$690 million in 2008 dollars
However, a group of enterprising entrepreneurs found a way to remain in the bidding. To share in the exorbitant scope and cost of the project a consortium of six different companies, each with a unique and necessary expertise, incorporated into the so-called Six Companies, Inc. It was their bid in March of 1931 that won the day over three others.
In the months ahead thousands of workers were hired to begin this challenging project with salaries ranging from 50-cents an hour for helpers up to $1.25 an hour for the power shovel operators. And so, in the sweltering heat of Black Canyon the workers and their families arrived, living in tents without proper sanitary conditions, utilities, and clean water. These horrid living conditions continued until Six Companies realized that something had to be done to improve the living standards of their workers. Soon construction was also underway for building Boulder City, complete with electricity, churches, a school, post office, library, newspaper, and stores.
Finally - Pouring The Concrete
After diverting the Colorado River away from the work site through four 4,000 foot tunnels with walls of concrete three feet thick, the work at the base of Hoover Dam began. Power shovels were used to clear away the river-bottom mud which extended down to the bed rock 50 feet below while scalers blasted the canyon walls with jackhammers to make a smooth surface for the dam’s construction. Finally, in June 1933, the first of the concrete for the dam’s base was poured. Over the months ahead, about 4.3 million cubic yards of concrete continued to be poured until the base was 660 feet thick and the dam towered some 726 feet high and 1,244 feet wide. Some 96 workers were killed during the construction, mostly from heat stroke, truck and equipment accidents, slides, drowning, and falls. Despite the commonly held belief, no worker was buried in the concrete of the Hoover Dam. Also included in the project was the construction of four 395-foot water intake towers and the two 230-foot high powerhouse wings which housed the 17 generators. When construction was completed, the diversionary tunnels were closed and the filling of Lake Mead began until it reached a depth of 590 feet.
On September 30, 1935, two years ahead of schedule, the Hoover Dam was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the following year the 17 hydroelectric generators were in operation for the first time. Despite the fact that Congress had mandated the name Hoover Dam, Hoover’s Secretary of the Interior, Ray L Wilbur, called it the Boulder Dam after the name of its original site. This mix up in the name instigated years of controversy over what the Dam should be called. Many people, even high ranking government officials continued to call it Boulder Dam while others insisted it was the Hoover Dam. Finally, after years of bickering, the subject was put to rest in 1947 when President Harry S. Truman officially declared it to be the Hoover Dam.
Today, water stored in Lake Meade still provides a stable supply for irrigation and domestic usage and, as the water is released through the power plant generators, it turns out 4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity for California, Nevada, and Arizona. As a result, the Hoover Dam stands as a National Historic Landmark and is listed as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.
The total cost to build the Hoover Dam is around $50 million in 1931 dollars and $690 million in 2008 dollars.