The Modern Era
With the perfection of the chainsaw in the 1940s, the timber industry could take advantage of the postwar housing boom. During that decade, the state’s population increased by nearly 50 percent, growing to over 1.5 million. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers carried out a massive program of new dam projects, resulting in construction of The Dalles, John Day, and McNary Dams on the main stem of the Columbia and the Oxbow and Brownlee Dams on the Snake River. In addition, flooding on the Willamette River was tamed through a series of dams on its major tributary watersheds, the Santiam, the Middle Fork of the Willamette, and the McKenzie.
Politically, the late 1960s and 1970s brought environmentally groundbreaking measures spearheaded by Governor Tom McCall. The bottle bill, land-use statutes, and the cleanup of the Willamette River were part of this legacy.
The 1990s saw the Oregon economy flourish, fueled by the growth of computer hardware and software industries here as well as a real estate market favorable to California retirees. The latter has had sociological ripple effects, with many longtime state residents feeling displaced by the transformed economy and living standards. The legalization of gambling and drastic cuts in education have provoked controversy on all sides of the political spectrum.
While a retreat from longstanding legislative commitments reflects the demographics of Oregon’s new arrivals as well as its changing economic climate, Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide bill, extensive vote-by-mail procedures, medical marijuana initiative, and low-cost health insurance program for low-income Oregonians have sustained its maverick image.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel