In previous entries, I have referred several times to efforts by Arizonans to convince the Federal Power Commission (FPC) to license Grand Canyon dams. The main story of what happened to the dreams of the dam men for the Grand Canyon does center on the federal government and the Bureau of Reclamation. However there were, from even before 1920 into the late 1960's, efforts to gain authorization for a dam built by a private company or a state agency. The downstream sites --Diamond Creek, then Bridge Canyon-- were targeted first. Then Marble Canyon dam became the state's focus in the late 1950's.
One curiously twisted strand in all of this. A dam built by a state power authority would of course be a socialist project, at a time when Goldwater conservatism was rampant in central Arizona. The issue of publicly built power had been hot even before the New Deal and Democratic Party dominance in Washington (including Hayden and McFarland). Yet here was a public power project in a state with strong private power companies, as well as the Salt River Project, a locally based strong public power and water utility. As the years went on, the APA became more dominated by more conservative members, becoming a state enterprise founded on a kind of pro-Arizona patriotism championed by strong believers in private enterprise; solid Arizonan pragmatists mixing public and private to obtain needed power and water.
One problem any analyst would have here is just how serious each of the contestants was. How much was the FPC still another arena for the political struggle over water from the Colorado? How much was it just to affect what would happen in Congress? For instance, it "seems clear" that Los Angeles Dep't of Water & Power (LADWP) in the 1956-68 period never wanted to get permission so it could build a dam itself. Yet, in spite of seeming aimed at derailing Arizona efforts, LADWP efforts could be innovative. It also "seems clear" that the APA's expensive effort to gain an FPC license for Marble became deadly in earnest, whatever its origins as a stick to beat the lagging federal water horse with. Of course, Reclamation always had to direct its efforts federally, at its department, Interior, and then the President and Congress. And, it "seems clear", Reclamation was dead serious about building any and all Grand Canyon power projects, even though its work often seemed reactive to the initiatives of others, such as Arizona's in the late 1930's, or the late 1950's, and that of LADWP in 1960-1.
Whenever we advocates of a wilderness Grand Canyon--protected for itself and presented for the public--get smug about environmentalists' prowess in making the dams unpalatable politically and ethically, we might reflect on how much we owe to the squabbling and complacency of those hooked on the dam-building opiate. It is chillingly easy to imagine a less distracted over-confident government building Bridge starting in 1950, following it up with Glen in 1955, and capping it by the monster colossus of Marble-Kanab in 1960. It is also possible, though hardly easy, to imagine a clever, cunning, together Arizona scheming successfully with California and the fed to achieve its water goals, and ending up with the Grand Canyon dammed to a fare-thee-well. I admit, though, it is impossible for me to imagine powerful, arrogant, too-smart-for-its-own-good California actually cooperating with everybody else; if greed is its own reward, then those Californians who today experience the Canyon as it is are enjoying the rewards of their forbears' determination to control the Colorado's every last drop and kilowatt-hour -- and failing.
So now we must tell the story of the APA, how it grabbed for the loaf, and how it did not even get half. My notes on the relevant files and archives from several agencies are grouped under a variety of headings, organized here chronologically. My strategy is to set the scene using my notes on minutes of APA monthly meetings and on FPC files of the proceedings before it. These provide a framework, filled in with related detailed material from the APA and other participants. It will take more than one blog post.
The APA's forebears go back to Girand's effort in the 1920's, blocked by the federal decision to build the Boulder Canyon (Hoover Dam) Project. (See my 29 May 2010 entry.) Various Arizona agencies touted plans in the 1930's, with the state's Colorado River Commission pushing a Bridge application before the FPC that was put on hold with World War II and Reclamation's initiatives. (5 Jun entry). APA was created by the state legislature in 1944 to handle energy generated on the Colorado's main stream. Before that, there were no state arrangements for taking its share of the power because Interior dealt with Arizona in its "sovereign capacity". It got exciting with Arizona partisans accusing the private utilities, California, and Reclamation of a "tri-partite conspiracy" to keep energy from the APA, which finally received power to distribute in 1951. In its 1951-3 annual reports, Bridge, Kanab, and Marble were all mentioned; the APA intended to contract for as much power as it could, but not to build the dams. As I wrote in my 7 Oct entries, the state effort --supposed to be cooperative-- to strengthen its case over water was transformed in 1956-7 as the APA decided to go on its own to obtain an FPC license for mainstream dams. This had been specifically added to the APA law in 1956, telling the APA to construct and operate a hydroelectric dam at the Bridge or other site. Water diversion facilities were to be considered, although while its rates could help pay for diversion, it was not given authority to divert.
