Water Impoundment Began at Fontana Dam

The Fontana Dam under construction. Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority.On November 7, 1944, water impoundment began at Fontana Dam in western North Carolina. At 480 feet, Fontana Dam is the highest dam  east of the Rocky Mountains.  Like other TVA projects, it was constructed for flood regulation, regional power and economic development. Electricity generated by the dam was also used to power Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where research on development of the atomic bomb was underway.

Several communities were covered under 10,600-acre Fontana Lake. Forty cemeteries and 2,043 known graves were relocated. At the peak of construction more than 6,000 workers worked shifts around the clock. In 1947, the workers’ village was converted into the present-day resort community of Fontana Village.

The concrete dam, which is 376 feet wide at its base, and the accompanying six-story glass-walled powerhouse at its foot, cost about $74,681,000; that’s about $969,883,116 in today’s dollars. Every five years, the lake’s waters are drawn down for dam inspection, and during these times the remnants of earlier times can be seen.

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