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. 

Feb 1947, Reclamation indicated its desire to go for the Parker route, dropping all others. It seemed Impossible to evaluate many benefits directly, so one course would be to let them equal construction costs on the theory that it was a rescue project. In spite of some Arizonans' lingering affection for the Bridge+tunnel, comparison reports done earlier argued against that choice. The political nature of the CAP was emphasized when McFarland introduced his bill with provisions to alter Reclamation policy to make the CAP work, e.g.,  doubled repayment period, decreased interest rate for power; increased non-reimbursables. Murdock introduced bill in the House. Arizona lined up proponents for testimony for the July 1947 hearings.
Autumn 1947 Reclamation surprised at high amount NPS estimated for recreation benefits on CAP components; it would be embarrassing compared to other uses. So NPS upped costs and cut benefits, again emphasizing the flexible nature of the Reclamation concept of repayment. 
 Sec. Krug approved the CAP project planning report 5 Feb 1948, as feasible if power charge were reasonable. But the conclusions did not actually recommend the project, even as it claimed new water was needed in central Arizona. Report went to Congress in May, but BOB was still studying in September.
May 1948, California legislature considered a resolution to go to Supreme Court on rights.
Jun 48, McFarland doubted Secretary will get report to Congress in time for action that year. It arrived with Bureau of Budget approval (BOB, i.e., this meant President approved)  in September. 
An old voice, Girand, was heard from, attacking California lawyers for making a living off the river ever since the Diamond Creek "debacle". 
Another diversion was the Agriculture Department doubts over Reclamation justifications--part of an intramural executive branch turf fight. Hayden, anyway, called it a power play. In September, there were efforts on a Senate Resolution for water rights adjudication. California attacks were highlighted by Arizonans. 

Dec 1948, Olmsted spoke of NP boundary as an arbitrary limit, so it would be better to accept Robinson idea of taking reservoir shoreline out of Park (see Aug 2 entry).

In 1948-9, something called the United Western Investigations brought pointed inquiries from Washington Senator Magnuson. Reclamation said it was just poking around since there was much interest in schemes to bring water south. Internally, this was all called premature and college boy stuff. Any publicity was discouraged. Informal report seemed to favor northern California rivers.

[misc items from Reclamation files:  In 1949, Reclamation considered cutting water diverted to lessen drain on Bridge. 

Jan 1949, BOB issued adverse report. Also Hualapai lawyer Marks wants their interests to be protected. Stated claim to middle of stream. 
Feb, various maneuvers by BOB and Truman.
Feb 1949, NPS reprise of history on Bridge, says we knew of project in 1933, and Directors to Drury recognized Monument would not be a barrier.
Mar 1949, CIO and pro-Park group worried about Kanab, and want height at 1877'.
Mar 49, Straus wrote to the Secretary agreeing to limit the height of Bridge to 1877', an issue settled and re-stated, he thought, a year before. He now accepted that the pending CAP legislation (S. 75) did not apply to Kanab. However, he balked at deleting the reclamation provision from the GCNP Act. 
Hualapai (Marks) argued for negotiations mandated in bill. Stated in July Hualapai wanted recreation concessions, not a large payment.  But Arizonans only offered provision that Hualapai compensation was to be determined by Secretary. 
May-Jun 49, hearings were held in the House and Senate. Hearings were unpleasant for some; Straus got in trouble with a California Senator. A flap over USGS data collecting occupied people's attentions on into 1950 because it had helped California. 
Maneuver to hold up CAP until suit was joined and settled.   
Jun 49, after sporadic investigations in 1944, 1946, and 1948, design for the Coconino silt-retention dam in the Little Colorado was an arch dam in the Kaibab and Coconino.

Jul 49, Lake Mead NPS Sup't reported on a trip above Bridge. He was most amazed at the Bureau's assurance in proceeding. Little consideration for it being on Hualapai land. In fact, not reflects a departmental point of view. There should be a wide report on regional impact, including road network on both sides.
Other indications that Hualapai supported dam; benefits, and no damage. AWSmith for CIO had written about concern for Hualapai in June.
Passed by Senate Committee (on Public Lands?). 
Aug-Oct 49, field reports on road, transmission line, and campsite design studies; construction companies taking a look. They consider an incline railroad advantageous, or perhaps a tramway. This was all ordered since Bridge was "almost certain to be authorized in the relatively near future".

