Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy dedicated the newly constructed dam near Pierre known as the Oahe dam. At the time, it was the largest rolled-earth dam in the world.
Much has been written about the vision of taming the Missouri River, which flooded frequently, as well as the benefits of irrigation and recreation along the river.
But it's fair to say that the power generation part of the dam system changed the course of the future for Madison and this area.
Both Madison and Dakota State University (through the state of South Dakota) acquired "preference" status, which means they had allocations to the clean, affordable electric power generated by the Big Bend Dam, and later by Oahe. The new power replaced diesel power generated in Madison at the time.
The new resource was immediately used as a marketing tool for Madison as it sought to attract new businesses and grow.
And Dakota State was just kicking off one of its biggest growth spurts in its history. In the first ten years after the Oahe dedication, four new dormitories were built, as were the Trojan Center, Science Center, Mundt Library and the Tyrrell building.
The rural electric cooperatives surrounding Madison also acquired "preference" status. The new power not only satisfied a rapidly growing demand from farmers, but also gave them the independence that allowed them to control their own power supply future.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Oahe dedication is worth noting, and recognizing the positive impact this project had on Madison and the surrounding area.