Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dams: Bridge's quiet time, 1950's, part I

What was an activist bureau like Reclamation, full of macho and vinegar, to do when its centerpiece, Bridge-CAP, was put on the shelf? Fortunately, the upper Colorado River Basin states were raring to go, and although there was still much controversy, the planning and legislation were done by 1956, and real work could begin. More to the point for this blog, there were the plans for Marble Canyon dam and the Kanab tunnel power project. Then in the middle of the decade, Arizona and Los Angeles really created much noise by activating FPC consideration of non-federal dams in the Canyon. Marble-Kanab and the FPC each deserve to be considered as separate and parallel stories, even though of course, they have points in common.  
Before that, however, here is the collection of not always connected items the files hold, largely from Reclamation's files. There is already a short entry for what NPS was doing in these years. 

A 1951 Reclamation study gave Bridge a 40-year period before storage impairment.  However, it concluded that "it would be unwise to admit useful life …would be impaired…(the reservoir) would still serve a very useful purpose in providing power head". And anyway they knew by that time they were going after Glen.

California went on sniping about Arizona's water supply. It took aim at goundwater. Reclamation was not concerned about an impact on CAP justification. Valley National Bank of Phoenix offered no comfort in March 1952 when it put out a pamphlet to reassure people about Arizona's future: "water supply was definitely adequate for all ordinary purposes including almost unlimited municipal growth. Arizona has ample water to support ten to twenty times its present population…A sharp distinction must always be made between water for agricultural use and water for municipal use. We must frankly confess that reports of our drought are sometimes exaggerated. However, we hope someday to get the additional water to which we are entitled… we can make better use of it than the next fellow." 

Throughout early 50's,  Reclamation corresponded with electric machinery manufacturers. In 1948, 1950, 1952 and 1954, APA had asked FPC to hold up on its permit, but in abeyance,since decisions were being made elsewhere and no one would be hurt by the status quo; FPC agreed, Dec 54.

Nevada started a pro-Bridge flurry in Oct 1952, but it was all electoral politics. That state made other moves like this in the coming years, possibly as a California ally, according to LADWP archives.

In 1955, Arizona's stance changed with its governors. The Republican Pyle, who had limited the state to working on Az v. Calif, was replaced by Democratic McFarland, who of course had worked for a federal CAP for six years in the Senate. McFarland wanted action to strengthen case, encouraging the AISC to quietly study a non-federal CAP An engineer was hired using private funds to keep it quiet. He also proposed to the legislature an Arizona-alone plan, with power from coal-fired plants, since it would be as cheap as hydro. His grand scheme called for unifying the water (AISC) and power (APA) agencies. This was scuttled by southwest Arizona interests, and the mischief really started. Cooperation was to be depended upon. There was supposed to be an actual start on waterworks construction. An Ebasco Services formulated a plan, calling for the state to start, with the U.S. gov't joining in. Congressman S. Udall backed that idea. But this fizzled out. The APA then felt free to concentrate in 1956-7 on formulating dam applications before the FPC. 

Congressmen Rhodes and Udall also tried a legislative maneuver, trying to add authorization for Arizona to build Bridge and Marble dams (but not CAP) to the Upper Basin bill, then moving toward 1956 passage. They were supported by Senators Hayden and Goldwater, but to no avail. And Arizona newspapers were reporting significant signs of Arizona Power Authority (APA) activity to build Bridge, starting studies and meeting with the Hualapai. Arizona asked Reclamation for data under the pretense that it would be used in the water supply lawsuit, Arizona v. California. Reclamation was dubious, but supplied data, noting that only $5,000/yr was being spent to keep up basic data collection. 

