History of North Bonneville
For centuries the Columbia River Gorge has been used and inhabited by man, although not until the nineteenth century was the region opened up to a great infux of settlers and fortune seekers. In 1850 Hamilton Island originally named by Lewis & Clark "Strawberry Island", became the site of the first portage railroad and the settlement of the Cascades; swept away in the severe flood of 1894. Forty years later the community of North Bonneville developed as a construction town next to the massive Bonneville Lock, Dam, and powerhouse project begun in late 1933. Federal legislation of the 1937 also authorized a second Powerhouse, although the need was not then immediate. North Bonneville was incorporated in 1935.
The Columbia’s north shore where North Bonneville had grown was selected by federal agencies in 1971 as the site for the second Powerhouse. Faced with the prospect of being displaced and disbanded the townspeople determined to relocate as a community. Intense efforts by citizens’ groups and planning assistance from state sources finally led to agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hire professionals for the design and construction of a new town. Contractors then prepared the chosen town site for the initial community of 600 people as the old town was devoured by the enormous excavation for the new powerhouse.
Efforts continue, with ongoing development, in the town for keeping with the new plan and in harmony with the enduring gorge settings. Modern facilities provided for the fully developed initial town ensure that community growth can continue without harm to this special environment. In March 1978 the transfer to the new town site was made, although much work still remained to be done.
A major accomplishment of the Corps of Engineers' second Powerhouse project was the complete relocation of the town of North Bonneville . The seven-year effort to relocate the residents and businesses of the town marked the first time that federal funds were spent to plan, design and develop a new community in connection with a water resource project.
Federal responsibility for the North Bonneville relocation was expanded in 1974 with enactment of Public Law 93-251, referred to as the McCormack legislation. This law specifically broadened the Corps' authority and obligation in relocation assistance to North Bonneville . The $35 million relocation project included raising the new town site above the 100-year flood plain, construction of streets, utilities, lighting, sewage system, water supply and sewage treatment plant, flood protection, parks, a central business district and all public buildings. Town sitting required highway and railway relocation. And residents and business were furnished temporary housing until they could build their own permanent homes and facilities. The new town was built to accommodate 1500 residents. A celebration of the successful relocation was held July 29, 1978.