Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dams: and Parks II

Following a Reclamation-NPS conference on Bridge's effect in November 1942,  Olmsted reported to Drury, Jan 43, on the effects from two sites with a range of elevations: a lower Gneiss from 1772' up to 1835', and an upper from 1919' to 1970'. Based on Reclamation's own work, Debler had concluded lower Gneiss was better, and told the Commissioner that 1835-40' was the preferred height. Commissioner Page and Director Drury then talked it over, after which Page concluded, and told his Chief Engineer, that unless the advantage of a dam above 1772' was "very material", the invasion could be accomplished only with great difficulty. He doubted plans would contemplate a dam that put water into the Park, even though many thought invasion would not be detrimental. Contrarily, in February, the Chief Engineer recommended using the lower Gneiss site, to 1840', about three miles below Kanab Creek. Since NPS was not averse to development in the Monument, he suggested adding the affected Park to GCNM. The high-water debris would be below Havasu, and the reservoir would be full, mostly. 

NPS also reported on possible camping sites and road access. Necessarily there would be extensive scarring, and more if aggregate were taken above the dam and dropped into place.
A January Reclamation report is in the archives with photos of the drifts showing what was done, up to as high as 1575'. The site to obtain the aggregate was on the south rim at the lower Gneiss site; easy to get at and almost pure limestone. Redwall not accessible.

To gather the materials necessary for the construction plan, the Kingman office was closed,  concentrating office work in Denver . All field work was finished in February, with barges and tools released by March. The spillway specifications were down-sized because of the likelihood of upstream reservoirs. Calculations were being carried out to look for the best economic height. Sep 43, Debler told Olmsted that if the maximum elevation is below 1843', there will be an economic loss.  

LADWP asked, with high urgency, for data, and received it. Debler used LA interest to press for a commitment by Interior to ask Congress to change the Park boundaries, making economics the foremost value. Geologist's report showed all sites excellent; upper Gneiss the best.

Oct 43, McKee made his report, but it is far more visionary than just the geology, the type of report that should have been made before making a Park. He visited Diamond Creek, below Toroweap, the Havasu mouth, and took a boat trip down from there to Bridge. He noted that the youngest strata at river level, after Marble's introduction, were around Havasu. He was impressed by the vast volcanics and the widened stretch along the Hurricane fault. He corroborated the fact that the Canyon was deepest here. The Cambrian record is remarkable for its completeness, and cannot be duplicated, although the greatest loss would be the lavas and ancient sediments. He dismissed the archeology and biology as not unique, and could be recorded before drowning. (Pooh! these geologists.) The Havasu area had striking scenery, but not great geology. He wrote that he was worried more about indirect effects and thought that sediment would mess up any development. He made the mistake of wanting to start the Grand Canyon where it widens at Nankoweap, as if a digestive tract did not include the mouth and esophagus. Called the Canyon a physiographic whole, even though there are differences. (I call it a topographic, geographic, geologic, educational, scientific, environmental, cultural, and ethical entity. That's how the 1975 GCNP Act defined it, and how could Congress be wrong?)
  McKee's fine conclusion : It is not possible to say one part is inferior or superior; each is different, great, and part of the entirety. Remove one part and you lower the value of it all, exposing it to commercialization, exploitation, and misuse by private interests. He preferred that the Canyon be administered as an entity by NPS. Encroachments have been made, but kept to minimum, the vast remainder can be kept in the best interests of conservation. We should not dismember the developed parts.
Upon receipt, Director Drury sought more advice as to whether to try to keep encroachment below Havasu.

Monday, June 28, 2010

GC dams: What the dam would do, 1942

In October 1942, Bureau of Reclamation engineers in the field had become convinced that the most economically sound Bridge Canyon dam would be one high enough that its reservoir would back several miles into the Grand Canyon National Park, even as far as Tapeats Creek, mile 134. That is, the dam would reach elevation 1970', as compared to the 1772' level marking the western boundary of the Park. They informed the Park Service of their reasoning, and a trip was arranged with Reclamation's Larson and NPS's Tillotson, Bryant, Olmsted, and others to look, at rim and river level, at the potentially affected areas, with a review of the part of the Canyon that had been impacted by a decade of Boulder Project operations. On Oct 20, a "preliminary report" was prepared by NPS trying to describe just what would be "the probable effects of alternative elevations for the full reservoir surface at Bridge Canyon upon GCNP and in general upon values for the conservation of which the NPS is responsible".