In 1956, while pressing Hayden to consider a Park bill to eliminate dam-affected lands, Ben Avery, Phoenix outdoor journalist, boasted of getting Arizona sportsmen and conservation groups to back Bridge, but was worried now that pro-Park people had had success at Echo Park. Rep. Rhodes considered a bill for an Arizona dam to counter a move by Nevada. At this time, Rep. S. Udall, reading that the National Park Ass'n now opposed Bridge as violation of NP System, offered lessons for CAP backers, drawn from the Echo Park fight: avoid a conservation fight if at all possible, since among other drawbacks, their effort aided the "selfish southern California water lobby" by giving them 75-100 votes. He also advised that costs be kept down and the state be unified.

Sep 1956, LADWP learned that APA was considering a reappraisal of Bridge due to low flows, which are hurting Arizona. They are also thinking about Marble, and building a low Bridge. 

In Arizona, the APA feeling it had been given a mandate, proceeded on the dams even though the move on the water project had fallen through. This was viewed by the water agency as a split of the state strategy. In 1957, APA wrote FPC that power demand has now increased and Glen will take care of silt problem, so last year our legislature passed a law telling us to go after Bridge as part of a comprehensive water development program. So we ask for a hearing, as we are reactivating our 1938 application for a low Bridge. (This was a major problem for the state; they could not build the high, most productive, dam, because the FPC did not have jurisidiction over the Colorado in the Monument and the Park.) Harza Engineering was hired by the Arizona agencies, did some survey work, looked at the water tunnels again, and spent all the budget. The cost seemed too high to continue, so the AISC stopped work on the project in 1958. Reclamation did not want to openly oppose the APA, but they had concerns about accounting for the benefits for a state Bridge from Glen and the impact on downstream operations of a non-federal dam. The APA also began planning on a Marble dam, already studied by Reclamation.

In July 1957, LA countered by filing its own preliminary application for Bridge with FPC: We thought Glen plus Bridge was best, and we opposed doing CAP with just Bridge as uneconomic. With Glen being built, we can go for Bridge, and we hear APA is obtaining Reclamation data prior to filing. It is appropriate that we file for Bridge at this time, along with bills in Congress. A 750 mw plant would bring power cheaper than coal. 

This move immediately brought virulent resentment from Arizonans: Goldwater said greedy California has "enormous water resources which waste to the sea, while  hovering over Arizona water holes with covetous eyes of buzzards waiting for death so they may feast." An "Arizona Republic" editorial: LA "waterhogs have outdone themselves in sheer effrontery. It is our dam site, needed for the CAP." California's senator Kuchel attacked Goldwater back, and made the American Dream case: LA "is the great metro area it is today because of a vision and a zeal upon the part of its pioneers that the city needed to develop water resources by which to sustain the millions of people who intended to come there and who live there now." LADWP defended its action by noting that it had investigated the site in 1943. Goldwater and Hayden wrote APA in August that it would be disastrous if LA makes a better case for the dam than you. Also FPC might prefer single-use power dam to one involving water supply. The congressional delegation then had a discussion with the APA in DC, pointing out that the proposed dam was too high because of the Monument. APA wanted to study Marble, but LA has forced them to act. APA will ask to have exclusive right to study for three years; we have preference, and LA higher dam will upset Park advocates more, though it would also be a better use of the resource. When FPC issued notice of competing applications, APA had asked for a dam "as high as the FPC could authorize".

In Aug 1957, the FPC stated that application 1503 from Arizona dating back to Aug 1938 was in good standing, though inactive. Project 2234, filed Jul 1957, from LADWP is now beginning processing. LADWP made its filing conform to the earlier federal Bridge. As they worked, mulling over the one high dam versus three smaller ones, they received information, from manufacturers' personnel, e.g., about the APA plans. They realized APA wanted to build Marble as a lead-in to the Kanab tunnel. Not only did APA protest and intervene, others petitioned the FPC: California and its Colorado River Board and other water districts, and the Hualapai (ally of APA). Everybody was on everybody's case--the paper, the paper.

