Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dam Battle: July 1966 Press

June was the setting for the climax that came in July: The Colorado River Basin reclamationists had approved the final form of their grand compromise, defiantly pushing forth their entire package of projects, dams, and import studies.
 In the “old days”, that would have been enough: By adding on one interest after another (“compromising”), they had secured all the allies they should have needed to get approval of the wider congressional world. And as for the opposition that was left — the Northwest would be conciliated or overrun.
Yet there the Canyon’s defenders stood. We had attracted national attention for the Canyon and for our cause thanks to the big ads and the IRS action. So the question— who cared about what the canyon-lovers said?—that was the reclamation-business-as-usual reaction, was receiving an unsettling answer: America cared.
   Watch now, as that tidy little reclamation world runs into the reality of a different America than the one they had prospered in for so many decades.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dam Battle: June 1966 press

(Unfortunately, some of the clippings in the files from now on were saved without information on the newspaper of origin. I have added an ? to indicate my best guess.)

1 Jun, (AZ paper) editorial: With the House Committee about to act, compliments to those officials and lobbyists who have labored to bring the House bill this far. We should shortly know if this golden opportunity will bear fruit. But Congress is straining for adjournment, and it would be a brand new game next year.

3 Jun, LA Times, editorial cartoon, titled “Psycho”.

Dam Battle: May 1966 press

The New York Times had long been a friendly voice for conservation and its causes. Not a newspaper in the West, however, its coverage did not reach to the day-to-day events of the dam fight. The following long article, bylined “Grand Canyon, Arizona” without apparent justification, took the overall summary approach, an almost historical perspective.

2 May NYT, “Nature Lovers Say Dams Will ‘Disfigure’ Grand Canyon”: Opening with a quote from Thoreau, the reporter celebrated the 250-mile-long (sic) 7- million-year-old “masterpiece”. But now “man … plans to regulate (it) and erase ages of (time’s) handiwork. The House reclamation subcommittee will open hearings 9 May “on a bill to authorize two dams across the canyon”, appendages of  a “huge project to divert” Colorado River water to “dry areas of Arizona and Colorado”, principally the Phoenix and Tucson areas.
  The project is not new; “formulated by the West’s principal dam builder”, Reclamation, it passed the Senate twice, but was delayed for 15 years when the House ordered Arizona to settle its water dispute with California. Now, all the Basin states have reached an agreement, with Colorado no longer an opponent since it will receive five irrigation projects.
  The dam near Bridge Canyon, west of the Grand Canyon National Park, was deferred by the Budget Bureau due to the furor raised by conservationists. However, F. Sparks of Colorado pointed out this dam is in the legislation as part of the Basin-unanimous agreement, and he was quite sure “Congress will enact the legislation by August”.
  That dam would drown out “the entire inner gorge at some points”. The two dams would, according to conservationist leader the Sierra Club, convert a living river into a dead reservoir, a static museum piece. Wildlife habitat, archeological and geological records, campsites, river boat trips, would be adversely affected along with the scene being disfigured by roads and transmission lines. Thirteen miles of the Park and 40 miles of the Monument would disappear under water, as would another 90 miles above and below the two dams. This would leave 98% of the Park “untouched”.
  The Sierra Club’s response was a bill introduced by Rep. J. Saylor to triple the park acreage and include the Canyon’s entire 280 miles of the Colorado. However, first, it would fight to delete the dams’ authorization as extraneous to the water diversion. Hydroelectric dams are a separate Reclamation enterprise to produce power to help “reimburse the Treasury” for the diversion’s cost, as is traditional for Reclamation. The dams — called “cash registers (to) ring up sales of electric power” by Reclamation — are a $710 million project to make the diversion feasible. However, dam opponents set forth arguments to show the dams are too-costly anachronisms distant from power-using areas. Their revenues would not be needed if project water were priced at the going rate. But most of the water is going cheaply to farms growing cotton, long in surplus. And this water will need to be augmented from desalinization or other diversions.
  Reclamation responds the dams will both subsidize more water and put the “inner cavers (sic) of the vast gorge within the reach of millions”. The Club call this a crime against nature; there are already 600 miles for Colorado reservoir boating.  An unpublished Park Service report says silt and debris would eventually clog the reservoirs. That report hasn’t been circulated since Interior Secretary Udall favors the dams. Reclamation head Dominy says nature will be improved upon, contrary to Theodore Roosevelt’s, “The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it”.

A balanced report — if by that is meant neither choice is presented as the correct and obvious course. And the reporter worked to be accurate in what he chose to present.