Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dam Press 1966: The Target Is The Sierra Club

Arizona newspapers did of course report on the events of the 1966 Colorado River Basin legislative struggle. In addition, or even as part of their reportage, they published material aimed at blunting, denying, and countering information put out by the anti-dam forces, in particular, the Sierra Club. These published pieces deserve their own display, in part because they were not central to events, but a side flow — this was the Arizonans’ preaching to their own choir. What I present here is a judicious selection and editing in order to provide a sense of what being so relentlessly targeted was like.

The pieces come mostly from Phoenix’s Arizona Republic (Rep) and Gazette (Gaz), Tucson’s Daily Star and Citizen (Cit)

This intense dis-informative coverage in my files starts with the “invasion” of Arizona by the Club and the Reader’s Digest in late March 1966.

24 Mar, Rep: “Sierra Club Prepares A ‘Low Blow’ at CAP” speaks of the Club’s fight “to scuttle the Central Arizona Project dams”. Reader’s Digest was sponsoring a workshop on the brink of the Grand Canyon. An R.D. representative was in Phoenix “issuing hurried invitations” to Arizonans to take part in the sessions to “explore possibilities of destruction of the Grand Canyon”. The Club’s Brower will moderate. The Club was the conference promoter, and the format was heavily weighted toward its point of view. The RD rep said newsmen and western officlals had been invited. They would be flown in and taken to the workshop. Goldwater was unable to come. The RD rep had contacted the CAP’s chief lobbyist, R Johnson, for help. Johnson was bringing several other pro-dam Arizonans, interested in “balanced development”. 

The AP version of this story ran in several state newspapers.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Press reports on 1965 hearings: Aug-Sep

Before I started in January 1966 as the Sierra Club Southwest Representative, much groundwork had been done on Colorado River legislation. The Supreme Court had affirmed Arizona’s water rights to Colorado River water. In response, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall had overseen the development of a grand plan — the Pacific Southwest Water Plan — to satisfy Arizona and as well set the stage for avoiding water shortages looming in the Southwest’s future. Senator Hayden was once again ready to move a CAP bill, but set it aside to let the House, a more refractory setting, see what it could come up with. H.R. 4671, the Arizona bill from Representative Morris Udall, was worked on in 1965 under the guiding hand of Wayne Aspinall’s House Interior Committee.
  The only press clippings I have from this period come from the end of the hearings before the Reclamation Subcommittee, when anti-dam testimony was heard. This recounting then is only a fragment of what must have been a time of vigorous discussion on how to get the seven Colorado Basin states into agreement.




31 Aug, Phoenix Gazette (AP): “Conservationists Attack Dam Plans” started off by reporting the testimony of C. Callison of Audubon and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower and Editor H. Nash. They argued that dams were not needed because coal-fired electric plants could produce cheaper power. Callison urged that Marble Canyon be added to the national park; a dam would diminish river flow, altering one of the earth’s grandest areas of scenic beauty. The lower dam at Bridge Canyon would be “an outright invasion of the national park principle by backing water into the existing park”. Nash testified that boat trips through the Canyon would be virtually impossible, because of the difficulties presented by a dam in Marble.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dam Battle - December 1966 Press

1 Dec, Los Angeles Times, repeats Grand Junction Sentinel story of 28 Nov on possible use of thermal power for CAP.

2 Dec, Republic, article “Moving of Water Termed ‘a Folly’” reports “blunt” statement by Washington state water official, R. Tinney in front of a national Food & Fiber Commission: “transporting water long distances was transferring major income without specific social objectives”. Not a proper economic action for the federal government to subsidize such water movement. It would help Washington’s steel industry to subsidize movement of iron ore from Minnesota, but it is not clear that would be for the nation’s general good. Tinney said, the Southwest’s “enthusiasm for irrigation has led to many excesses”, such as exploitation of ground water. When the water table drops, the local community expects their water to be replenished. Tinney was praised for his report and “courage in giving it in Arizona”.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dam Battle - November 1966 Press

2 Nov, Sentinel, editorial: Currently Colorado River Basin (CRB) bill is in stalemate, with much finger pointing now. Backers should have listened to Chm. Aspinall. Upcoming meetings will provide chance to explore solutions.

4 Nov, Salt Lake Tribune, editorial: Nat. Reclamation Assoc.(NRA) should be complimented for inviting Brower to speak at its convention Nov 19. His arguments should be heard in an open meeting, where they can be answered, as they will be by Cong. Udall. CRB proponents will have to do more than call him uncomplimentary names to get their program passed. We hope that the Sierra Club will do likewise at one of their public meetings. [We already had, inviting Udall to speak at the Santa Fe Conference on a topic of his choice, which turned out to be the proposed Sonoran Desert National Park.]