When the FPC announced a hearing was to be held toward the end of 1958, Reclamation began to prepare comments, First, they wanted full payment for information they supplied. A Paria silt trap would be needed to slow buildup below Glen. Benefits from Glen for Bridge should be reimbursed. Their water data was not correct, and there would be competition for water to fill Glen, Marble, and Bridge. "Most important", and the muscles flex, is whether public interest is best served by private development. Our "long-time" plan is Bridge and Marble for power and helping irrigation. Other states should share in benefits of river development; fullest benefit comes from coordination, which is doubtful if there is private dam-building. Since there may well be a federal project, the state application is premature, as well as inadequate and sub-optimum for coordination. 

California agreed, after internal discussions on strategy, to hire its own engineering firm and on how much to work with Reclamation. Indeed, LADWP decided in Dec 1958 that a federal Bridge was better than an LA dam.  There were Reclamation objections to the FPC data requests. Arizona's activities to boost its chances for a water project only unsettled Reclamation, which did not want to get involved in any way Az v. Calif would be compromised. Reclamation objections continued in 1959, even though Interior officials preferred a less confrontational stance. Reclamation feared the claims that would arise if there were non-federal operations along the Colorado: "We cannot countenance problems at Mead or Glen". This was all in service of a report to the FPC, now dragging into the second year.

Then in mid-1959, LADWP asked for data on Bridge, but showing little current knowledge of project. And Arizona floated the idea of using state-sponsored revenue bonds to finance a Reclamation-built Bridge. Problems had arisen between state water and power agencies because the APA plan could not produce enough revenue to pay for CAP, but APA wants to press ahead anyway. The CAPAss'n was very negative on the plan's prospects, and whether it would affect the water litigation. It wanted Reclamation to build dam, thus providing maximum help to water project. This was a time of many meetings involving state agencies, congressional delegation, and Reclamation, even though water litigation was not over. LA was keeping informed about Marble and Kanab. In June 1959, it heard from the Hualapai lawyer, Marks, of Phoenix, that survey work for the dam on the reservation required a permit. 

 To get a handle on the flow of information, Reclamation decided to release only facts, not items requiring judgment or policy, like operations. California now introduced a bill for a federal, but unencumbered, Bridge.  Reclamation commented that it saw Bridge as part of CAP. It likewise reacted negatively to the APA's amended FPC application of Dec 1959, repeating its previous arguments about being reimbursed and the public interest. It also worried about filling time for Glen being affected. LADWP assessed the APA's plans, and preferred a high dam.

In the last half of 1959, Arizona and Reclamation decided to update assumptions about water use, especially water for municipal and industrial use. Study was to get underway in early 1961. LADWP prepared a bill that would authorize a federal Bridge, and internally mulled over ways to thwart Arizona as threatening to California interests. It assessed the APA plan, found strengths and weaknesses, but still wavered between filing, or supporting a federal project. A secret agreement between the Hualapai and Arizona Power Authority was concluded in Aug1960, leading to a large initial payment and then a monthly retainer to maintain the Hualapai's interest in state efforts to get approval for Bridge/CAP.* When California heard about the contract in September, it raised a fuss in several directions trying to get a copy. The Navajo also made demands about not being excluded from consideration during FPC proceedings on Marble. 

1959-60, cooperation was given lip service, but AISC was pro-Reclamation and APA pro-itself.

