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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago: ‘Big Bend reclamation project’ pitched to irrigate central Washington

A plan to irrigate central Washington was being floated at a meeting of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce. (Spokesman-Review archives)
A plan to irrigate central Washington was being floated at a meeting of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce. (Spokesman-Review archives)

A special meeting of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce heard about an exciting plan to irrigate 3 million acres of land in the Big Bend country of Washington.

This was not, however, an early version of what would become the Grand Coulee Dam reclamation scheme.

This plan called for irrigating central Washington from an entirely different source: the Pend Oreille River.

This “Big Bend reclamation project” had proponents who wanted to build a canal/tunnel which would begin at Newport and continue through Spokane and Davenport all the way to the arid sections of central Washington.

Details of the plan were being sent to the state’s U.S. senators and representatives, in hopes of securing as much as $75 million in federal funding.

One daunting aspect: It would require “a canal seven-and-a-half times the size of the Spokane River.”

From the aviator beat: A letter written a week before the armistice by Spokane aviator Lt. U.T. McCurry described what life was like for an army pilot in France.

“Got in the usual scrap the last trip over and am keeping some souvenirs from it,” McCurry wrote. “Have pieces of fabric riddled with bullets. One of my flying wires was shot in two and most of the fabric on my fuselage was in shreds when I got back. A hole about four feet square was riddled with phosphorus archie (anti-aircraft shell) and slowly burning when I got down. I have a cane made for you from a smashed propellor, but the mail service is so rotten I don’t dare send it to you.”

He mentioned that he was “fed up to the gills” with the war.

A week later, after the armistice, he added a postscript that said, “I am still fed up, but peace covers a multitude of sins and suppose we are all glad.”

He also delivered the sad news that another Spokane aviator had been shot down and presumed killed.

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