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Harold Kester, a Builder of Hydropower in the American West

Author(s): Robert Ettema

Linked Author(s): Robert Ettema

Keywords: No Keywords

Abstract: During the 1930s through successive decades, extensive large-scale hydropower facilities were built in the West of North America. Large dams fitted with complicated hydropower plants, such as Grand Coulee and Hoover Dams, were designed and built in remarkably short periods. Though much attention has been given to the hydraulic design of these facilities, little attention has been given (by hydraulic engineers) to the construction challenges faced when building them. The story of the work carried out by Harold Kester and his construction company usefully illustrates these challenges. Kester constructed hydropower facilities for dams on the Columbia, Colorado and Missouri Rivers, as well as elsewhere in the American West. Though several large dams were built during the 1930s to provide hydropower and Depression-era jobs in the West, the major period of hydropower development in the West and around the world occurred during the 1950s through the early 1980s. New dams were built, and existing dams received major upgrades in hydropower capacity during this period. Kester's career in hydropower construction began in the late 1940s and extended into the 1980s. Hydropower development in the West had practically halted with the United States' entry into World War II, but resurged greatly after the War. He was at the forefront of efforts to construct large-scale hydropower facilities in the West. Among his accomplishments are the installation of the world's largest hydropower turbines and generators for an upgrading of Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, and the construction of a second large hydropower house for Fort Peck Dam, at the time the world's biggest earthfill dam. These accomplishments entailed over-coming problems associated with the precise construction of the massive concrete and steel structures linking reservoirs to hydropower turbines and the river channels downstream.


Year: 2009

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