Well, so, my 80th year seems like one of those special times to reflect and project. This year, moreover, is the 50th anniversary of immensely significant events in the Grand Canyon’s political history, and in my involvement with it, as a place for exploration and adventure and as a locus of learning about and attempting to influence the American political landscape.
1966. A splendid year. For me; for the Grand Canyon. A year of beginnings, of promise.
2016. A year for remembering, yes, but also with promise. The Canyon is asking more of us.
====== THE DAMS
Fifty years ago, building two hydroelectric dams in the Grand Canyon, the major step in its industrialization, was a cresting dream for many in the West and the U.S. From the beginning of the XXth century, schemes and plans and research had been aimed at emplacing concrete plugs & holes in stairsteps along the Colorado River to extract every possible kilowatt. One dreamer’s map:
The federal government, through the Bureau of Reclamation, was ready by the end of World War II to proceed. Rivalry over control of the Colorado’s waterflows plus complications in Reclamation’s legal arrangements stalled construction for 20 years. By the mid-1960’s, when the dams’ true believers were again ready, the U.S. had changed, politically and in our burgeoning understanding that a healthy people and a healthy economy require a healthy environment to flourish.
The Colorado River basin’s politicos spent much of 1966 trying to patch together a jumble-sale of water development projects and policies that would satisfy the Basin’s unwieldy conglomeration of water interests. The collapse of that effort in the late summer led Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall to order a Reclamation search for a dam-less waterworks plan. The technical and congressional success of that search carried with it the government’s commitment not to build, or allow to be built, any dams in the Grand Canyon.
====== NO DAMS
The roots of “Saving Grand Canyon” from dams were almost as old as the dam scheming. One of the earliest struggles over the National Park System (n.b., 2016 is its 100th birthday) was over a prohibition on constructing hydroelectric projects in its units. This prohibition was made equivocal for the Canyon’s 1919 Park and 1932 Monument. However, experiences in the 1940’s & 50’s educated out any equivocation among the Canyon’s defenders, bringing, in the 1960’s, a clear-sighted view that the full length of the Canyon, from the Paria junction to the Grand Wash Cliffs, should be closed to dam construction. (The impacts on the Canyon from Glen Canyon dam above and Hoover dam below only further strengthened Canyon advocates’ determination.) The view was not just anti-dam; it saw the Canyon’s future as being entirely protected within the National Park System.
====== MEETINGS: THE CANYON & DAVID BROWER
I first visited the Canyon in 1962, almost simultaneously learning about the idea of damming it. It took a couple more years before I learned that lots of other people thought a Grand Canyon dam was a bad idea, principal among them, the Sierra Club and its Executive Director, David Brower, whom I met in November 1964. That contact boosted my efforts to understand the basis for what I saw as a loony scheme to dam and industrialize the Earth’s grandest wonder.
A year later, at our second meeting, Brower used his green pen (darkened here) to solicit my interest in working full time for the Canyon (and our Southwestern environment in general), writing this proposal out for me:
Timing is all important, and at that moment — married student though I was —, I was free and eager to say “yes”. A couple of months later, January 1966, I started as the Club’s first Southwest Representative. As I write this, I’m still staggered by the tumble of events crammed into that year.
====== ORATING FOR THE CANYON
Throughout the year, I filled the sky with CO2 (who knew?) as, usually with/to Brower, I traveled to San Francisco (more than once), Washington DC (many more than once), New York City, Pittsburgh, and aside from the coast-to-coast trips, regionally, from Albuquerque where we lived, to Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Santa Fe. It was a heady life-style; the cause, the hotels, the restaurants, the company, that Brower chose, patronized, and wooed. Almost all this effort was clustered around ways to convey to America the desirability to eschew, in this very special case of the Grand Canyon, American devotion to growth and development — at a time when Californians, for instance, were firmly in the grip of gigantism, in population, economy, and of course water and power use. A cause illuminated and made full of opportunity, even “revolutionary”, in all the talks, speeches, orations that I heard Brower make: Charismatic for me and for the audiences, he stirred us and directed our attention to Saving Grand Canyon. Not that he shied from opponents:— speaking before hunters in Phoenix (and being confronted with a tar bucket); or nose-to-nose with reclamationists and feisty old US Representatives in Albuquerque; in debate with dam boosters like Arizonan Morris Udall or conservative guru Barry Goldwater; testifying in Congress to openly hostile legislators who hated what he was trying to do.