On 5 Jul 1956, the FPC responded to an APA inquiry that its application from the 1940's for Bridge had been kept in good standing and a hearing might be requested at any time. So, a word about the FPC, and if you think Congress' law-making is sausage-grinding… A lawyers' paradise, the FPC is not a court, but its proceedings are laden, leaden, with testimony, exhibits, intervenors, examiners,technical staff, counsel and attorneys, petitions for this and that, petitions against that and this, answering petitions and counter-answers, notices and requests, filiings and amendments, hearings, pre-hearing conferences, postponements, decisions of several kinds, and on and on: piles of papers marking a long and winding path. (When I went through these masses of paper in the mid-1970's, I had to work in their reading room; a researcher was only allowed to use blank paper and pencils--great woe for anyone with hard-to-read handwriting.) The FPC had a technical staff, engineers who would evaluate the project and make reports and recommendations, at times confounding all the other parties. Then there would be hearings, and a decision by a presiding examiner. A final decision on an application would have to be approved by the five commissioners. In the history of the Grand Canyon, I think of this set-up as a collection of scrappers throwing stacks of potential archives at a black hole from which nothing definitive ever emerged for them. Since this is not a history of the FPC, I have extracted only what bears on the Canyon and how it fared at this sideshow.
As 1955 ended and 1956 began, the APA was being stirred by Gov. McFarland, and wrote a set of amendments to its Act, which were passed by the legislature. Ten years before, the APA had asked the FPC to put its name on Arizona's long-standing application 1503 for Bridge. In April 1956, APA staff was told to investigate a dam at Bridge as rapidly as possible, in cooperation with the water agency, Arizona Interstate Stream Commission. In May, there was an air tour, and requests to Reclamation for data. APA contacted the Hualapai's lawyer, Royal Marks. Through the summer, the Bridge data was received and studied, APA staff wanting to study the river from Glen to Hoover to decide on projects. The alternative of a series of low dams, including above the Park, would have the advantage of easier financing tied solely to Arizona energy demand as it increased, while a high Bridge would require selling power to California. An outside engineering firm was to be hired, rather than adding to staff. July, the FPC wrote the APA that its 1503 appllcation could move along.
Jan 1957, APA went after all Reclamation Marble data, opposed the pending GCNP boundary change, and worked on negotiating operating criteria. At this time, Hoover-Parker-Davis was generating; Glen was only recently authorized. In February, the APA reached a consensus to proceed on its own by reviving 1503 for Bridge before the FPC. LADWP then filed its counter-application with the FPC for a preliminary permit for Bridge in July. It was numbered 2234. Using Reclamation data, this bare-bones document sought a dam to 1876'--a high Bridge, which the FPC could not authorize. And in a strong message on how the politics of dams had moved on, in less than three weeks, Sierra Club Executive Director Brower had filed a request with the FPC to deny the application, since there were alternate sources of power and the project would be inconsistent with the National Park's purposes. (Compare with my 2 Aug 2010 entry.) Aug-Sep, the APA hired Harza engineering, and an amended 1503 was filed in September, desiring a hearing at the earliest date. APA's original general plan map showed 19 Grand Canyon dam sites. Here is their map, refined to 1961--call it "Staircase to Dam Heaven":
The dams in the left corner are silt traps on the Navajo's Little Colorado River. The Kanab tunnel is shown, upper center, with Fishtail & Tapeats canyons.
In December, APA also opposed LADWP's application 2234 strongly, claiming it was Arizona's damsite; LA was a foreign entity. They were countered by the Colorado River Board of California petitioning to intervene because of the importance of yet-undecided Arizona v. Caiifornia. The Hualapai, Nevada, other California water agencies, and the upper basin also piled on, seeking to intervene. Interior's petition mentioned Reclamation's expenditures, the water suit, and the responsibilities of NPS, the BIA, and Fish & Wildlife. The APA opposed the interventions.
Jan 1958, APA expanded Harza's scope, and called for an FPC hearing soon. Usually, the FPC granted a permit to investigate exclusively, and then a license to proceed with construction. LADWP had filed to investigate a high Bridge. APA decided to apply directly for a license and issued a press release, 24 Jun 58, announcing its filing for a 450' Bridge and 400' Marble backing water 55 miles, totaling 780 mw. APA's 2248 provoked the usual blizzard of petitions to intervene. Harza's preliminary report was being readied. An engineer, W.R.Gookin, experienced with Reclamation, was hired. By September there were interventions in the FPC proceedings by the Hualapai and California agencies. October, the Hualapai approved the APA plan. November, there was a preliminary meeting with the Navajo. Bridge and Prospect (at mile 190) damsite studies were being prepared.
Jan 1959, the Harza reports were done and being distributed. In May, the intervenors' petitions were granted.The upper basin states opposed a state Bridge, and would not be mollified. The APA aim was to have hearings in July, but later they were postponed until December. Financing was reported on favorably. The state Game & Fish and Parks dep'ts agreed to endorse Bridge dam. Harza worked into the summer on the transmission study and estimates of staged construction. Staff went to DC to talk to Interior and the congressional delegation. In July, the FPC had finished its engineering review, and the Navajo sought to intervene, late because of uncertainties in the applications' impacts.
