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President Obama visits Hoover Dam

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

President Barack Obama talks with Janel Brawner-Potucek, left, and Rob Skordas while visiting the Hoover Dam on a break from debate preparations Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. Skordas is the assistant dam manager for history and operational logistics and Brawner-Potucek is from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 | 5:15 p.m.

Obama visits Hoover Dam

KSNV reports that President Barack Obama visited the Hoover Dam for the first time, Oct. 02.

Obama Visits Hoover Dam

President Barack Obama talks to the media while visiting the Hoover Dam during a break from debate preparations Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Hoover Dam Aerial Tour

A bird's-eye view of Hoover Dam and the Hoover Dam Bypass. Launch slideshow »

Map of Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Boulder City

Beyond the Sun

Like many visitors who come to Las Vegas, President Barack Obama made his way Tuesday to the Hoover Dam.

Shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday, the president’s motorcade left the Westin Lake Las Vegas, where Obama is spending three days preparing for his upcoming debates with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for the famed dam, constructed during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.

Obama, according to press reports, learned from an aide his hotel was only 15 minutes away from the dam and said, "Well, we've got to go check it out."

Wearing a blue and white checkered collar shirt with sleeves rolled up and khaki slacks, Obama got out of the car to take a look. He was greeted by Rob Skordas, assistant dam manager for history and operational logistics, and Janel Brawner-Potucek, of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Obama also visited the transformer deck and powerhouse at the base of the dam. Members of the media were not allowed to follow.

"It's spectacular and I'd never seen it before," Obama told reporters of the dam.

Here’s what Obama may have learned during his visit to the national landmark:

• Construction on Hoover Dam, first known as Boulder Dam, began on April 20, 1931, and was completed on March 1, 1936, at a cost of $49 million. (Multiply that number by 13 or 14 and that’s about what it would cost in today’s dollars.)

• The dam stands 726.4 feet tall from foundation rock to its crest — second highest in the country to the Oroville Dam — and spans 1,244 feet. It is 660 feet thick at its base and 45 feet thick at the top.

• If placed on a scale it would weigh about 6.6 million tons.

• More than 4 million cubic yards of concrete were used to build Hoover Dam. And the concrete was poured in sheets just six inches thick and cooled with tubes that cycled refrigerated water from the Colorado River.

• The project provided the Southwest with protection from flood damage, generated electricity at reduced rates and guaranteed a water supply to irrigate thousands of acres of farmland.

• Turbines from the 17 power generating units produce 2,080 megawatts of electrical power — enough to meet the needs of 1 million to 1.5 million people for one year.

• California gets 56 percent of that power, including 15 percent for Los Angeles. Nevada gets 25 percent of the power generated by the dam, although Las Vegas gets just 4 percent. Arizona gets the remaining 19 percent.

• Lake Mead is the dam’s reservoir, encompassing 157,900 acres or 247 square miles. It has been shrinking significantly in recent years because of the region’s record drought.

• The dam is operated by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation. In 1981 the dam was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and four years later it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The president's motorcade returned to the Westin Lake Las Vegas at about 2:30 p.m.

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