I was sad, so sad to leave.
I GUSH Portland and I loved this trip.
One thing led to another…I ended up at Bonnesville Dam. I couldn’t even believe it myself. On the way to the airport, I dragged my luggage, and didn’t even bother to bring a camera because I was tired.
The Dam itself, with the gushing water, the hydro power generating house, and the fish hatchery was impressive enough. But when the private tour was over, we were given a picnic box. When I looked up, I saw the 360 degree panorama of the Pacific Northwest…the pine trees, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and the sky, everything. I couldn’t believe that I was in such a beautiful environment, being led on a private tour and conversation.
The problem to be solved in the 1930’s was that at a certain junction, the Columbia River was hard to navigate around for ships, and the natural environment sometimes created flooding. They also wanted to try harvesting electric energy from the powerful water energy that was already in nature.
So the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam to alter the water pattern and to generate hydro power. But that created a new problem. Fish could not survive the new geographic configuration because they couldn’t get back to the places they need to get to to spawn. People needed the fish to survive, a staple central to the culture and economy of the people in the Pacific Northwest. So the Army Corps of Engineers devised a series of other structures (like a “fish ladder” ) to allow the fish to continue to be born, swim to the right locations, and survive.
Along the way, the Native Americans lost their rights to fish salmon, which is as central to their lifestyle as much as money and food. Everyone had to come together solve the problem through negotiations and litigation. In the meantime, the Dam generated enough energy to power the city of Portland and beyond, taking advantage of a few basic laws of physics.
As I was standing in the power generating facility, looking at these gigantic structures, I thought, “It is true. If you can dream it, you can make it.” And if you run into problems, then try to find a solution. And if you can’t build it yourself, find someone will be able to build that steely-burly-scary-heavyweight-looking-thing for you.
On the viewing deck in the Power House, the others in the group were talking among themselves. I had my eyes glued on the giant machines and generators that churned out millions of watts of power.
During the trip, a friend, 2536 miles away, who’s been working on his project for the last 4 years sent out an email that he’s finally gotten his product rolled out, and is featured in the Boston Globe. On the flight back, I overheard the guy who sat behind my row that he got a $1.5 million grant to work on his device that detects the presence of antibodies to HIV within a minute (information available in the public domain). Someone told me a novel use of Botox® in military medicine, of injecting 500 units of the neuroparalytic agent, botulinum toxin, around where the leg prosthesis and the leg meet, so that sweating is inhibited and the leg prosthesis stays on tight. Whereas before, the prosthesis would fall off due to excessive perspiration around the joint, and the person would literally fall over unexpectedly.