Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dams, and Parks III: the quiet 1950's

In April 1950, Drury's position was opposition to Bridge above 1877'; agreement it was an essential unit of river development; applause for abandonment of Kanab tunnel(another story)-- though Reclamation denied Kanab had been definitely abandoned. Phoenix and the National Park Ass'n exchanged the usual shots, after a 1949 article by NPA. In August, an article by Bernard deVoto in the Saturday Evening Post (both a big deal 60 years ago) about "ruin" of the National Parks moved Drury to say distributing it at Parks would be improper. The American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists opposed Bridge because of its effect on vertebrates and the Park; in comment, NPS agreed but dam is departmental policy, and quotes Robinson's P.Henry quote as encouragement. This reply brings a minor flurry as Tillotson worries the opinions were out of line. The ASIH wrote to Hayden anyway, deploring dam, saying they see environmental study as vital to understanding for proper use. 

October 1950, NPS to Reclamation that no benefits are created by reservoir over and above those existing, and we did not want to argue what is added vs. what destroyed. It prodded more in early 1951 about limiting height and clearing up ambiguity about additional works. Drury says NPS is concerned about Park, not Monument, and that we do not want to be associated with recreation development since that would look like approval of dam. When NPS did its recreation survey of Bridge in 1952-3, it ignored the Hualapai in spite of requests by BIA. 

Postponement of congressional action did not bring complete quiet. In September 1953, the Park Service issued a recreation report, complete with attractive maps of development. It included a rim vista highway with overnight facilities at the overlook. Access to the lake required a tunnel; the only other access was in Peach Springs, which required heavy construction in a side canyon in order to avoid the excellent grazing lands. There would be a lodge near the intersection of Peach Springs, Diamond Creek and the mainstem. There would be a campground farther up. Access to the water, at 1910', required a marine elevator. Getting upstream to Esplanade above Granite Park would require heavy construction too. There could be a ferry, and Whitmore Wash was another destination. Power lines should  be back in the side canyons. NPS decided to set recreation benefits equal to costs, since how could they value what would be lost against what would be gained?

(Comparison notes: Compare this scheme to my 9/27/09 entry about Fred Mahone's plan of 1934 for the Hualapai to tie into then-new Lake Mead. The XXIst-century Hualapai development from river mile 187 is dependent on helicopters in a way not dreamed of in the early 1950's. Commercial river traffic has brought a helipad opposite Whitmore Point and heavy traffic from the pad north over the Park into Grand Canyon - Parashant NM, the airspace of which is not protected. Next is the heavy road traffic on a bladed route out Diamond Creek to Peach Springs, Finally comes the intense activity involving motor boats and helicopters described by Tom Martin of Rivers Runners for Wilderness, from a river trip earlier this year: 
"Bridge is upstream of Mile 240, 238ish, and the Sky bridge is up a side canyon at about 265.5 with the heliports all along the river a ways back upstream, between 259 and 263 or so. The two boat docks for the aluminum pontoon boats are at about 262.2 and 262.7. The heli's come in flying up-canyon past the bat towers, and exit from the river pads flying
up Quartermaster Canyon. Tourists arrive by bus or fixed wing or helicopter to the sky bridge, or fly direct to the river landing zone from Vegas.")

Nov 1953, the Interior Advisory Board on Parks recommended the Secretary disapprove of Bridge and any other encroaching project. In 1954 and 1955, NPS  drafted a report on a Bridge-alone bill, stating reasons for its preferring the dam not be built. Change in public interest due to Dinosaur fight will lead to strong opposition. NPS opposed the Hualapai having a recreation concession, and wanted a recreation area to the Grand Wash Cliffs. FPC law, after all, opposes dams in Monuments. Since there would be silt and mess if higher, reduce dam to Havasu. There are many interesting sights along the river, and the trips here will become very popular. A reservoir will be similar to others. This draft upset Tillotson, now near his career's end, as he grumped that active opposition is futile; we should concede and fight where we can win. 

In 1956, an article in Phoenix lauded and boosted an Arizona-alone project. When the FPC arena was reactivated in 1957, NPS contributed its opposition to the federal brief against non-federal dams, noting FPC has no jurisdiction in Monument. It added, sad to say, that it should have control over recreation if dam were built. In 1959, NPS opined that there were no archeological sites in the Bridge area that merited salvage.

NPS commented in 1961 on Bridge bills: limit dam so not in Park. We realize dam was contemplated when Monument set up, but would prefer reservoir not be there; if so, change NM to NRA. If reservoir intrudes into Park, there will be strenuous objection by conservationists. 

Source: NPS archives, DC and SW Region

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