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.
For orientation, in July 1966, the 13th was a Wednesday; 19-21 were Tue-Thur,
27 was Wed.
2 Jul, San Francisco Examiner, interview with Sierra Club’s D Brower, in which he attributed the “break” between conservationists and Secretary Udall to the IRS action and Udall’s recent statement opposing Hualapai Dam, which Brower said only repeated the President’s position, and was “no victory”. “We are tremendously distressed” that Udall has said virtually nothing against Marble Canyon dam. The Park Service’s findings about the dams’ “irreparable havoc” have been kept from the public. A “compromise” of only half the damage is “no solution at all”. The IRS intended to “shut us up, frighten us in submission. It hasn’t.” Contributions have tripled.
7 Jul, San Francisco Examiner, column, K Rexroth sees IRS action as part of the immorality of this administration. The dams are “unnecessary”, and will turn the Grand Canyon into “a beautifully embalmed corpse”. Cheered by desalinization status and lots of coal.
7 Jul, local Phoenix paper attacks Life for its recent close-up of Brower, “lord-high mucky-muck of the Sierra Club”. Lots of praise for canyon lakes, like Glen Canyon’s.
12 Jul, Washington Post has puff piece by M J Pusey (editorial writer, Utah-born Mormon & Republican) on Glen Canyon Dam’s reservoir: ”Artificial Lake Proves Man Can Enhance Nature” for two pages, only noting in the last sentence, “Flooding of the Grand Canyon … would be a totally different proposition.”
12 Jul, Rep, notes that two more local officials are going to Washington to lobby for the CAP.
We could not match the numbers of Arizona lobbyists, much less from all the Basin states, but there were perhaps 5-10 of us spending many days going around to congressional offices.
12 Jul, RMN, House Interior Committee will take up CAP this week, as the “impending fight over the Grand Canyon builds to a dull roar.” The committee will approve the bill, but the odds are narrowing on House action. A compromise is being floated, to drop Marble and alter the Park boundary to permit Hualapai. Also, Senator Jackson will not buy the bill’s import study provision. However, support by California and the Upper Basin states is contingent on moving toward import. There are amendments before the committee, but the bill’s backers have the votes to move it. “Bombardment of congressmen demanding elimination of the dams” is “beginning to take its toll”. New Yorkers and midwesterners are drifting away, and Californians are getting a little alarmed. “Feeling is growing” that power could be produced another way. The haggling will take place Wednesday, with lobbyists from both sides lining the halls outside the committee chambers.
13 Jul, Sentinel, reports vote not yet taken on Rep. Saylor’s bare-bones bill authorizing only the CAP. After a turbulent meeting, Aspinall predicted that bill would be voted down at the 20 Jul meeting. “We are moving along”, said Aspinall. Saylor’s bill would use revenues from existing dams to help pay for the CAP, and he pleaded for his bill, since it would authorize the CAP and not impair the Grand Canyon. Udall opposed Saylor, saying the other Basin states would reject it, sounding “the death knell to get water to Arizona.”
14 Jul, AP, adds report that Aspinall ended session just as a vote was to be taken on the Saylor bare-bones bill.
14 Jul, RMN, D Thomasson, says the same, but also reports that one Californian, Ed Reinecke, came out for the substitute, saying water import is way out of the ballpark, according to his figuring, entailing an astronomical cost. However, this provision is essential for support by the other Basin states, even though Jackson has said he will not accept a CAP if it has the import provision. [Remembering that the import provision had been made more objectionable to the Northwest during subcommittee consideration.]
14 Jul, Post, vote on Saylor bill on 20 Jul. Just speeches today, and Reinecke being put down by Aspinall who told him to quit wasting his time.
14 Jul, Deseret News letter, from Ken Sleight, long-time Colorado river guide, attacking Utah Senator Moss for his criticism of Brower, and asserting that never can a reservoir replace the existing canyons, as shown by Glen Canyon Dam.
15 Jul, Farmington NM Times, report from Washington that Aspinall will move right ahead, reserving three days for committee consideration next week. Aspinall will then ask for a rule governing House floor debate, perhaps by 1 Aug. Fearing more delay, Sec. Udall urged the Senate to hold hearings even before the House acted; knowing the House maze, it would be most optimistic to see the bill passing the House by mid-August. This is the second half of the ninth inning, so he (the Sec.) hoped that the Senate could begin on a committee-passed bill.
Udall’s hope is shared because supporters fear Jackson will let too much time go by. He is “cool” to the measure. Meanwhile, reclamation publications are putting out a great deal of material in support of the dams, anticipating the expected floor fight. The article says, “Aspinall and some of the other(s) are willing to eliminate Marble Canyon”. But there are no takers on the conservation side.
