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Visiting the Hoover Dam gives tourists some idea of how much work Americans invested in the massive undertaking. The workers used so much concrete to complete the Hoover Dam project that it became the first man-made structure with a masonry mass that actually exceeded Giza's Great Pyramid. It has been estimated that the dam weighs more than 6.6 million tons. In fact, the project required so much concrete, that developers could have used the same amount to build a 16-foot wide, 8-inch thick strip from San Francisco all the way to New York City.
The Hoover Dam, however, not only stands as an exemplary engineering feat. It also represents a stunning financial accomplishment. Congress approved the project during the Great Depression, resulting in thousands of jobs that helped pull the American economy from disaster. $49 million was spent on the construction project. The Hoover Dam's location 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on the Nevada-Arizona border had been scouted for several years. While the Hoover Dam's location made it possible to prevent devastating floods and produce a significant amount of hydropower, it was very difficult for builders to bring the required materials and equipment so deep into the desert.
On average, the Hoover Dam produces about 4.2 terawatt hours per year and provides water to approximately 8 million people living in California, Nevada, and Arizona.
A more advanced system of flood control is the construction of coordinated dams and reservoirs. The Hoover Dam on the Colorado and the Aswan High Dam on the Nile are two of the most famous. During periods of normal flow, the dams operate merely as hydroelectric power stations. When flooding occurs, the dam slows down the flow.On May 31, 1889, the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, broke after a period of heavy rain, sending a wall of water half a mile wide and 75 feet high towards the town, killing 2209 people.
During the 20th century, the United States government has gotten involved in flood control. Industrialization has caused mass deforestation in the United States, increasing the frequency and intensity of flooding. Replacing the trees with farms, factories and homes has necessitated the institution of coordinated national flood control to protect private property.The following were passed as various attempts at flood control, dam building or soil conservation:
- The Clarke-McNary Act of 1924
- The Mississippi Flood Control Act of 1928
- The 1935 establishment of the Soil Conservation Service
- The 1937 Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act
- The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) in 1933
The United States stretches "from sea to shining sea" and for those who do not live in a river valley, the coastal plains are home. Worldwide, it has been estimated that one-half of the population lives within 60 kilometers of a coastline, and thirteen of the twenty largest cities in the world are situated along the coast. New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle are all located on one of the coasts. There are two main hazards of building in the coastal plains: hurricanes and sea-level rise. In any given year, mostly during the months of September, October, and November some ten tropical depressions, low-pressure systems born over the Sahara Desert, intensify into named tropical storms. Six of these storms further intensify into hurricanes. On average, two hurricanes a year cross the US coastline. The main problem with hurricanes is wind damage, with sustained winds of upwards of 125 mph in category 5 storms. Hurricanes frequently grow to occupy more than half a million square miles of ocean before coming ashore