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dam Battle - October 1966 Press

Interior Secretary Udall, as reported on 18 Sep, offered the idea of replacing the dams in the CAP legislation with nuclear power plants. About a week later (I have no media reports on this), Udall ordered a study of alternate power production as part of a sweeping review of the entire legislation. This set the stage for a CAP/Colorado River basin bill that would be free of dams and an import study. Just three years before, 3 Nov 1963, Udall had ordered that “a plan of action designed to deal constructively with the acute water problems of the Pacific Southwest”, which became the Pacific Southwest Water Plan (PSWWP) and the basis for H.R. 4671 the 1965-6 effort to reach basin-wide agreement on water issues. That effort came to a halt in August 1966. This new plan, a retrenchment from the grandiose 4671, would be used to launch more modest Basin water legislation in the Senate in 1967.
  At the same time, those who wanted to retain the larger-scale provisions and those —Arizonans— who wanted to shrink back to just a state-built dam and waterworks, were arguing for their approaches.


1 Oct, Post, editorial commended Udall for his announcement of a study of dam alternatives. The 1966 bill was dead, due to fears in both the Upper Basin and the Northwest for water supplies and to “the Grand Canyon controversy”. The latter cast doubt on the dams’ validity. The editorial says both nuclear and coal plants need to be considered in a “full and impartial study”. New facts are needed. Then the arguments will start and compromise will be needed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dam Battle - September 1966 Press

1 Sep, Santa Fe New Mexican, editorial: Bill not being passed “is a bitter disappointment to champions of the project”. “Serious setback” given Arizona’s increasingly urgent water needs — and delay for two New Mexican projects. Several weeks ago, we attempted to reveal distortion and half-truths hurled by Sierra Club and Readers Digest. Many countering letters since from citizens. We published pro-dam statements by Cong. Udall and State Engineer Reynolds. “Main point” is whether dams are necessary or would harm canyon’s beauty. They “are sought only as a means to transport and better utilize the precious mineral.” Backers are already planning for next session, so public can be better informed and “realize that the contention of ruining Grand Canyon is comparable with dumping a bucket of water into Yankee Stadium.”

1 Sep, RMN: another report: most of bill’s supporters are “in a state of mourning” though a few are still hopeful. Rules Committee holds the bill, and there seems too few votes for House passage as is, and nobody wants the bare-bones substitute. Aspinall is heading for Colorado; his guidance would be crucial.

1 Sep, Sentinel reports on an emergency “loan” of water to Mexico. Any power loss at dams would be repaid in dollars.

1 Sep, AP, R.Johnson, one of Arizona’s chief CAP lobbyists (he later wrote a book about the CAP fight) said some “hard-nosed” Californians — “a small group of water leaders” (Johnson was likely thinking of Northcutt Ely) — were “scuttling” the hopes of all the basin states for a cooperative solution by imposing “unreasonable demands”. They were convinced the Saylor substitute would pass the House, so they would not let the bill out of Rules (there were two Californians on the small committee). He concluded, “We must begin a thorough examination of alternatives”.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dam Battle: August 1966 Press

And so it turned out that the decisive act that took the wind out of the CRB bill’s sails grew out of mutiny, instead of the external storm stirred up by dam opponents. Captain Aspinall thought it best to change course a bit, hoping to placate the (unplacatable) elements from the Northwest, but the Californian mutineers were determined to keep on the course right into the heart of the heaviest seas. August brought the result.

1 Aug, Washington Post, reports that a committee of scientists urged more and better study of water projects, including exploring all alternatives.

2 Aug, Houston Chronicle, opinion piece by the Outdoors Editor, wondering if the dams were less about water and more about “an overzealous federal bureau”. America’s Park System “is one of the few intelligent things our forebears did”. Now in the House, the dam question requires a better discussion of alternatives. “There is only one Grand Canyon.” Someone has to ask, “Where does it end?”. The growing power of agencies that can bulldoze through legislation bothers the writer.

4 Aug, Farmington (NM) Times, reported that the Navajo Tribal Council had passed, 29-2, a resolution condemning the two Grand Canyon dams as a “needless waste of public funds”. A 1961 resolution in favor of the Marble dam was rescinded [although that resolution was already a dead letter as the Navajo had gone on to oppose the state dam in front of the Federal Power Commission]. They objected to being ignored even as the Hualapai were receiving millions. Annie Wauneka spoke out strongly listing the ways the Navajo had been ignored.