Concerns were raised about the life of Bridge without Glen, and Sep 49, regional Reclamation told DC that there should be no construction on Bridge until it was certain not one acre-foot of sediment would flow into it. This need would add to likelihood of Glen being built soon given upper basin pressures. Somehow this must be fitted into the arcane plotting of California, LADWP, and Robinson of the Sierra Club. If none of them wanted Bridge, how could they say anything that would make Glen seem even more necessary?

On Sep 1949 inspection trip to look at Bridge effects. NPS man extolled area and talked about bad effects from reservoir trash, debris, silt. Reclamation said no higher than 1877'. Article in NPS magazine stressed extremes, including Kanab project.
Oct 49 Straus assured Hayden confidentially that the BOB questions were due to Ag power play. 
There was an Interior Conservation Advisory Committee meeting, with Sierra Club represented by B. Robinson, who went on record being happy to hear of agreement on height. He was much encouraged that cooperation would now replace "battles that too frequently have characterized the situation heretofore". In October 49, Straus wrote Robinson that a higher dam would be better, but had agreed with NPS that 1877' is best. He did not want the legislation revised to forbid a greater height. Since a special Sierra Club meeting was approaching, this letter may have been an ammunition-providing. In November, the Sierra Club Board did approve Bridge subject to some qualifications.

Vigorous letters just before Senate debate from Hualapai lawyers & CIO demanded an amendment for negotiation on what Hualapai would get, and even court-mandated compensation if negotiations fail. Hayden and Marks corresponded. There would be flooding of Hualapai sacred places and cutting up of cattle ranches. They fought and fought for land from 1925 to 1948, and will fight here for constitutional & moral rights.
This led to discussion and compromise, but since McFarland did not want to make any amendment, what was added was less than full negotiation, leaving matter up to Secretary. But this was further changed, calling for voluntary negotiation. Anyway, then Hualapai resolved for the dam. 
Feb 1950, National Parks Assoc. argued the dam height should be 1772' with no Park invasion, and opposed on principle.
Provision in bill that irrigation cannot start until adjudication complete. Strong support from Reclamation defending dam and need for water. 

Feb 21-2 1950 Senate debated and voted for CAP bill. McFarland used a Drury letter and phone call stating "no material damage" position; we agreed to 1877'. Friends of the Parks would be relieved if a maximum were set. Fishing and boating will appeal.. There was no debate on dam at all in record, although the Arizonans agreed to change height to maximum, that is, to amend the bill to add limit.   

NPS and Reclamation were still not together in 1950 on recreation benefits. 
Apr 1950, BOB reiterates its 1949 questions about needing definitive settlement on water supply, and on other matters. 
Jun 1950, bill has passed Senate and been amended in House subcommittee. Interior reported that power revenue assigned to pay off interest charged by govt to itself would be used to pay off irrigation costs. Bridge power would be used to pump water. Senate report said that Glen was needed soon for silt, so Bluff dam dropped. 
Jul 1950, Bernard de Voto in Saturday Evening Post "Shall we let them ruin our National Parks?", stressing extremes of damage. 
A cut in investigations funding in November 1950 had apparently ended work on Bridge design (was this due to Korean war?).
With a new Congress in Jan 1951, Senate reported S 75 again. House began hearings in Feb. There were new California congressional personnel, but the same pattern of opposition. The question of whether there was water for Arizona reached even to Boston newspapers.
Jun 1951 Senate passed again; House took position for adjudication of water rights. 
Aug 1951, Hayden says dam could be built w/o irrigation features. 
 In 1952, the Secretary was now only non-commital about the CAP. Murdock says in July he had been unable to overcome three Californians on Public Lands committee. I asked, and McFarland did water down bill, but still opposition. He also thought of going around committee to pass Senate bill directly. Obviously, great frustration. 
Arizona internal disputes go over to Rep. v. Dem. 

After decision to go to Supreme Court, July 1952, Interior asked Arizona if it was still interested in putting up funds for early construction of Bridge dam, even without CAP. This was certainly a (belated?) recognition by Reclamation that tying Bridge to the CAP meant this large-scale project (with its implications for increasing justification for Glen, too) was in limbo.

In Feb 53, Rep Patten introduced a Bridge dam bill; but its story had turned a new page.

Sources: Reg. Boulder City office of Reclamation.
Regional and DC offices of NPS
Hayden archives in ASU library.

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