====== COMRADES (sic) IN ARMS
Inextricable from that charismatic aura and I believe from his relentless drive, leadership, reaching out, entertaining new ideas & phrasing, was (and can it be different for any such personality?) Brower’s sexual stance, a personal quality of assertiveness I experienced from my first contact —and that is the word— with Brower.
Our conversations during that 1964 Sierra Club conference in Santa Fe included his invitation to join his wife and him (and photographer Eliot Porter and surely others — for that was Brower’s way with lunch, to make them convocations), at which I sat next to him, and at which he tapped me on the knee— destiny’s knock. When, a year later, we met in the lobby of the second Santa Fe conference, he eyed my newish beard and opined that he preferred my previous incarnation. Regardless, our chatting led to his writing out the green-ink description of a southwest representative position for the Club, and then offering me the chance to take the job (once he had convinced the Club’s executive committee to create it, and then to hire me — minor matters).
There was a preliminary event that late 1965 — he asked me to go with him to Washington DC on an orientation trip, which made me enough nervous that I called Eliot Porter to ask if I was in danger — a trip with conversation so intense I felt giddy afterwards. All was made explicit in Pittsburgh in early ’66 at a huge conference of conservation organization bigwigs in a hotel in which he had reservations —one room, for us to share. (Did I say I was happily & prosperously married with 2 children; did I say he was happily & excellently married with 4?) Anyway, he made his move, and I turned him down. The boundary had been reached, and I am glad to say (for the Grand Canyon’s sake, too), that within our joint space of comradeship and endeavor, we strove in harmony, and successfully, to Save Grand Canyon.
The intensity of our relationship was ebbing a year later, yet was still fruitful in our joint week of effort that produced the Club’s Grand Canyon movie. As Brower moved more aggressively to gain control of the Club, I moved protectively to carry out my southwestern duties — it was a fraught time for many of us, and ended, arguably, as badly as such civil wars can. I mourn the loss of the opportunities foregone by a Brower-less Sierra Club. We followed very separate roads, yet in the expansiveness and love inherent in his personality (par for a charismatic, surely), he found time over the years to share a dinner or visit now & then and to call me on my birthday, as indeed he did in 2000, the month before he died.
Yet, just as his biographers have, so I grapple with the issues — of sexuality and its role in decision-making and policy choices and political success/failure — of an aggressive personality reaching out and forward, and once again arguably, bringing on strong reaction, opposition, and even defeat — of an active personality thoroughly engaged in the world (in our talks about sexual matters he was full of good spirits; it was, like climbing mountains, all part of the great adventure of life for him) — of the joy of having been engaged with and by a person who was so transformative in human affairs.
====== A COMPLETE GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Determined to confront the dams’ proponents with a positive, national alternative, Brower supervised Martin Litton & me in cobbling together a “complete” Grand Canyon National Park — I remember us working on it in a hotel room somewhere. Litton was travel editor of Sunset Magazine, and more importantly, Brower’s knowledgeable ally in conservation and anti-dam fights. He it was, Brower told me, whose oratory had brought the Sierra Club board of directors to oppose any dam in the Canyon and to call for an expanded Park. The expansion we envisioned would encompass the main Canyon and its drainage, plus significant parts of its major tributaries like Kanab along with the plateaus into which the Canyon was carved. Not since 1910 had such a vision been advanced. Here is our map as shaped into legislative form, probably by Mike McCloskey,
Approved by the Sierra Club, such a vision could not escape treading on many sacred toes: Navajo, Hualapai, Havasupai, hunters, mining & grazing interests, as well as giving the back of the American hand to those cherishing the dream of stair-stepped dams for the Colorado. This Park expansion was to guide the Sierra Club and other Canyon friends’ efforts in the fierce Park legislative fight of the mid-1970’s, and remains today the widest-perspective view of how to recognize, protect, and present for the world’s public the entity that is the natural wonder and environmental icon embodied in the Grand Canyon.