In August, there were newspaper reports that LADWP engineers had been studying Bridge since the Spring, surprising the APA, which never dreamed LADWP could move so quickly. It concluded Reclamation provided its studies.True, and LADWP had hired the engineering firm TAMS. LADWP now notified APA that it intended to apply for a license, and showed Senator Hayden proposals for a jointly funded federal Bridge, with LADWP getting twice as much of the power as Arizona. Arizona's water and power agencies both opposed this, wondering why would Arizona give away 70% of ITS power. Arizona newspapers speculated that the proposal was just to delay Arizona's FPC application.
The Navajo had intervened, but "only to protect their interests", particularly with respect to the Coconino silt trap planned for the Little Colorado. R. Euler was hired to work with the Navajo, but negotiations were difficult because of uranium ore found in the area. The question of a federal Bridge was discussed by the APA, unfavorably. In October 1959, there was a big meeting with Reclamation and the delegation, which left APA satisfied about its course. Harza completed the final plans. In November, APA revised its Bridge application to go to elevation 1610', raisable to 1866', and to have two silt dams. The amended APA application was filed in December, and LADWP said it was ready to proceed. However, there could be no hearing before March 1960. Congressman Rhodes (Rep, from Phoenix) told APA he liked this double-barreled approach (fed and state), but worried about differences within state. Representative Udall had no comment.
January 1960, Nevada's petition to intervene favored a federal project, and wanted Kanab considered. The Navajo expanded their objections. The upper basin states said Marble would damage Glen's operation. February 1960, the APA recognized that the AISC was working with Reclamation on studies, but hoped there could still be intra-state cooperation, and work on that would evolve. LADWP had filed #2272 for a low Bridge (back to western Monument boundary), also moving in March to postpone FPC action because of Glen operational unknowns and the water suit. Arizona officials disagreed over whether LA was just trying to block Arizona getting its water.
Discussions were held with the Navajo and Hualapai. In March, the FPC consolidated all the matters, and set a hearing for September, with testimony to be filed beforehand. California agencies moved to suspend the proceeding until the water suit was decided. No, said the FPC, but yes, to interventions by the regular bunch. Harza presented its procedure for raising a low Bridge's height. In April, APA gave money to the Hualapai so they could hire help to study Harza's engineering plans. The Forest Service intervened, worried about fire danger from transmission lines and interference with logging. Arizona Game & Fish filed its report. In May, an offer to the Hualapai was approved, and signed in August.
[As a sidebar, the contract did not specify the reservation boundary, only that the south portion of the dam would rest on tribal lands; nothing was said about the middle of the river.]
June 1960, LADWP's consultants TAMS criticized the APA application, and compared it with LA's. APA Bridge generated less power, was less flexible, could not be raised safely since thickening is very difficult. Their double curvature dam was favored by Europeans; there was little experience on such a high dam in the U.S. Powerhouse layout was skimpy, and if the dam were raised, TAMS wondered how powerhouse would keep operating. LADWP could do 1000 mw more cheaply than even the APA's ultimate 960. Marble plans showed design flaws. Their estimates of releases from Glen were higher than anyone else's; if wrong, the power cost will increase.
The FPC staff set up a pre-hearing conference in June 1960 to avoid some cross examination and thus speed proceedings; participants should not be doing homework in the hearing room. The FPC examiner was surprised at the large attendance; perhaps too large for any useful agreements. At the confusing end, only 5 of 21 topics were agreed on. The engineers met separately. They reached some agreement; the dam life would be longer than time to pay off. Also, a 1000 mw plant seemed acceptable to all. However, the geology underlying a raised Bridge was questioned, as well as figures for streamflow and reliable power production. Nevada wanted a federal project and to discuss Kanab. FPC staff said Interior had not intervened. The Navajo's attorney pushed hard, refusing any agreement, including on two dams, at Coconino and Tolchino. FPC set a January hearing, disappointing the APA.
August 1960, Hualapai's consultants thought the APA offer reasonable, with Hualapai getting maybe 10% of the power. The contract gave APA, "with minimum interference", rights-of-way for quarries, transmission, flowage, roads, camps, access including a road down Peach Springs, and included a monthly payment of $2000 to the Hualapai "in perpetuity". Tribal income could triple or more. California moved to question the Hualapai contract in September, as reported to APA by Marks. The move was countered by Hayden, though he noted that Arizona agencies are not all in agreement, since it was not at all clear what the effect would be on any water project of building a power-only dam. He raised his own questions with the Secretary (now near the end of the Republican administration) about the tribe's authority to sign such a contract.
[This would be in line with Hayden opinions, as well as an indicator of the AISC not liking the APA's independent actions.] Interior answered that it had authority, but there were complications tied up with water suit.
A second FPC conference in September brought out the technical disagreements, with LADWP raising new information and Arizona trying to push along. The Navajo complained about being excluded. The hearing was set for February 1961. LADWP amended its application in a hurry, pressed by the FPC Examiner. In October, there was another big meeting of Arizona officials: Governor, public and private water and power agencies from Phoenix and Tucson, Cong. Rhodes and Hualapai lawyer Marks, with the APA. APA insisted on its course of pressing for FPC action; delay would hurt the state; consensus agreed with APA.
(Continued in the next entry)