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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 75 years ago

The year was 1938, and John C. Page, federal commissioner of reclamation, visited the Inland Northwest and predicted it would soon become nothing less than “an empire, such as exists nowhere to my knowledge.”

Here’s what he visualized when he looked out over the arid sage lands of Eastern Washington: “A wide diversity of crops, most of them of higher value than the staple grain and hay crops of other regions. This may lead eventually to raising sugar beets, to stock feeding and raising of malt barley and other special crops. … The ideal we are shooting at is a community of small farms, thickly settled with convenient facilities, such as schools, roads, railroads, etc., and the whole area covered with a network of power lines.”

He was, of course, looking ahead to the miracle that would occur once the Grand Coulee Dam was completed and the Columbia Basin would bloom with irrigation.

“We are gratified,” he said, “that ample funds have been provided so that the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam can proceed vigorously.”

A front-page editorial cartoon showed Page waving a wand and conjuring up a pastoral scene, with the headline, “His Magic Wand Will Conjure Wealth for Columbia Basin.”