Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dams: First Congressional Battle, 1947-52

This summary of the 1947-52 legislation deals only peripherally with Bridge Canyon dam; it was a fight, pro and con, over waterworks because they assured water rights. Bridge's fate had become tied to the CAP through history and Reclamation policy. In truth, it could have been separated out, but this was apparently not considered until it was too late and the matter had gone from Congress to the Supreme Court. 

Although taken for granted by the central antagonists, others did focus on the dam. The Hualapai wanted to participate, for their profit. There were lingering complaints about the height. Conservation groups fussed futilely over what position to take. NPS and Reclamation played about with (the largely fantasy) numbers on recreation benefits and costs. None of these mattered to the Arizonans, Californians, and other Basin states participants, for whom the only real question was the supply of water and how it was to be secured for their own purposes. So here I will provide only enough story to get us to 1952 when Arizona's first CAP effort, led by McFarland and Hayden and Murdock, was blocked until the Supreme Court settled the water rights. Much of this material comes from the Hayden papers, which might be characterized as presenting dam issues as items to be dealt with so as not to affect CAP authorization. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dams: GCNP: With friends like these... Plus a digression to the central issue (revised 8/13, added to 10/7/10)

This title is a trifle extreme. The records I have been writing from and dealing with make most logical a story of a progress --not always made steadily-- by dam-builders pressing toward authorization of their preferred dam-- site, height, capacity. In that frame, the stance of the Park Service and non-governmental Canyon proectors then seems restricted to a reactive one. Without an overall vision of the Canyon (or of the entire Colorado Plateau) to promote, their positions and arguments too easily sounded only like peripheral objections, based on the narrower stand of keeping hydropower out of Park System units. 

I bring this up in an introductory way since I am about to deal here with an episode I do not like, in which the Sierra Club (and any and all other conservation groups) approved of Bridge Canyon dam with conditions. We have already seen Park Service staff expressing a range of anti-dam fervor. The Club amplified this in a way that makes it easy to cast the story as one of compromise, or worse, being gulled. The problem for me is that I am not comfortable assessing the strength of the outsiders around 1950. The more defining battle, centered on keeping Echo Park dam out of Dinosaur National Monument, is just ahead in the early 1950's (though not part of my story). However, if in 1949 none of those who questioned Reclamation really mattered to the success of the authorization effort, then what I am about to relate is only an intramural affair among Park advocates, a marginal affair; a side-lining.