====== A KERFUFFLE AT THE SOUTH RIM
This expansion became a bi-partisan vision when introduced in Congress by three conservation stalwarts — J.Saylor, J.Dingell, H.Reuss — coordinated with a pro-Canyon convocation at El Tovar on the South Rim the weekend of 2-3 April 1966. This get-together was generated by Readers Digest printing an attack, first published by Audubon, on the dams by Richard Bradley. We were to bring to the Canyon a gathering of Canyon friends, a panel of experts, and a flock of journalists. The case against the dams and for the Canyon would be made, friends and media would mingle and speak of personal details, and there would be airplane trips to the National Monument where Martin Litton would orate on the Canyon’s virtues above Toroweap’s 3000-foot-drop to the river (which a dam would turn into a reservoir). In spite of the distances, friends of the Canyon came from Arizona, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque & northern New Mexico, among others. It was to be a super-charging experience.
The gathering became quite something else when the Bureau of Reclamation (with or without the knowledge of Interior Secretary Udall) muscled into the meeting room and occupied much of the space with an immense model of the Canyon (where did the money for that come from? And where is it now?), its flacks, and on Sunday, the heavies of Arizona politics: Barry Goldwater & Morris Udall — all there to praise the dams, and to explain to the credulous how little the Canyon would be impacted — “Flooded!? Ha!” Here’s a graphic of how they made their case:
The details of that fiasco(?)/big news event(?) belong in another telling, but I retain vivid memories. It was not the last time that the dammers would try a government coup to shut up Savers of the Canyon.
====== NO DAMS! BUT HOW DID “WE” DO IT?
Any recounting of the fight against the dams is going to feature two media-rich events: the Club’s publication of full-page newspaper ads and the resulting investigation of the Club’s tax status by the IRS.
Saving Grand Canyon, however, was a grass roots crusade, with letter-writing, local organizations raising money and publicity, newspaper editorials across the land, and personal attempts to contact U. S. Representatives and other political notables. I have two full file drawers of material for anyone who would want to chart this crusade. The story has been summarized in existing books (q.v. Byron Pearson, Tom Turner, Robert Wyss), but never laid out in its nation-wide reach. Though no one was tracking all the efforts, we were stimulated by one indicator: the great increase in Club membership, doubling and doubling again, going on toward 100,000.
That growth was in part stimulated by the flood of coupons from the full-page ads published by the Club in the New York Times and the Washington Post. I remember being in Brower’s company both when the first Grand Canyon ad was being drawn up and when we learned of its consequence, the IRS investigation. However, the memories are foggy ones, and I cannot resolve where we were when we were putting together our softer version of the ad (sorry about the quality of this 50-year-old newspaper tearsheet):
This ad was in contrast to the punchier, more aggressive version, of which I unfortunately do not have a copy, authored by adMan Gerry Mander. His headline read:
“Now Only You Can Save Grand Canyon From Being Flooded…For Profit“.
That one carried six coupons instead of one, and was the hands-down winner for effectiveness based on coupon response.
Bash-‘em always beats the kid-gloves treatment.
Also stimulated was the federal Internal Revenue Service, which soon sent a taxman to the Club’s San Francisco headquarters to start its investigation of whether this organization with a tax status that forbade lobbying was lobbying. Whether this attack was instigated by the dam-lovers or whatever, the end result was nothing but trouble for the effort the Arizonans were expending in the House that summer trying to convince Representatives that the dams were a “good thing”. Did the ads & the IRS raid save the Canyon? They were key ingredients in this national struggle for hearts & minds. They were elements in the vast mosaic of a national cry of “No Dams”, and that cry in full voice disrupted the tidy political calculations of the reclamationists.
We also deployed people to call on Representatives in Washington, seeking to convince those not from the Southwest that the Canyon should be saved. We were confronted by the sophisticated operation of the Arizona delegation and its lobbyists (recounted in their own words by Rich Johnson), funded by every sector of the Arizona power structure, dedicated as it was to the Central Arizona Project as a gigantic boost of the state forward into the californicated future of its western neighbor.
My own beat was the Texas delegation. Our effectiveness was never tested — eventually California formidably blocked the legislation’s path— but my visits to congressional offices certainly showed me the issue was a live one in every office, as per this story of Mo Udall’s:
In this same period, the Speaker of the House was seeking approval of a reconstruction
of the Capitol, which horrified many. When Udall came seeking one member’s vote,
he was told: “Mo, Ive already given the Speaker my support, and Im only good for one
desecration a year.”
