Mobilization by Contractor: Upon being given notice to proceed with construction of the dam, the Morrison-Knudsen Company established an office in Cookeville, Tennessee, where there was available space and adequate telephone and housing facilities. He made a survey of the local housing situation near the dam and found that there were no adequate accommodations for the personnel required; hence, he was forced to construct a rather elaborate camp for the size of the job.
In order to accommodate the heavy hauling, he reinforced all of the bridges between the railhead at Algood and the dam site and brought in materials and equipment and started building access roads. Under the original agreement he was to have built a new bridge across the Obey near Celina to withstand heavier and wider loads than could have been carried by the existing bridge but this bridge was eliminated in favor of a 2 mile access road from the Livingston-Celina Highway and the construction of a low-level bridge across the Obey River at the dam site. This reduced the haulage distance about 8 miles and saved many miles of travel before the bridge was destroyed by flood.
The contractor moved on to the site Jan. 12, 1942 and started construction of his office, bunk house, mess hall and other buildings. On Jan. 16, 1942 Oman Construction Company of Nashville moved in his equipment and started work on the north access road and on Jan. 17 the Morrison-Knudsen Company started pioneering the south access roadway with bull dozers and heavy shovels. Work on the camp continued during this time in spite of heavy rain and mud.
The first shipment of trestle steel was received on 28 January 1942, while other heavy equipment and supplies continued to arrive steadily. A quarry was opened on Feb. 6, 1942 at an old state highway site one mile south of Celina by Tobin Quarries for necessary rock for the access and camp roads. The first contract work was started on 9 February 1942 with the clearing and stripping of the north abutment. A week later excavation for the mixing plant was started. By the middle of March 1942 a considerable portion of the heavy equipment was on the site and excavation for cofferdams and stream diversion and on the north and south abutments was well under way.
On Feb. 26, 1942 construction was started by the Bardstown Transfer Company on the quarry access road and was completed about the middle of April 1942. This road followed the approximate alignment of an existing county road, with the rights-of-way furnished by the Clay County Highway Commissioners. The supplying of aggregates was sub-contracted to Lambert Brothers, Knoxville, Tennessee. This company started construction on March 10, 1942, and the clearing of the main quarry site on March 18, 1942.
Concurrently with construction of the camp layout, work was started about March 1, 1942 on such construction facilities as the compressor plant, aggregate storage yard, conveyors, pumping plants, water tanks, trestle, concrete plant, derricks, etc. This work continued and by June 2, 1942 the first bucket of concrete was placed in Monolith 2 using a Rex Dual Drum Paver and the Lima Dragline for the operation. Placing continued by this method until July 11, 1945 when the large mixing plant was placed in regular operation. By this time the camp and construction facilities were practically complete and further operation were devoted to the construction of the dam.
At the start of construction, the Morrison-Knudsen Company entered into an agreement with the Nashville Building and Trade Council, and American Federation of Labor Affiliate, for the furnishing of all labor for the project. The union wage rates were in conformity with the determination of the U.S. Department of Labor as incorporated in the specifications for the dam. Although the supply of skilled labor at times was not entirely adequate, the union representatives apparently made every effort to fulfill their contract and no strikes or labor troubles of any kind were experienced on the job. The peak employment was reached in July 1942 when approximately 1,200 persons were at the project, 950 of whom were skilled or unskilled personnel furnished through the union and the reminder supervisory and Engineer Department employees. This employment figure remained practically constant through December 1942, then gradually lessened throughout the remainder of the job.