Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dam Battle: January 1966 press

The officials and legislators concerned with water issues in the seven states of the Colorado River Basin had been struggling throughout 1965 (and earlier) to put together legislation that would authorize the Central Arizona Project (CAP would bring Colorado River water over to Phoenix and Tucson) while protecting the myriad water interests of the other states.

The guiding force for relevant policy and construction was the federal Bureau of Reclamation, headed & cheer-led by Commissioner Floyd Dominy, himself a force, although he was nominally under the guidance of the Secretary of the Interior, Arizonan Stewart Udall — brother to Arizona Representative Morris Udall, leader of the Arizona lobbying effort in the house.

Jan, WWN: Dominy speech before Irrigators convention, Dec 1965, asserts needs for AZ & southern Cal cannot be met by Colo R. in long run but also will require desalination, sewage reclamation, and import “from areas of surplus”. He agreed with Sen. Jackson of Washington that import must be actually needed and needs of proposed diversion must be determined. Northern Cal is one such area.
Convention opposed efforts of preservationists to stop multipurpose projects.
Northcutt Ely, (California water attorney and guru), attacked provision in recent water planning act added by Jackson to prohibit some studies of interbasin transfer (p.l. 89-80).[WWN Jan 66]

Perhaps the biggest problem of this knottiest of western water matters is brought right out: The Colorado did not carry enough water to meet the greed & need of the Pacific Southwest states. In the climate of the time, a further huge water project bringing Columbia River water from the Northwest, seemed the obvious solution. But not to the Northwesterners, headed by Senator Henry Jackson, who was in an absolutely key position as chairman of the Senator Interior Committee. He repeatedly made clear his opposition to anything that might hint at a commitment to such an “importation” or “water diversion”. However, CRB spokespersons could not shut up about it.

16 Jan, Rep: DC that BuRec will charge $7/acre-ft for M&I from existing reservoirs.

BuRec was planning on a price for Municipal & Industrial water from the CAP of $50/af or more. Agricultural water would be $10/af.

27 Jan, Rep: letters: pro-GC (Grand Canyon, or just the Canyon) protesting “people-haters” label.
Anti-dammer from Denver says dams are of “marginal utility”.
JKowalsky (local Grand Canyon activist) makes several anti-dam points.

I review some letters, since they often show debate content.

31 Jan, W.Steif, for Scripps-Howard: DC: RRNathan Assoc rpt to Interior that coal power so inexpensive that dams not approvable. Outlined vast market for cheap western coal. 97-134 million tons by 1980, ten times current use. Utilities will have to triple power production. Also cheaper than gas, oil, or nuclear. Part of cost decrease is due to longline transmission.
Jackson impressed. 

Sec. Udall had backed off Bridge Canyon dam under fire from conservationists. But BuRec says both needed “to produce enough electricity to pay for the canals”.

Here was a major theme by pro-GC activists: There were excellent alternatives to the dams, especially the then-burgeoning building of thermal electric plants using local coal.
A tactical dispute among the water leaders was over whether the bigger GC dam, at Bridge Canyon, should be postponed and studied some more since it backed water into Grand Canyon National Monument and Park.

Supposedly that was to placate the pro-GC “conservationists” (what environmentalists were called 50 years ago). But the Sierra Club and others had already moved on: not just protecting the Park, but the entire Canyon.

And anyway, the overall strategy of the SW water leaders was to get both dams to maximize the revenue they would generate to eventually pay for water import projects.

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