop of the Columbia River Gorge, just outside a Bonneville Dam visitor center.