Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dams: Bridge and CAP; unravelling ties

Jan 47, the Regional Director, BC, analyzed the situation for the Commissioner in a New Year's greeting, that the Bridge tunnel route was not feasible under Reclamation law, that other Basin states will oppose if we do not have a program for them, and that Congress will see the tunnel as make-work. Arizona likes Bridge, but not on any serious consideration, and may change to favor Parker, since its costs will be less, and California is more likely to support. Since we may be instructed, then, to use Parker, not worth spending money on Bridge route, unless it is definitely chosen. It can be built, but not financially self-liquidating. Larson, who favored Parker, visited DC, and apparently favorably impressed the delegation about its advantages. DC to BC that McFarland would be visiting Phoenix and we should use "extraordinary" means to have a comparison report, including a press release. That release emphasized Parker's cost and time advantages--still saying both could be built--, and noted Congress would have to authorize. LADWP, at the same time, is pushing its Bridge-Glen strategy, in which Glen would regulate flow and Bridge was for power only, with no water diversion, thus protecting Boulder head. 

Feb 47, the Chief Engineer was stubborn; he wanted some work done on the Bridge route until it was definitely eliminated. BC retorted, "What would this tell us?", and told Commissioner that there was no way for the tunnel costs to be so low as to be competitive. The Parker choice was supported by Page who all along had thought it was the better strategy. Mid-February, Reclamation put out a feasibility report, still preliminary, on the route from Bridge, with a supplement on the Parker route, and a comparison of the two. They were physically doable; but not economic under reclamation law.

The disagreement was reflected in the state legislature, a pro-Bridger calling the decision for Parker the worst act since Pearl Harbor. Their argument was that the tunnel was a gravity route, not needing to pump water up 1000'. McFarland took the lead: He still preferred Bridge, but due to urgent water need, would go along with Reclamation. And this seemed to be the general position taken in an Arizona meeting; we like Parker least, but will go along. Governor Osborn was more fervent, urging all possible support for S. 433/HR 1598, to move expeditiously to meet need. (One might ask, what in fact were the negative impacts of not building the CAP in 1950?)

Studies done by LADWP in Jun 46 had shown that a combination of Bridge and Glen power dams would best maximize firm energy and be very attractive financially. California now, Feb 47, determined to try to head Interior off from backing the CAP by drafting a bill to authorize Bridge+Glen. They were particularly concerned when they heard Bridge power would go first to pump the water, then help pay off the CAP. One version of the many drafts of Bridge+Glen provided for authorizing the Kanab power tunnel. They were all aimed at a coordinated regulation of the river determined by optimum operation of Boulder. As the drafting continued, the purposes multiplied: navigation, re-regulating flow at Lee's Ferry, flood and silt control, providing for Mexican water, upper basin projects, fish & wildlife,  supplementing Boulder, recreation, even some energy generation. One of LA's arguments for the last is that it would attract aluminum or copper smelting.

Mar 47, anticipating hearings in April, DC wanted reports; Larson replied it would take 9 months. So we can only compare, not make a recommendation. Alright, we can write a factual report, and circulate it, but not a full interim feasibility report. We have already obtained concurrence of Arizonans for Parker, so lets just concentrate our efforts there. At the hearing,  we will give just the facts, no recommendation, but say we have no objection if Parker authorized. These tactics seemed, on the one hand, aimed at avoiding work and delay, and on the other, to appear to be in accordance with Reclamation law. The press was now on to prepare for the hearings. The bill draft, however, called for Bridge with pumping as interim, and Larson objected, since that was contrary to his position. The bill would require exhaustive studies of a tunnel, and he could not see that pumping plants would ever just be abandoned. 

Apr 47, statements in support came from Colorado and Nevada, latter noting Bridge would be dedicated to power. California attacked data and idea that 1.2 million acre-feet (maf) was available. NPS was non-commital; earlier it had noted that Reclamation claimed more for recreation benefits than NPS allowed. The Indian Affairs statement did not mention the Hualapai, whose land was integrally involved. Later on, Larson opposed specific discussion of Hualapai compensation. At the end of the hearing, the presiding Senator admonished Larson to get ahead on the official report as rapidly as possible.

Jun 47, California, including LADWP, determined to oppose the CAP to the fullest extent, since power should not subsidize land development, and without CAP, Bridge would provide a large block of low-cost energy. All California power users, including SoCalEd, must pledge not to buy Bridge power if tied to CAP.

