Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dams GCNP: a review of the formalities 1946-51

In the story I have been telling about Bridge Canyon dam, the major emerging theme is that the dam, justifiable on its own, became inextricably wound up in the project to bring Colorado River water to the Phoenix area. Inextricably and fatally; first because, as a team, Bridge and the CAP would only be authorized together. Second, since in the 1960's the dam's central role in financially supporting grander water-import schemes became ever more obvious.

Thinking back, it is hard for me to recapture the sense of frenzy water induced in developers then. Southern California had long depended on water brought from the Colorado, the Owens Valley, and northern California. Denver largely depends on water tunneled under the continental divide. In the 1960's, the dreamers wanted more northern waters, from California, the Columbia Basin, and even Canada's Rocky Mountains. There was talk of capturing part of the Great Lakes. And Texas' High Plains, sucking up their aquifer, babbled about the Mississippi. At the end of the decade, a National Water Commission was created to embrace the whole scene. However, this flood of water megalomania subsided in the next decade, due to many factors: I can think of the lessening impulse of population growth, the political obduracy of people living in potential source areas, national attention being captured by environmental concerns as well as other national issues--and, unquestionably, the crippling of Reclamation's power and future by losing the Grand Canyon cash cows.

That was not the scene in 1946-52; the future was seen in a rosy glow of eternally escalating national growth and wealth. Perhaps it was easier to let the Supreme Court decide the water issue, when there was Marble dam, and more broadly, the tremendous waterworks for the upper Basin, to plan and build. There was plenty else to do, if Bridge and the CAP had to be put on hold, which did not mean there was no activity. But before we go over what Reclamation was doing after the excitement of 1949-52, I need to review the scaffolding of congressional documents Arizona used to try to build success. First, the facts:

S. 2346 introduced 18 Jun 1946 by McFarland & Hayden; 79th Congress; Democratic;.
S. 433; 29 Jan 1947; 80th Congress -- Republican, with Democratic President Truman.
Hearings held
S. 75; 5 Jan 1949; 81st Cong; Democratic and Truman re-elected
Hearings held
Reported on 3 Aug 1949 by Senate Comm. on Interior and Insular Affairs
Passed by the Senate 55-28.
S. 75; re-introduced 8 Jan 1951; 82nd Cong; Democratic; bill reported 12 Mar 1951; also HR1501 (15 Jan)
Passed the Senate 7 Jun 1951; referred to House Comm. on Interior and Insular Affairs.
Died then, as the Supreme Court was given the task of adjudicating the water dispute.

The committee report of Aug 1949 scotched all previous argument over whether the hydropower was needed, since demand "will continue to grow far beyond present means of supply". Glen Canyon dam was given a boost, for power, silt trapping, and river regulation. The report argued the need for water in Arizona was great enough that authorization should proceed, with judicial action on water rights moving concurrently. California dissented, using hyperbole (grandiose project, excessive costs, unprecedented subsidies, admittedly infeasible…), numbers, and ridicule. It favored constructing Bridge which "has no physical relation to the central Arizona project".

Senate passage in the 81st Congress set the stage for the 82nd. Again, there was a committee report; it used much of the previous one's language. Glen was again boosted; it "should and will be authorized and constructed at an early date as a separate and distinct project". The report did note that the Indian protections were worked out with and agreed to by the Hualapai. The Park Service was given credit for the language that Bridge's height was to be "not more than" 1877' (back to Kanab Creek). The tunnel was thoroughly dropped, California having made special fun of it.

Neither report spends any time on the scenic and recreation aspects, mentions the Grand Canyon, or refers to the decade-long debate over the dam's impact. 

Here is how all these bills start: "Authorizing the construction, operation, and maintenance of a dam and incidental works in the main stream of the Colorado River at Bridge Canyon, together with certain appurtenant dams and canals, and for other purposes". In S2346, this main focus on Bridge is stated as to construct a dam "to an elevation of 1877 feet", with a tunnel and main canal from the reservoir above the dam. That was 1946 (and repeated in S433 of 1947); Arizona still liked the tunnel from Bridge best; an all in-state project. 

The arguments and reports of 1947-8 brought change: the 1949 bill, S75, authorized 1) a dam not less than 1877 feet", 2) "a related system of main conduits and canals, including a tunnel and main canal from the reservoir above the dam". Indeed, the tunnel was specifically deferred until Congress appropriated money for it, while in the same sentence an aqueduct from Lake Havasu was authorized pending the tunnel's construction. Injury was added to insult when the list of costs included the Lake Havasu pumping plants and the Granite Reef aqueduct, but not a $ for that "tunnel and main canal" from Bridge's reservoir.

Only in the 1951 bills do we get 1) a dam not more than 1877 feet" (from "of" to "not less than" to "not more than"; Victory! for the Park; yes??), and 2) a related system of main conduits and canals, including a main canal and pumping plants for diverting and carrying Colorado River water from Lake Havasu". Deleted from even a mention, the tunnel bubble from Bridge reservoir has evaporated, leaving behind it the concept of linkage as still central. Possibly, people still thought of the dam as providing power to pump the water out of the Colorado, and certainly, Reclamation intended that power revenues would be used to help pay for the waterworks. And though, later on, optimum operation of the dam would preclude its power being planned for pumping water -- thus breaking even that link --, revenue generation would remain, and become the fatal Achilles heel,--as the legislation's purposes put it, the dam was for the "sale of electrical energy as a means of making the project herein authorized a self-supporting and financially solvent undertaking".

The purposes from first bill to 1951 Senate passage were "first", river regulation, navigation, & flood control; second, for irrigation and domestic water uses; third, for power.  

S433, 1947, added "a dam on the Gila River in New Mexico"; later on, this was specified as Hooker dam, which would have flooded the Gila back into the Gila Wilderness. An unneeded water-waster, it has never been built, but remained in CAP legislation through enactment in 1968, an indicator of Arizona's affection for its sister state.

After the Do-Nothing Republican 80th Congress, McFarland and Hayden got serious in 1949. Glen Canyon damsite was protected and reserved for the upper basin. As far back as 1946, in response to Los Angeles' attempt to link Glen and Bridge, Reclamation claimed it was in favor of building them together, and conscious of the silt problem, planned to go after Glen. In fact, Reclamation did some work in 1947, particularly in trying to determine the sequencing of Glen and a dam in Marble Canyon. In 1949, Reclamation was having trouble coordinating its upper and lower basin offices over Glen, the Boulder City office going so far as to say that Salt Lake City's work was of no value to it, and disputing over high Marble could be before there was significant head loss at Glen. In any case, work had to be suspended due to lack of funds. Glen Canyon dam is not mentioned in the 1946-7 bills. 

Section 14, written by the Interior Dep't, was added to the S75 version reported from the Committee by McFarland on 3 Aug 1949. It is the longest section, and dealt with Indians, at Hualapai instigation, as I wrote in my 8/8/10 entry. There is no mention of a specific tribe. In response to continued dissatisfaction expressed by Hualapai lawyers, more changes were made before S75 was reintroduced in 1951 and passed by the Senate. The section first gave the U.S. tribal lands as needed for the project, unless the tribe agreed to sell. Next, and the section of most bother, the Secretary was to determine compensation, in money, property, or rights to electric energy. To this 1949 amendment was added the right for the Indians to sue for more money if they were dissatisfied. The Secretary was empowered to decide in some cases how to dispose of the compensation, and in the case of cemeteries, to relocate the graves. 

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