chapter  6
34 Pages

Glen Canyon: Last of the High Dams

The imperialistic high modernist discourse that was so well characterized by the proposal and construction of Boulder and Grand Coulee Dams, maintained its hegemony through the 1940s and into the 1950s. As the epigram from the Bureau of Reclamation above shows, the well-worn rhetoric of state building, national importance, and the other strands of the imperial high modernist discourse were recycled to great effect as dams were put up on almost all of the wild streams of the arid West. But in the early 1950s the rise of an environmentalist discourse allowed a successful contestation of two dams in Utah. This newly revived discourse about the human relationship with nature focused on the aesthetic qualities of the environment, and argued the need for conservation and preservation. In the words of David Brower, reproduced in the second epigram above, the Colorado River was a “miracle, not a menace.”