In the years following World War II, federal plans to build a mammoth new dam on the Snake River in Idaho were thwarted by a coalition of irrigators, private-power executives, and state politicians who wanted local control. The unintended result was the preservation of high deserts and mountain rivers from radical change.
"This is an outstanding book, meticulously researched, imaginatively argued, and engagingly written. Skeptics might wonder about the significance and inherent interest of a dam never built. Yet Karl Brooks narrates the story with considerable flair, and he makes a convincing case that the defeat of Hell's Canyon High Dam was a pivotal event in modern hydropower politics. Western historians should place this book at the top of their reading lists." -Western Historical Quarterly "Brooks' brilliance in this book is in capturing a moment some 50 years ago when, in what is now perhaps the Reddest of states, private business made legitimate claims to represent the public good and helped make public policy more accountable to the public. But Brooks' empirical work suggests that what was important for democracy and environment was not the defeat of federal initiative per se, but rather that private challenge catalyzed political debate. Broader discussions forced needed restraint and a broadening of concerns as part of both public and private policy." -Review of Policy Research "Nicely written, nuanced study contributes to hydroelectric, Pacific Northwest, and environmental history. Recommended." -Choice "Brooks' work is a necessary addition to the Weyerhaeuser Book Series because it greatly advances our understanding of the conflict over resources, the consequences of development, and the legal battles between public-private ownership that continue to shape the region today." -H-Environment "Karl Boyd Brooks has written a masterful book about the politics of hydropower." --Technology and Culture "Transcending that familiar debate over the preservation of the 'wilderness' of nature, Brooks's examination of this remote Idaho location provides new insight into the origins of the modern environmental movement." -H-Net Reviews "The author has done a great job as an environmental historian with sharp insights and a perceptive eye to the unknown. He offers valuable new insight into a question that still agitates the country, whether government or private corporations should be in charge of developing our natural resources." -Educational Book Review "Brooks does a splendid job of showing how the Bonneville Power Administration assumed its roles of partner, planner, and promoter of public power in the Pacific Northwest. The author could tell this story as few others might. Public Power, Private Dams is a fine tale." --Oregon Historical Quarterly