Monday, May 31, 2010

Dams: Fed vs. Fed, 1930's

Through the 1920's and 30's, Reclamation concentrated its attention on the Boulder project. It generated no grand plans, as La Rue did, and made no claims on Grand Canyon damsites, as Arizona and private parties did. Nevertheless, staff was aware and thoughtful about Reclamation's role in Canyon power development; a policy of watchful waiting spiced up now and then by ensuring that turf was not lost.

One such mote in the eye was a hapless application by a Phoenician for a Marble Canyon dam to supply cities and mines. Reclamation told the FPC in Oct 1934 that the water rights were adverse, that no storage was available at the location, and that the case was strong for coordinated river development. The FPC denied.

Another indicator of a more long-running controversy was a Jan 1933 letter from NPS Director Albright to Reclamation head Mead. This vexing time-bomb had been set by the proclamation of the second Grand Canyon National Monument a month earlier, raising Reclamation worries. Albright argued this way: The 1920 federal power act opened all national parks and monuments to development. The 1921 act repealing the 1920 act prohibited development, but only in existing parks and monuments. Since then, NPS additions made by legislation explicitly prohibited power development. The GCNM of 1932 was not created by law, but by presidential proclamation. Therefore, it did not interfere with, delay or render impracticable the Bridge project. Thus, the FPC had jurisdiction over power development in GCNM. NPS "had in mind all the time the Bridge Canyon Project." Then --and watch this switch-- he added, there was no possible way to interfere with Bridge "provided it receives the approval of the Secretary of the Interior", which would carry with it the approval of Reclamation and NPS. Indeed, since the 1921 act did not apply to the GCNM, Reclamation did not even need to seek NPS approval.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dams: Arizona Trying, 1930's (re-done, 6/5)

The 1920's round in the competition over how to develop the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon's region was clearly won by the federal Bureau of Reclamation's plan to protect and serve California's needs. The seemingly vigorous Girand effort to build a private power dam at Diamond Creek was thwarted by the non-Arizona Basin states allied with the feds, arguing before the Federal Power Commission that the appropriate order was to build the Boulder Project first. (The FPC in the 1920's was composed of the Secretaries of War, Interior, and Agriculture; in 1930, this was changed to a five-member independent board. My impression, however, is the FPC staff may have evaluated projects on grounds other than what their bosses from the administration favored.) Arizona fussed, fumed, and shook its fists on the outskirts, without major effect. It first backed, then undercut, Girand (who was  Phoenix-based.) It refused to accept the Compact allocating the Colorado. Governor Campbell in 1922 appointed La Rue as head of a state engineering board. And La Rue's 1925 staircase scheme including a Lee's Ferry dam was certainly a counter to the Boulder Project, though he proved an ineffective advocate. 

One way, therefore, to tell the story of Colorado River development affecting the Canyon would be continued as a consistently maintained federal effort until the 1970's wound up the matter with enactment of a Grand Canyon National Park excluding dams. That would be, however, to underplay the very determined efforts made by Arizona to gain control over the Canyon's resources. Arizona acted as a competitor, not a supplicant. There was a genuine Arizonan public position of argument for independent state action, what came to be called the "go it alone" policy. This meant that the FPC remained a player as well as an arena, in which federal plans might be topped. SoCalEdison, a private company, had been a pioneer, but faded after its explorations at Glen, Marble, Diamond, and Boulder. Girand was shoved aside by his home state. The Los Angeles municipal utility, LAPWD, remained a forceful presence, but it was Arizona state action that consistently fought the fed for the chance to realize the power dream inherent in the Canyon's 2000-foot drop.

With the installation of the Boulder Project, the struggle over the Bridge Canyon site became the main focus. A view of the Bridge Canyon site, to show what the dreamers were salivating over. Looking downstream, Hualapai land on river left. (Photo by Duwain Whitis, Jan 2010)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

GCNP river boundary 25: Final print

The sixteen quads that cover the area along the river from river mile 164 were converted into JPEG files and printed out at about 3/4 size. The difference in size between the various maps was about 1/32-1/16. The cost of printing them was modest. On the wall, they span 13' by 8' high. Incorrect references to Lake Mead NRA were removed. The several manifestations of the erroneous boundary along the river have been cleaned up, leaving only the boundary along the south bank that places the water surface of the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park. The land boundary has been corrected in the Parashant-Whitmore and the Grand Wash Cliffs areas. However, the latter has shown up as even more unsatisfactory.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rock Poems: A geologist's afterword