The Arizonans’ lobbying was aimed at getting through the House a rube-goldberg bill that tried to satisfy every Basin state: their huge Central Arizona Project (CAP), new water projects for Colorado & Utah, a share of the Colorado for New Mexico; most of all, guarantees to California along with the promise to seek water to import, probably from the Columbia River. For that promise, a money source was needed, and guess what, that is what the Grand Canyon dams were really for, to generate cash in a fund for a water raid on the Northwest.
For some reason, the dams were often called cash registers; they were not so neutral; they were cash generators, a way of sucking the life out of the Canyon, changing it into heaps of gold for Southwest water imperialism. They were emblematic of the heady dreams engineers of reclamation had, fantasizing even about huge reservoirs in the Canadian Rockies.
Our goal was to show that the Arizonans could have their CAP minus the dams — not needed for power to pump CAP water, for this would come in any case from the cheapest sort of electricity from existing and new coal plants. And as we showed, not for the electricity revenues, either. I spent days and days in the spring of 1966 working within the format of the Bureau of Reclamation’s 50-year pay-out spread-sheets. On these huge documents, BuRec would show the money pouring in from power and water revenues, and pouring out to pay off the project costs: first, the dams, then the pump & storage works, and then into a slush fund for an eternity of Reclamation waterworks to keep Los Angeles lawns green.
But here, I thought, was their weakness. By that time, I had spent enough time with government documents and talking to my Reclamation source, to have a beginner’s understanding of Reclamation’s arcane workings. I saw that I could make up a Reclamation-style pay-out sheet that left off the two Grand Canyon dams and thus the accumulation of such a huge fund to raid the Northwest. On my sheet, I showed that the costs of the uncontested projects would still be paid for. In lobbying, we could now say the dams were not needed for the CAP; they were only needed for future water imports. I was very proud of all my calculations (I dont remember what kind of machine I used, but there was no computer involved). Here is a simplified sample refined in Dec 1966; the title is “LOWER COLORADO RIVER BASIN PROJECT REPAYMENT ANALYSIS”:
The three 0’s at the bottom are the important thing, going to show “more water could flow sooner, with less cost to the water user, the power user, and the general taxpayer”.
Brower had my original sheet printed up in a big bold chart that we displayed when we got our chance to speak before the House Interior Committee. Its rube-goldberg bill coming together led it to hold hearings for a week in May. We were consigned to the last day, and told that only “new” material would be allowed; no more preaching about the beauties of the Canyon. Our contingent flew from San Francisco to DC the Sunday before: Brower, me, Larry Moss and Alan Carlin — these last two were to testify about nuclear power, clean and cheap, that would just make any dams unnecessary. (I know, I know. That was then; this is now. The world turns. Things change. Watch out what you wish for.)
Was that hearing room ever crowded! All those water mavens, from Interior/Reclamation, and all the Colorado Basin States, and especially California with wily old Northcutt Ely — we were most impressed, especially as Reclamation Commissioner Dominy, an alpha-male of a man, strode in with entourage, right past us standing on the side (no seats for us), pausing only to exchange sharp “friendly” formalities with Brower. (Was that the time Dominy said, “We’ll respect the Canyon, Dave, dont worry”, and Brower replied, “Just leave us some.”? Maybe not, but it fits the scene.) He knew us; we knew him. And on Friday, we got our chance, the three of us, to make our splash, and as best we could, confound the Bureau and set them back a bit. I do remember this scene: Alan Carlin stuttered, and one of the meaner Californian dammers, a C. Hosmer, kept interrupting Alan trying to throw him off. We were lucky in our villains, keeping our blood at a boil.)
Set back a bit only, of course; Reclamation were the seasoned experts, the best of the water bureaucracy. But that didnt matter, since all we had to do was sow doubt about the viability of the huge paste-up job that the legislation had become. The political landscape was this: In the House, what Arizona had to do was get the aid of Coloradan W. Aspinall, chairman of the Interior Committee and a tough exponent of reclamation, and secure California support with solid guarantees it would not have to worry about losing Colorado River water once Arizona started to use its share. That done, a strong lobbying effort would get the bill through the House.The Arizonans were convinced they could pass the bill with all its many parts including the dams, and get it to the Senate. A very tough job, and it took Udall and the Arizonans 1965 and into the summer of 1966 to get ready to take the bill to the full House. But at that point, Udall could not convince the Californians that the votes were there, especially for the dams, and so they used their leverage to keep the bill from reaching the floor for a vote. No one can measure out the exact effects of each aspect of this wide-spread battle, but I contend that our long-time advocacy of a dam-free Canyon along with our “new” material and anti-dam efforts, pointedly the good/bad publicity from the ads + IRS attack, had sown great doubt. The Californians had become enough afraid that they were not willing to chance a House vote, especially so close (August-September) to the end of a Congress, with the Senate still to deal with.