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dams: and Parks I (rev. 6/28)

A few words of review: From the initial nourishing of both in the 1910's, dams and National Parks mutually vexed each other's proponents, especially so in the Grand Canyon. Legislated with a stunted boundary and exceptions allowing exploitation, Grand Canyon National Park arguably seemed, perhaps, closed to river damming projects. Proclamation of the second National Monument, 1932, generated more questions, debate, and suspicions. Dam proponents, having narrowed their target to the Bridge site, needed to know how high a dam they could build. That is, was there any impediment to backing water through the Monument? Did the reservoir have to stay out of the Park entirely, or could it intrude a few miles? Could the Park boundary be cut back to permit a reservoir? Since no dams could be built inside the Park itself, could the river be routed around the Park for more complete utilization?

The Reclamation map below, from 1966, shows the field of debate:

The boundaries of the Monument and Park in the 1940's were as shown; Mead's NRA did not exist until the 1960's. Dep't of Interior investigations and planning in the 40's assumed there would be a federal dam at the Bridge site (3). Its reservoir would, apparently uncontestedly, run through the Monument to the Park boundary (4, 6) at Havasu Canyon. Thirteen miles upstream, Kanab Creek entered the Colorado (Mi 143.7). In between, the Park was only on the left bank; the Monument on the right. Upstream of Kanab, the Monument gave way to National Forest; the Park still on the left. Tapeats Creek (~Mi 134) is just a bit upstream of where the Park boundary moves north and takes in both banks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dams: Investigations and Plans; World War II Years

American entry into World War II marked a pause in Arizona's effort to become the sole proprietor of a dam in the Grand Canyon. However, it accelerated Reclamation's effort at figuring out what its role was to be in Colorado River development now that the Boulder Project was in operation. One of the chief planners, E. B. Debler, was deeply involved in how to bring water to the Phoenix area. Jumping ahead a bit in order to provide orientation, here is a map that brings together old and new alternate routes, from Debler's July 1944 summary:

At this time, the single purpose was to bring in a couple of million acre-feet of water for irrigation. The slightly shadowed areas show the potential irrigable lands. 

Two of the the three alternatives Debler considered involved the Canyon directly. The eastern orange route brought water from Marble Gorge to the Verde drainage. The western orange is the tunnel+canal running from Bridge Canyon dam. At its terminus, it would feed water into the blue route taking the water east, the route that would also be used if the choice were instead to take the water from behind Parker Dam after letting it flow through Hoover's generators. For that route, power to pump the water would still come from Bridge. 

The northern orange line marks the tunnel route to carry water around the Park for the Kanab power project. Just as the decision had to be made whether to cut the amount of river going through Hoover, so the eastern Marble-Verde possibility would have meant losing power from Kanab and Bridge, too. The decision for maximum electricity seems obvious now, and it is possible that Debler was only summarizing all schemes in order to show how obvious. He did point out that the blue route would get water to central Arizona soonest, a point in line with an Aug 1940 view from a Phoenix group (including Girand) that the water situation was a serious, even desperate, drought. Needed was a state authority to build an aqueduct from Parker dam.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

GC dams, 1942: Prelude, but to what?

The thirty-year period, to the start of World War II, was a time of speculation and debate about dams in the Grand Canyon, but little physical action. As that time ended, however, water was backing up into the Canyon behind Hoover dam, and silt was being dropped. investigations were being planned. In addition to the political disputes, the only check to those plans was the National Park, and perhaps the Monument. Through the various revisions to the federal power laws, the effort to keep dams out of NPS areas had finally resulted in what seemed an absolute reservation to Congress of the decision to authorize any Grand Canyon dam, if, and a big one, it would encroach on those areas. This check, however, was as much a stimulus, to engineering imaginations. 

