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Blakely Mountain Dam, located approximately ten miles northwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), was created to provide hydroelectric power and to control flooding along the Ouachita River. It impounds Lake Ouachita, the largest lake completely within the state of Arkansas at over 40,000 acres.
In 1870, the U.S. Congress authorized a survey of the Ouachita River to investigate improving its navigability and preventing floods along its course. However, nothing was done until the 1920s, when Harvey Couch and his company, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), began searching for sites for hydroelectric dams along the Ouachita River. AP&L built Remmel Dam and Carpenter Dam, which were in place by the early 1930s. Plans for a third, larger dam were announced in 1938 for the Blakely Mountain area, to be a joint project of AP&L and the federal government, which would fund $6 million and $2 million of the costs, respectively. The following year, AP&L sought federal permission to delay the dam’s construction, but the Federal Power Commission terminated the utility’s permit and proceeded by itself.
Preliminary core drilling was soon carried out, financed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, not until 1946 did Congress appropriate any funds, $1 million, for beginning construction. Residents of the area that was slated to be inundated had been leaving since the 1930s, and the exodus accelerated as work began. The town of Buckville (Garland County) was relocated to high ground, though little remains of it today. The relocation of graves was completed in 1952, and the clearing of the area for the reservoir took place over 1951 and 1952. By 1952, the dam portion of the project was complete and already serving flood control purposes, and construction on an electric power plant began. The power plant went online, generating its first electric power, on July 17, 1955. In April of the following year, electric power was sold under contract to AP&L. The official dedication of Blakely Mountain Dam took place on July 4, 1956, with U.S. Senator John L. McClellan and U.S. Congressman William F. Norrell, the latter of whom sponsored the project, in attendance.
Blakely Mountain Dam is composed of approximately 4 million cubic yards of earth drawn from the surrounding area; this material proved to be high in clay content and thus suitable for the dam. It was constructed by Groves, Lundin and Cox, contractors based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at a final cost of $31 million, and is 231 feet tall and 1,100 feet long. The generators in the dam’s power plant are capable of producing 75,000 kilowatt-hours of power. Blakely Mountain Dam’s position on the Ouachita River, higher than Remmel and Carpenter dams, lessens the likelihood of those dams facing flood stage.
For additional information:“Blakely Mountain Dam.” Montgomery County ArkansasGenWeb Project. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~armontgo/dam.htm (accessed September 16, 2009).
Farley, Bill. “Blakely Dam, A Man-made Mountain.” Arkansas Gazette. January 28, 1951, p. 1F.
Richter, Wendy. “The Impact of Blakely Mountain Dam on Northwest Garland County, Arkansas.” The Record 43 (2002): 1–12.
Guy LancasterEncyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 10/17/2012
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