Here is where our (not-so) secret alliance came in. The Arizonans believed that with a California-backed House-passed bill, they could use their venerable Senator Carl Hayden (in Congress since 1912) to get it through the Senate. Their problem was that the Senate Interior Committee was chaired by Washington state’s Henry Jackson (who happened to be working with the Club at this time on a North Cascades Park bill). We knew early on that the Pacific Northwest would oppose any water raid. So I spent much time talking with Jackson’s aide Sterling Munro and Washington Representative Tom Foley. Their opinions and analysis shored up our belief that our strategy was working, that our obstruction could mean a rough time for any House-passed bill in the Senate.
As a side effect — part of my civic education —, my long-standing belief in the possibility of useful government came from the times I spent with outstanding legislative pros like Munro, Foley (who later on became Speaker of the House), and later Mo Udall himself, for their intelligence and positive perspective, particularly of course about the Grand Canyon and environmental work.
What we therefore knew, and what Californians knew, was that any bill that came to the Senate would have to accommodate the Northwest’s fears. We worked hard to make it clear that those fears should include the dams, cash-cows for water import. In the Senate, Hayden and Jackson would work together (that was the way it used to be). If we could make the dams a poison pill for the northwesterners, and those two could see a way to have the Arizona waterworks without the dams, the Senate could act, and then face down the House, whose creaking clap-trap monstrosity had now collapsed in a heap — providing a pause in which Secretary Udall could start driving in the final coffin nails for the dams before a new Congress convened in 1967.
====== A GRAND CANYON MOVIE
Martin Litton was a dedicated cinematographer, and had shot thousands of feet of film the Sierra Club wanted to make into a movie that would highlight a Canyon river trip while blasting away at the dam plan. I saw a first cut by a commercial film-maker that fall, and was appalled at how the sense of the river and the grandeur of the Canyon were lost, subordinated to a slam-bang climax of blowing up rocks. In response to my complaints, Brower said, “Ok, take the footage; write a script; make a film.” Typical Brower. It took a year, but with his help, the assistance of a Kansas City film company, chutzpah, and Litton’s grumpy acceptance, the film got done and shown.
A couple of years before, a powerful elegy had been made from slides of the dammed Glen Canyon. It was so moving that when it ended, the felt loss so heavy, there would be silence from the audience. The Grand Canyon film, “Living River, Living Canyon” was intended as a triumphant celebration and Im glad to say was greeted with applause at its premiere.
====== THE BEST REWARD: A RIVER TRIP ALL THE WAY
Seeing the winding down of the congressional effort, it seemed wise for both Brower and me, with Club DC lobbyist Bob Waldrop, Bulletin editor Hugh Nash, and Canyon format book author Francois Leydet, to see what we were championing. A river trip rowing dories through the Canyon, Lees Ferry to Lake Mead’s Temple Bar, was organized by Martin Litton, then a DIY boater. Litton and photographer Ernie Braun kept detailed journals (Ernie’s photos were later used in the book Grand Canyon of the Living Colorado). We were joined by John Vail (future river outfitter), Californian environmentalists Alf Heller & Dobie Jenkins, and the family of another photographer, Clyde Childress, (with their own wooden dory), and others.
SIDEBAR ON MARTIN LITTON
In my own, useless, journal, I wrote this about “M L: often turbulent or uproarious, rarely smooth,
tremendously various, running deep, always moving — and good clear through: the Grand Canyon.”
In the 1970’s, Martin migrated on to using dories —rowing boats— as one of the pay-for-play
commercial operations sanctioned by the National Park Service. This led him to do a 180 on DIYs, to
the pitch that he campaigned against them, writing & speaking as the commercial operators’ front.
