Dam the Columbia: Navigation
Some enterprising, vigorous, big-minded man will form a company some day and dam the Columbia at some place where nature makes it feasible.
J.P. Wager in the East Oregonian, Oct. 10, 1891
Calls to dam the Columbia River at Umatilla Rapids began before the turn of the century. As early as 1897, Sam Jackson of the Pendleton East Oregonian began a campaign to improve navigation on the Columbia by building a Umatilla Dam. Rival editor and publisher of the old Pendleton Tribune, Elmer P. Dodds, agreed. In 1902 he published a lengthy article, "Open Columbia To the Sea," calling for federal assistance in tapping the agricultural riches of the Inland Empire.
Adam at the Umatilla Rapids would provide a slackwater route to the ocean. Despite blasting rocks to deepen the channel at Umatilla, the swift rapids, rocks and whirlpools impeded commercial trade with the wheat producing Inland Empire of eastern Oregon, Washington, and along the Snake River of Idaho. Sternwheelers, steamboats, and barges braved the hazardous rapids throughout the early 20th century, but at great risk.