Jul 47, Larson said report will be done by November, with data from other Interior agencies. He wanted Arizona to help pay for it, and aimed at procedures that would cut review time. He was trying to figure out how to make a recommendation, but felt it would have to be conditional subject to there being a firm water supply. A more negative statement came from the Regional Director in October after the report was presented. In essence he asked about the utility of dedicating all that power and revenue to subsidizing a project that cannot even meet its operating costs. Also, it will cut into our ability to get more worthy work done. Is it, he asked, the best use of the Bridge project, and will it be held up if there are impediments to CAP water? Even now, we are not keeping up with power market. I.e., now that there was no physical tie of Bridge to the CAP, would the financial tie impede Bridge's construction if the CAP were delayed? When a recommendation was prepared for the Commissioner, --including the assumption there was water for Arizona-- so that Bridge could proceed, he would not sign it or anything that implied that  Reclamation was determining water rights. (Not relevant to my work, the memoranda involved here show how they were under strong pressure, and trying to find new ground in their own procedures and governing rules to make the CAP look good.) 

Jul 47, Reclamation Counsel was considering a request on behalf of the Hualapai for a block of power as partial compensation for the damsite.  He stated that the Hualapai claim to the center of the river, but he did not believe that was substantiated and would advise against anything that conceded title to the center. 

Oct 47, NPS met with Larson and was convinced to change its "sound and conservative" recreation benefit estimates to meet Reclamation's current objectives. At this time, internally, Reclamation was wondering about how to handle Bridge feasibility given CAP impediments. 

In December, Reclamation replied with hostile comments about NPS May report on Colorado Basin recreation, noting that NPS  made its opposition to the Kanab tunnel unnecessarily and inappropriately clear. However, economics may dictate a compromise to NPS. Since it would be a clear stream below Lee's Ferry anyway, the only difference would be in volume, which would not be noticeable from rim. Also, if rapids were eliminated, more people could visit. Probably have to resolve this at higher level, since our differences are irreconcilable, but we went to extraordinary lengths to effect a minimum disturbance in the Park as we planned for a great economic good. Industrial development in the southwest is largely due to energy supply; many more persons could obtain a living and enjoy the Park if Kanab went ahead. 

In December, the FPC reminded everybody that it was holding in abeyance an application from Arizona (in the form of the new Arizona Power Authority) to build Bridge.

Jan 48, NPS had again raised the question about Bridge backing water into the Park, and Commissioner Straus asked the Secretary to decide the question, based on overall national interest. He added that the effect on the Park was so minor as to justify your approval of the dam's height. A press release on the CAP was prepared that down-played Bridge. However, the procedure got all tangled, and Secretary Krug shook his finger at Straus. Straus had to admit to the field that their rush and corner-cutting did not conform to accepted standards. In the Feb 48 report, Bridge took 32 years to pay for itself, then 44 more to pay off waterworks. Non-relevant matters continued through 1948, with a bill in December that still contained the (remote) possibility of a tunnel from Bridge. That draft was not approved for Presidential recommendation, because of the water controversy. 

Apr 48, there was a DC conference between Reclamation and NPS, after which Straus understood, to the Secretary, that approval of CAP in February carried approval of a Bridge height to 1877', backing water into Monument and Park.  His history said we started in 1941 with 1772' at Separation damsite. In 1942, we went to 1835', then 1910'. In 1944, we settled on 1877' at upper Gneiss site, and that remained the decision. In 1945 and 1946, NPS was informed that this was the best economic choice. The question will not, therefore, be taken up again in the Department Conservation Advisory Committee, which included outside pro-NPS interests. 

NPS reported in June on the unfortunate effect of dam height to Leonard of Sierra Club. Reclamation requested approval from BIA to do road and other work for Bridge.

Sep 48, LADWP officials met with Reclamation to offer market data on Glen, part of its strategy to use a Glen-Bridge combination to thwart CAP approval, all the time cultivating good relations with Reclamation. They worried about the impact of controversy over Bridge backing into Park, while commending Sierra Club spokesperson B. Robinson. They hoped publicity about power needs would soften Park defenders. They saw that a transmission line north of the Canyon could pick up Kanab tunnel power.  (Scattergood had died in 1947 after 40 years of building LA's power base.)

Dec 48, again the question of NPS estimates of allocation for recreation was brought up and attacked by Straus: Report has gone forward; "this unilateral denouncement by NPS might become most explosive and dramatically exploited by California". Please withdraw your memo.

Sources: Bureau of Reclamation archives
National Park Service
Los Angeles Dep't Water & Power

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