Even worse in my eyes, as the fight over a motorless Grand Canyon Wilderness got meaner and
nastier through the 1970’s, Litton joined all the other river-traffic companies in outspoken opposition
to the Park’s new research-based River Management Plan that would have eliminated motors and
allowed a Grand Canyon Wilderness. Contrary to his own oft-stated belief in wilderness, Litton spoke
out against that Plan that could have led toward Wilderness designation.
Our relationship had weakened anyway over my version of the Grand Canyon film and due to his foot-
dragging on upgrading environmental protections along the river. For me, his unwillingness to lead a
pro-rowing, wilderness- & environment-oriented faction of commercial outfitters was a sad lesson in
what the Big Dollar can do to even the most vocally vigorous of Canyon boosters. Should he get
the biography he deserves, however, I suspect his turnabout on Grand Canyon wilderness and river
management will end up tinged by the romantic aura of “being on the river”.] ###
In 1966, 1100 people were recorded running the river; soon the annual count would soar above 20,000. I have recounted in Hijacking A River the struggle with the commercial operators and the Park Service to obtain environmentally sound, wilderness, river use (I shudder to recall what beaches in September 1966 looked like after only a thousand people). I know what wilderness river travel could be, and I so regret the greedy, short-sighted intransigence of the motor-boaters and their supporters.
However, in 1966 on the river, we were all up-beat and full of excitement to be on a trip only a few thousand people had taken. To some of us, the newness was a mandate to explore at every stop — Litton labelled us “the lunatic fringe” (shown: Waldrop & Ingram)
It was not as if Litton had seen it all. For instance, we camped at what is now known as Silver Grotto. Three of us decided to climb up into it, to see how far we could get, and were, of course, astonished at its smoothed and voluptuous beauty. When we came out, Martin & a few others inquired as to what was there. We were very casual, not voicing the enthusiasm we felt — no one else bothered with a visit. Farther down, Martin wanted to stop at Matkatamiba, which he had heard was worth some time; however, a stop was not prepared for, and we went on by.
A big part of the trip for the fringe was running all the rapids, something that Litton was a bit uneasy about. Through Marble Canyon, we had a few rock smacks that required stops to drain and repair, but the last damage was at Hance, which Litton opined was “probably impossible to run”, leading to the trip’s one “lining”. One was enough foolishness; the river was to run. And Hermit was, for Litton, “the greatest ride I have ever had in the Canyon”. We did have a few flips or people out of the boat on the trip, but the only serious one was in Lava Falls, as if to solidify its reputation. There was some hard-nosed reaction to this, but looking back, it is easy enough to see that our trip was part of the opening up of the river and travel on it. Sadly, the Park Service had a lot of catching up to do in this regard.
The water was quite comfortable to swim in, and we did a lot, including jumping in above rapids and “swimming” through. But above all was the hiking. Our trip was 19 days; we would have loved 30. A cave at mile 26, Stanton’s Cave, dam exploration artifacts, Redwall Cavern, Red Canyon/Papagp Ck, Shinumo, high up into Elves Chasm, Stone Creek & above, Tapeats and up to Thunder and inside the cave, Deer Creek and Surprise Valley, Kanab & Havasu Canyons, Fern Glen, Travertine Grotto, — all most common stops today, but full of the wonder of the new for us.
We met only three other trips — commercial “baloneys” to Litton. We saw more G C rattlesnakes than that; Litton wrote reassuringly, “We did not injure them.” Some Bighorn, a bobcat, more birds than usual, we were told. Journal-keeper and photographer Ernie Braun noted “a ritual about the river trip which Martin adheres to .. eat the same things and stop and look at the same side canyons. This is his sixth trip.” Given the tendency of a few of us to take off and hike/explore, no wonder that Martin the ritualist saw us as lunatics. Ah, to be mad like that again!
====== MORRIS UDALL: FRENEMY
At the first Sierra Club (Rio Grande chapter) Santa Fe conference, I came, learned about conservation, and met Mr & Mrs Brower. At the second, he offered me the job of Southwest Representative. I organized the third. For that one, in a moment of inspiration, Brower & I, knowing that Morris Udall (as well as his brother the Secretary) had been, would be, friends of what would soon be called the Environment, invited Udall to come to Santa Fe and give the main speech on some conservation issue important to him. He accepted, and did his own bit of charming an unfriendly audience (which, with his great sense of humor, he was magnificent at), talking up the idea of a Sonoran Desert National Park.
