Saturday, March 3, 2018

Hayden's Point Man: Roy Elson, his view in oral interview

Elson, Roy.  Oral History with Senate History project, interviewer: Donald Ritchie
Interview 9 Transcribed, 6 Jul 1990
Central Arizona Project (CAP), pp 183-208 and 210-8

His words, copied from the transcript are in black; my commentary in blue.

Elson was Arizona Senator Carl Hayden’s chief aide in the 1950’s and 60’s.

I have excerpted relevant sections from his recollections. He always gives credit to Hayden, while putting his own actions and role forward as well. His evaluations of others are useful. However, much of what he says only makes sense if the reader is familiar with the 1963-8 CAP history, and there are crucial questions unanswered.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Dam Battle – November-December 1967 Press

1 Nov, Republic carries a press conference by Arizona governor Williams describing his attempt to explain Arizona’s position to upper basin governors. He failed to obtain their support. [Speculative comment: Governors on these water issues were more spear carriers than heavy lifters — the congressional delegations were the brains and the work horses.] Wyoming had said there wasnt enough water, so import studies were needed. Williams pointed out Senator Jackson’s opposition to such studies and his essential role. He also argued that Sec. Udall’s desalting plant to satisfy the Mexican obligation would take until 1980, too long for his state. He believes the others realize Arizona will get its water.

Dam Battle - October 1967 Press

1 Oct, Denver Post predicts the odds are against the current Hayden effort to win House approval for the CAP. However, opponents know “they are in the fight of their lives”, since water for the CAP would deprive the Upper Basin states of their share. Time is pressing Hayden, 90 tomorrow, but there is little doubt he will get the ⅔-vote required in the Senate. But the real battle will be in the House, and so Hayden, accompanied by Arizona Representative Rhodes — who is on the House Appropriations Public Works Subcommittee  — visited Subcommittee Chairman M. Kirwan. Word has spread that, as chair of the public works appropriations conference, Kirwan agreed to go along with Hayden’s move to get the CAP accepted through the appropriations process. However, the House will then have to approve, with the CAP “sticking out on it like an immensely expensive sore thumb”.
   Denver’s congressman Rogers is a friend of Kirwan’s, but when, at their regular breakfast, Rogers brought up the CAP, “Kirwan exploded: Colorado shouldnt be so selfish.” However, after Rogers patiently explained Arizona’s switch from a basin-wide approach to a CAP-only bill, Kirwan concluded he “was in a spot”. Every kind of pressure will now be put on the uncommitted members of the subcommittee. Though rare, such a maneuver to push through the CAP as part of appropriations has happened.
  Hayden’s great power in the Senate will be confronted in the House by the influence of House Interior Committee Chairman Aspinall. He will be listened to on a matter where the committee structure is bypassed to vote on a bill never reported by any House committee. Despite his crotchety disposition, Aspinall is greatly respected, within his committee and the House. Also, the House is in an economy-minded mood. So Californian congressmen will use the tactic of asking House members how they can approve a $1.2 billion reclamation project. [Though the Aspinall version would cost over $2 billion.] The Californians and the Coloradans “have their work cut out for them.”

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dam Battle – September 1967 Press

4 Sep, Post, summary: Arizonans will try to revive CAP in the House next year. They are also planning to travel the go-it-alone avenue. Aspinall has ignored any signals so far. His committee is dominated by upper Basin legislators. Blame for lack of action is put by Aspinall on Sec. Udall’s no-dam initiative. Aspinall is also concerned about whether the money will ever get appropriated for all the projects involved.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

John Saylor and the Grand Canyon, 1950-73*

This “green Republican”, as Smith labels him, played a significant role in the Grand Canyon’s history, first in 1950-1, then in the 1963-8 major dam battle, and finally probably would have in the 1972-5 expansion of Grand Canyon National Park, had he not died (in office) in October 1973.

Assessing that role is not a simple matter, given that during most of his career, he was in the House minority, affecting his political weight even when he was senior Republican on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. Yet those were different times than today. Congress worked differently. Democrats figured prominently on both sides of conservation/environmental/resource/development/Western issues. Saylor was a conservative of his time, and believed in a government that could work and do good, for his district and for the American people. Therefore, it was his responsibility and joy as a legislator to act constructively, to make laws, sometimes to oppose them, but overall to move government along as a positive force in the nation’s life, even as he fulminated against “big government” and “reckless over-spending”. The barn-burners and toadies-to-wealth who wear the Republican label today would scorn and revile his commitments and activities.

John Saylor: A Leader in Conservation and Environmental Issues, A Congressman, A Republican. Yes, a Republican. 1949-73

It is necessary and important, amidst my recounting of the effort to keep dams from being built in the Grand Canyon, to be introduced to John Saylor, U. S. Representative 1949-73, Republican from Pennsylvania. My own experience with Congressman Saylor was limited to 1966-8; his experience with defending our National Park System, and more generally America’s grand natural heritage, extended over a quarter-century of intense and significant environmental debate and change in public opinion and national policy.

A full account of Saylor’s life is provided in T. G. Smith’s Green Republican*. This biography, necessarily, presents a facet of the political history of a time, hard to imagine in this era, when government service was thought of as contributing to the building, widening, and strengthening of the American polity. Saylor, though rarely in the House majority, was as much or more concerned with building up America as he was in heading off wrong-headed policy directions.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dam Battle - August 1967 Press

At the end of July, Cong. Morris Udall organized a river trip for nine of his House colleagues.  The Arizona Republic (1-2 Aug) was represented; here are the intrepid legislators near Phantom Ranch, investigating the Grand Canyon, Udall is the one grinning second from right. More important

to the newspaper was that Rodgers Morton (second from left), Republican of Maryland, “was convinced he was wrong in originally opposing” the CAP. After his six days on the river, Morton, “with a first-hand look at the country (was) convinced that the recreation advantages on the river with the dams are tremendous”. He saw that the damsites would not “interfere with Grand
Canyon National Park”, and would tell this to the “conservation groups and garden clubs in my own district” who had been “pressuring” him. Morton was the most outspoken of the group, though another member appeared shocked that the proposed reservoir would not reach to Phantom Ranch.

[This trip had no impact on the course of the legislation, but sad to say, events just downstream did affect Grand Canyon’s future. Orren Beaty, the man in the background fourth from left, slipped while on one of the pontoon rafts and hit his head on the motor, causing a serious enough injury that he was helicoptered out. Six years later, when Morton was President Nixon’s Secretary of the Interior, he was considering the question of whether motors should continue to be used on Grand Canyon trips. Remembering the Beaty incident, he decided that motors should stay while a study was done on river travel’s safety. This led to a 7-year delay in decision-making, and allowed motorboat operators to gain the upper hand in determining river traffic policy.
From my point of view, he showed remarkable consistency in the conclusions he drew in these two situations from his “first-hand look”. You can lead an ignorant person to the library; you cannot make him read books.]