Then, Jan 1960, LA weighed in by filing an amendment to its FPC application for Bridge changing #2234, high dam, to #2272, a low but raisable dam; change was to increase generation. This was apparently part of a strategy with LA going for application, and state of California calling for federal, highest dam, emphasized by California's water law guru (and lobbyist) Northcutt (Mike) Ely who talked about intervention at FPC and introducing Bridge bills. There was a scurry of activity by Californians over the next several months: discussing alternative dam configurations; suggesting interstate talks to avoid conflict; pushing to get FPC to delay; ally Nevada introducing, with California urging, bills to get Bridge built-- (the Hualapai opposed it). An outside engineering firm (Tippetts, Abbett, McCarthy, Stratton of NYC) had been hired to match APA's Harza of Chicago. The amount of speculation and tossing around ideas in this period testifies to the uncertainties introduced by the APA plans and the coming change in administration. Even such seemingly calculable matters as reservoir fill rates and electric output were variable and negotiable as the parties tried to gain some presumed advantage with the FPC, Congress, federal officials. With all the maneuvering, matters were an exercise in wailting for Godot: the results of the water case, so that the federal government (i.e., Reclamation) could get back fully in play. Although the APA was certainly genuinely pursuing licenses, it was always limited to that go-it-alone faction in Arizona water politics that had already been beaten back by those (like Hayden & Udall) who were committed to the Reclamation route. LA ran a double-wheeled chariot: maximize its share of Colorado River resources and stall Arizona as much as possible on every front to bring about a congressional solution, where California strength outweighed Arizona's by far. That is the frame (hindsighted as it is) I bring to this, particularly what went on in the FPC arena. The FPC and APA treated the dam applications seriously, while everybody else played it as a dead end side show that Congress would close down sooner or later.

The APA dam plan now was for a double curvature arch, with two gravity sections. It would be to elevation 1610', but could be raised to 1866', and would have 480 megawatts (mw) capacity, with 480 more added later. The spillway was moved from the center to the right side; powerplant had been underground; now conventional. LA's dam was a thin arch design, to have a constant upstream radius, and variable on downstream. Its crest length was somewhat less than the APA's; the elevation to 1622'. It could be raised to 1878'. Access to the dam would be by open cut, not a tunnel. Reclamation thought the two proposals more or less the same, and suffering from the same defects, it wanted action deferred. Reclamation prepared studies aimed at showing the advantage from federal construction; one result was that Bridge would be best operated at times when demand peaked. The result was no surprise:  federal advantage would be from more full coordination of water releases and power operations. LA considered four silt traps on the Little Colorado.

 The principals met, looking toward an FPC hearing date of Jan 1961, and settling minor matters; LADWP and APA to coordinate on studies of Bridge. Reclamation information was released, some in spite of its being judgment-based, but Reclamation continued to doubt the validity of their rivals' studies: "twisting out of problems". A September 1960 pre-hearing conference abounded with procedural ignorance and confusion about positions. The disagreements between Arizona agencies were highlighted, based on CAP proponents fearing FPC action would set back water project. LADWP seemed less negative, and more willing to cooperate, but its arguments for an LA dam and its better benefit-cost ratio worried the Arizonans. The water side wanted a federal CAP, requiring revenue from Bridge and Marble dams, energy from Bridge (up to half) to pump water, other power sold at maximum rate. An LA Bridge would provide no subsidy nor would a shared project with LA getting low rate. An FPC license would have to allow a subsidy for the CAP. 

FPC postponed for a month, and would consider conflicting applications. The question of Kanab arose because LA was raising it. And in an end-of-the-year meeting, LA and  the APA disclosed they were postponing Bridge, but LA and Nevada wanted Kanab to be strongly considered. Reclamation could not comment.  Arizona resented Kanab being brought up; it offered money to Reclamation to update the CAP-Bridge report. There was a discussion with LA saying it didnt want to delay anything, but feasibility of Kanab should be studied and it was wiling to put up money for Reclamation to do it. Arizona was reiterating its tie of the CAP to the dams, and will pursue the FPC license, and let the Kanab study go along. Reclamation was not so sure, since it knew there would be opposition from NPS and allied groups. And now things were to be fully shaken up: in Jan 1961 a Democratic administration had taken office, with Arizona Representative Stewart Udall appointed as Secretary of the Interior. 

Az Interstate Stream Commission files in state archives
Bureau of Reclamation archives & files: Boulder City, Denver
Papers of Carl Hayden in ASU, esp.
*Hayden, p 39, his folder 8-4, Gookin to MUdall, 22 Mar 65.

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