Meanwhile, to keep our aim sharp, Brower accepted an invitation from the National Reclamation Association, which had come to lick its wounds in Albuquerque that November. The format would be a run-through of the dams debate before a group that was angry and confused about what was going to happen next. The apparent loss of the dams was a stunning blow to true believers. It was a gauntlet experience: As we walked down the entry hall, we were met by New Mexico’s chief water man, Steve Reynolds, who challenged Brower by asking which dam he would be willing to allow. Neither of them, came back the iconic Brower answer.
A bit farther, and we encountered Wayne Aspinall:
(Albuquerque Tribune 18 Nov 1966 front page)
Not a great shot, and this one, from a friendly interview the day before, is problematic, too, though the text referred to the “silver-haired and golden-tongued … slim 54-year-old”.
When we finally got to our seats, the debate began with the guest going first. This was not a group to be charmed, but Brower made our case. Udall stood to reply, and told the “goomwah” joke on Brower, which I thought was a bit low, and then went through the usual reasons to build the now proven-to-be-unnecessary dams. Their political day was done, however, and possibly even this gathering of boomers and builders knew it — Reclamation’s Dominy spoke of dam alternatives “with gritted teeth”.
====== NO DAMS; THE END
The finale was introduced by Secretary Udall, who started moving out beyond mourning the loss of the House-foundered legislative effort. I learned from my source within the Bureau of Reclamation that Udall had, taking advantage of Bureau chief Dominy being in China, ordered it to come up with as many alternatives to dams as they could think of that would furnish the pumping power and financial arrangements needed for the Central Arizona Project (CAP) waterworks.
That effort resulted in the administration proposal introduced in Congress in 1967. In brief, the federal government was to pre-pay to the utilities money to provide a block of cheap power from the grid to pump CAP water. Although much of the power would come from coal-fired plants, those plants were already built or being planned by the utilities, CAP pumping needs or no. Snarky comments have been made since that coal-fired electric plants (with their pollution pouring out to obscure visitors’ view of the Grand Canyon) were the price we paid for a dam-free Canyon. A lie, of course, but one being perpetuated even today.
The administration initiative fulfilled the political requirements for a Jackson-Hayden alliance to get a CAP bill through the Senate in 1967. After much heaving and hawing in the House, the Colorado River Basin Project Act became law in 1968. No dams were authorized, nor, per section 605, would be allowed, in “the reaches of the main stream of the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam until and unless otherwise provided by Congress.“
IS THERE A BOOK HERE?
This year of 50 & 80 seems a good time to decide to turn to the bright side, to celebrate the 100th of Grand Canyon National Park by cleaning up and casting, into physical-book form, this blogger’s history of how the American concept of National Parks has worked out for the Canyon starting from John Wesley Powell’s original offering in 1884, and still an active issue in this day of severe challenges and multiple proposals for protection and presentation, all set upon a scape of a variety of land jurisdictions and ownerships.
The history itself is nearly completely up-to-date — only the story of the latest National Monument needs to be fleshed out — and is accessible through my gcfutures blog site by using the tab for PARK. A blog is for those who seek it or come across it; the physical artifact would seem to be a worthwhile addition to the more permanent book shelf for friends of and the curious about the Canyon.
It will differ from my decade-old Hijacking A River: A Political History of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in that it will be my personal gathering up and narrating from mostly archival sources but without the more academic appurtenances. My goal will be to tell a comprehensive story from the point of view of one Canyon friend and activist. I wish to bring into one volume the opportunity for a general reader to enjoy the amazing tale of how Americans have chosen to celebrate, instead of defiling, the Canyon, and to provide for the specialist a background and pointers for further fruitful investigation.
Its a great story; it is not over yet. The Park’s 100th in 2019 will be an appropriate time to ponder, ask, and debate the tasks ahead in making real an expansive, comprehensive, altogether celebratory vision of the Grand Canyon as an astonishing natural phenomenon, a wilderness adventure, and an iconic environmental reminder and signpost — the vision that powered the astonishing events of 1966, and which, 50 years later, still illuminates my reflections in my 80th year.