R.C.Moore, the geologist on the 1923 USGS survey trip led by Birdseye, added a 46-page Appendix B to La Rue's 1925 monograph (see two earlier entries). In a half-century, no geologist except for Powell and Gilbert had had the opportunity to study the formations along the river for any distance. And none had been concerned with the problems of flood control and water power. So he worked to study all geologic features, giving special attention to river control and development. His narrative makes a very special guide for a river trip, in this instance, imagined on my part. He described each division --Marble Gorge, Kaibab, Kanab, Uinkaret, Shivwits-- in a linear fashion, stopping for a detailed reporting of each damsite, summing up its qualities; looking for good, strong foundations and abutments, the likelihood for leakage around the dam, and whether there is nearby good rock for construction material. A qualitative assessment, but one that sounds very authoritative. Here he is* on the Specter Chasm damsites, ~mile 130:

They are in the highest narrow section of the Middle Granite Gorge, with walls composed of hard dark reddish-brown to bluish-black schistose quartzite and quartzitic schist, with some black amphibolite, somewhat extensively injected with medium to coarse grained pink granite pegmatite in irregular veins and with thin veins of milky quartz. [It is to eat.]
  The strike is essentially parallel to the course of the river. The rocks are very hard, being broken by the hammer only with considerable difficulty. This hardness and the very dense, impermeable texture make the rock very satisfactory for the foundations and abutments, though they will increase the cost of drilling and quarrying. The schistose structure is not so well developed as to be of much aid in working the rock. The dark rocks are undoubtedly an indurated, somewhat metamorphosed sedimentary series which has been closely folded, squeezed, and in places more or less broken. 
  The right wall is rather smoother than the left, for the planes of schistosity often define the slope. Exposures of the pink granitic intrusive rocks are less conspicuous. The left wall is steep and jaggedly rough, the slope cutting across the schistose structure. Intrusive pink granite pegmatite is abundant, and extends for considerable distances subhorizontally. 
The Archean rocks are capped by a 100' cliff of Tapeats sandstone, medium to coarse grained, irregularly cross-bedded, and hard.
  The river flow here is quiet and rather even, filling the canyon. The estimated depth to bedrock is 30 to 50 feet.

The dam site walls are so dense and relatively so unshattered by joints or fractures that in spite of the trend of the schist, they are entirely satisfactory as a foundation, and believed to be impermeable to water under pressure. (This photo is plate XXXII in La Rue, 1925.)

  The quartzite of the walls is more than sufficiently dense and hard for use as concrete aggregate. It is rather difficult to get at and expensive to crush. The higher walls furnish an abundance of suitable, fairly easily accessible, and readily quarried material for concrete. The massive brown hard dolomite in the Bright Angel will furnish large quantities most easily obtained, as this bed forms extensive benches  with gentle slopes and little cover. The Muav and Redwall limestones are satisfactory, but higher and more difficult to work. 
  Sand is most readily obtainable by crushing the unlimited quantities of Tapeats sandstone, which has grains that are medium to very coarse and gritty, and subangular. The cementing material is not such as to make crushing expensive. 

*I have mostly used his language, but abridged the selection; therefore, it is not a complete, direct quotation (cf. pp.151-3 of La Rue's 1925 "Water power and flood control of the Colorado …").

Sunday, May 16, 2010

La Rue's Dream Book, part 2

In the factual heart of his 1925 monograph, La Rue poured out his expertise, describing each of the damsites, giving location along the river and in the geology, including usable materials. He had photographed each site. He offers ideas on spillway and powerhouse location. Plan-view maps fix the ideas. He discusses water supply and power capacity. always in horsepower (When did the kilowatt come into use? Although I am not providing any numbers, 1 hp ~ 3/4 kw.) He proposed needed transport. In conclusion, he fits each site in his overall scheme.

To start, his proposed Redwall site is just up from the Fence Fault at river mile (rm) 30. No spillway, and the water would have to go 1000' through tunnels to the power plant. The crest would be at 3108' elev., a modest 222' high. It was engineered so as not to interfere with his Lee's Ferry site. He offers an alternate site a couple of miles downstream, later surveyed hard by Reclamation. La Rue, however, found no favorable place there for the powerhouse or construction camp.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Dream Book -- La Rue, 1925

Before 1925, the Girand proposal for a Diamond Creek dam seemed a major contender. After that year, it was a corpse. Before that year, there seemed to be live argument between major control dams above the Grand Canyon (La Rue et al.), and below it (California and Reclamation). After that year, the contest was over, as the decision slid irreversibly away from La Rue's ideas. And almost as a grave marker for his hopes, La Rue published in 1925 the results of his researches, including from the 1923 USGS expedition, in USGS Water Supply Paper 556 "Water Power and Flood Control of Colorado River Below Green River, Utah".*