A real dam takes years to build and decades to show all its effects. Imagined ones can soar. In between, the plans are words & pictures disputed in political debates. Some matters did seem settled by the end of 1941: Arizonan schemes, on the one hand, for grandiose irrigation projects --the High Lines-- that would have taken water from Marble Gorge or around Bridge Canyon for irrigation tunnels and canals had been marginalized by the Boulder project and the success of the Colorado Compact (Arizona would ratify it unconditionally in 1944). 

Proposals to generate electricity, on the other hand, proliferated, although the Girand-FPC experience and perhaps the early investigations by SoCalEdison indicated no central place for a non-governmental effort. Which, as war began, left a municipality, a state, and the central government as the prime movers. The Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power had a big market and innovative proposals. Arizona pushed its needs in Congress and the FPC (after 1944, through the Arizona Power Authority). With the success of building Hoover dam, the federal Bureau of Reclamation seemed pre-eminent. 

The early staircase concept, of La Rue and others, was disrupted by the Park, though to many proponents, reservoirs could only enhance the visitor experience. The maximum elevation that Hoover's reservoir could reach into the Canyon provided a downstream end point. Since there was to be no water diversion, and provided that other dams -- above Lee's Ferry, on the Paria and Little Colorado -- controlled waterflow and silt, the only concern in planning for utilization of the mainstem in the Canyon became how to maximize power and revenue. 

Building at the Bridge site to a height to reach the Park had been a favorite since the mid-1920's. (Surely, it was the ease of access down Peach Springs Canyon to Diamond Creek along with the lack of a complete survey that gave a dam near Diamond its early cachet.) As early as 1921, LADWP had put forth the idea of using a tunnel to carry power water around the Park, with a power plant just above the highest elevation of a downstream reservoir. That point became associated with Kanab Creek; thus, the Kanab Tunnel. Marble Gorge was the reach hardest to settle upon, although La Rue had found the damsites down in the Redwall stretch in 1923. However, the interest in diverting water and a competition with sites around Lee's Ferry kept the focus off the best power-dam sites in the 1920's and 30's. The latter decade also saw the complication for the downstream damsite of the Monument's being proclaimed, with its impact on FPC jurisdiction, which also changed. 

The end result of these various factors in the 1950's and 60's was that, even with basic questions seemingly settled (no diversion, no staircase, etc.), though theoretically there might be a superior arrangement for optimum power generation, nothing was actually ever settled upon by all parties, as they played out the variations on dam heights & operational modes, impacts on the Canyon--NPS lands and not, LADWP, APA & Reclamation, FPC & Congress, dedication of revenues. In this, the issue of Grand Canyon damming shares with other issues a heightened tension and significance that frustrate rational, negotiated outcomes, always arousing passion and demanding drama at the highest political levels.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dams: Arizona Trying, for real, 1938-40's

The Arizona Colorado River Commission (CRC) had some sort of convulsion in 1937-8, possibly tied to state politics, or just water matters. In any case, there was a personnel shake-up, and the Colter Marble-Verde highline scheme was junked. D.C. Scott, an engineer and CRC member, described in Aug 1938 how the CRC settled on Bridge Canyon dam. writing that although there had been lots of talk, no definite field work had been done. So, with a geologist, he paid a visit, and found a "wonderful" damsite. His view might have included this:

The view is upstream, and still there. (Photo by Miles O'Kelly, Jan 2010)

We, Scott continued, did preliminary geology on faults. We decided to protect this asset for Arizona. A technical report was prepared for a 573' dam to 1773' with a 78-mile reservoir to Havasu Canyon. Power would be used for the mines and electrifying railroads. Since CRC doesnt have authority to build such a dam, we got the State Land Commissioner to file an application, # 1503, with the FPC in July. We have asked for funds to do the preliminary engineering work of drilling, testing materials, and surveying, as FPC requires. Noting that Arizona could not use all the power (not even 25%), he hoped to cooperate with California; the market will surely develop. H. Scattergood, head of LADWP, noted internally that the plan was definitely premature and would be detrimental to selling all of Boulder dam's power. If no understandings are reached, and Arizona gets a permit, it will have a non-negotiable property right. However, Interior had objected; Reclamation and NPS both favor a federal dam. Also, the Monument could not have an FPC-authorized reservoir under the revised (1935) federal power law. Nevertheless, LADWP thought it made sense to work with the CRC, rather than just be in opposition.