Well, thats the title. What it really is, is a compendium of dam sites for flood control (23 pp.) and power (62 pp. of which about half are on sites in the Grand Canyon) -- A book of dreams for those who believed that every inch of river drop should produce its modicum of electricity. In his Synopsis, La Rue wrote he intended to present facts on all damsites, and their relative values. He presented his "comprehensive plan of development" (20 years later, Reclamation would do the same, and not so different) to provide "maximum practicable utilization of the potential power, maximum preservation of water for irrigation, effective elimination of the flood menace, and adequate solution of the silt problem". The order suggests a set of priorities that, by not echoing California's, indicates his un-political ways. Of course, the comprehensive plan does not comprehend the protection of the values Grand Canyon National Park was set up to celebrate. 

GCNP river boundary 24: tweaking toward a map

My goal of producing an up-to-date set of maps for the western Canyon with correct labels and boundary lines has been guided by the constraint of available wall space, finally settled on at 7' high by 10' wide. Running from mile 164.5 (Tuckup Canyon) on down just past the Grand Wash Cliffs the set is 9 topos wide by 5 high, meaning a reduction from the published size of about 30%. This also fit in with the limits on affordable reproduction, but only if each map was cut in half.
 The steps to reachable maps were to select a test map, use PSE8 to set the orientation to north-south using Correct Camera Distortion, then crop at the midway point (overlap o.k., a gap not). Saving each half as a JPEG file reduced the map to a practical size (160 MB to 20). Each printed half is 14" x 8-3/4". The result for Columbine Falls was satisfactory. Oddly, one half is 1/32" longer than the other. 
  Fifteen maps remain to tweak for printing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

GC dams: Clearing Ground --and Digging It Out

The rush on the Federal Power Commission in the 1920's was speculative fever. The multiplying applications were spun from the not unusual conviction that wealth was to be had, and without much work. Girand's Diamond Creek project, perhaps seeming the most solid, only drives the point home, as is indicated in the comment Boyer and Webb extract from the 1923 USGS survey narratives; Stabler, one of the topographers, says that Girand had picked the best site for a low dam, but it was scarcely suitable for one to more fully utilize the potential by reaching back to Havasu. He himself speculated on a couple of other nearby sites, and then as the survey proceeded, they came upon a "remarkably fine" site with "great opposing granite walls". Which of course, had not even been taken up during the rush; it was not known. It would be, for this was the Bridge Canyon location.
(Yes, Killroy was here at Bridge, too. Photo by Duwain Whitis, Jan 2010, courtesy of Tom Martin of River Runners for Wilderness.
Certainly a "remarkably fine" undamsite. Cf. entry of 11 Apr 2010)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dams: Round One, at Diamond Creek

J. B. Girand had come to Phoenix from Texas, an un-degreed civil engineer. He worked for mining companies, and must have impressed somebody, for he was appointed Territorial Engineer in 1909, working on a plan for a highway system connecting county seats. For what its worth, G.W.P. Hunt was elected as governor, the state's first, in 1912, which was Girand's last year as T.E. Then, September 1913, he submitted right-of-way applications to the Interior Department for six hydropower sites in the Canyon: downstream of Whitmore, near Granite Park, near Diamond Creek (watch this one), downstream of Separation & Triumphal Arch, and at Grand Wash Cliffs. He formed a private engineering firm in 1914, and was said to have drilled some holes at the Diamond site that year. In December 1915, the General Land Office granted him preliminary power permits. A lone pioneer, Girand possibly chose Diamond because it was the most accessible, not the best, damsite. Not quite alone, actually, for near the junction with the Colorado, a 1925 LA survey group found a 1910 filing notice for "location for power purposes".

A parallel activity was withdrawing land along the river from entry to reserve it under five different orders for water-power site purposes. At first, the lands withdrawn, 1914-20, were unsurveyed, and after the survey was done, interpretations were applied in 1927-38. The 3150' contour was important, as was the line 1/4 mile from the river; both modified, of course, by the survey's legal lines. Altogether, a feast for legal geekdom. 

As the 1920's began, several arenas were active. The federal power act of 1920 created the Federal Power Commission, giving it the authority to conduct hearings and grant licenses for hydropower projects on public lands (though not in national parks). This was where Girand would pursue Diamond Creek.  He had dropped three of his six dams, and received a preliminary permit in 1920 for Diamond.