Also, one of the Colorado 5 has been criticized by a long-time resident.
16 Jul, AP, Washington governor called for facts instead of emotion in dealing with Western water problems. Everybody is going to be short of water soon. In the discussion the scheme was brought up of using a 38’-diameter pipe to take water off the coast of northern California and bring it south.
17 Jul, St Louis columnist M.Childs writes of this “classic combat” between conservationists and reclamationists, and goes on about pressures on the national parks.
17 Jul, Post (AP): report on the background of the IRS action and current battles over the dams and the redwoods, ending with a sketch of the Club.
17 Jul, editorial, (Arizona): chortling over IRS action, and complaining about Club misstatements, when the reservoir in the park would at most be 89’ deep. And then wrung its hands over the Club ignoring the Hualapai.
19 Jul, Houston Chronicle columnist: Threat to Canyon is threat to every natural attraction. Canyon belongs to all. And now the last big push is on; write your congressman.
20 Jul, Houston Post, columnist makes the same arguments: sacrifice of the Canyon is not yet necessary to American prosperity.
21 Jul, Salt Lake Tribune, F Hewlett: Backers defeated two crippling amendments on Wednesday, 20 July. Next will come the Rogers amendment to change the study provisions to be more acceptable to the Northwest. Now the bill calls for a feasibility study. The Northwest committee members will vote for the change which only authorizes a reconnaissance overseen by a national water commission. They will still vote against the bill. Already, Senator Jackson has served notice that the Rogers amendment is not acceptable, since he favors a separate bill for the commission. Aspinall was behind the Rogers amendment, he told some committee members on Tuesday (19th).
Saylor’s anti-dam motion was defeated 18-8. A Californian amendment for the state to be guaranteed its share of river water was defeated by voice. Otherwise, Saylor was pulling out all stops to delay the bill. He had the bill read in full — which Udall did, in 47 minutes. He then had a substitute read in full, and made a speech about it. With all this, the plan still was to report by the 26th or 27th.
The Hualapai today denounced preservationist tormentors as a few people who want to play big brave explorers. Think about people, the Hualapai sneered.
21 Jul, Rep: reports some committee dialogue: Saylor to Udall: I admire your success, though you have violated administration policy, President’s wishes, the Park Service, the Bureau of the Budget, and the wishes of your own brother. While a Democratic ally of Udall responded by praising Udall’s magnificent independence in serving his own state, Udall remained silent, slightly smiling as he looked at Saylor, sipping tea out of a gigantic blue mug.
21 Jul, RMN, D Thomasson: Split developed in “delicately forged agreement”. The committee voted 20-9 to change the water import provision, thus “shattering” the bill, according to Californian water guru N. Ely. He claimed that, in the subcommittee, California’s five votes would have stopped the bill if the new change had been offered. Utah, and maybe Colorado, are also questioning the bill now.
Aspinall took full responsibility for the change, warning that without it, the Senate would never accept the bill, and perhaps not even the administration. Aspinall shifted the study from the Secretary to the new National Water Commission, and worse called only for a reconnaissance study, not the more formal feasibility-level study. This would add three years delay, since Congress would have to take another step in approving the feasibility study. The Californians called the change a “kiss of death”.
The details of the change had been explained to the Northwesterners at a “hush-hush” meeting in Aspinall’s office Tuesday night. The Californians were not invited.
22 Jul, Sentinel: California is calling meetings to fight change in water study. It claimed it would scuttle bill if change not reversed. The change put a national commission in charge. Northcutt Ely is the one stirring up the storm, phoning water officials in the Basin states to call the change a sell-out to the Northwest. He gathers Californians today, and the Basin states Monday. He is peeved at being excluded from the Aspinall meeting (Wednesday), thinking it was a clandestine attempt to cut California out. California’s 38 votes are crucial to House passage.
25 Jul, AP, The Colorado River bill may clear committee soon if a change made to reduce the Northwest’s opposition does not weaken regional support. That change, to substitute a $4 million reconnaissance for the original $12 million feasibility study was called a retreat as the Californians voted no, worried it would add four years to any import. Saylor criticized the CR Basin “inflexibility”, saying “maybe an agreement glued together with water wont hold.” His attempt to delete the dams had already been put down. Rogers of Texas, speaking for Aspinall, had offered the study change: “we’re dealing with 50 states, not 7.”
25 Jul, Sentinel: CRB men were “grim-faced” after an early-morning meeting, dominated by Californians. No one had a comment, waiting for Aspinall to return, after the change made last Thursday. Colorado’s Sparks was not happy with the change, even though it was made to ease passage of a bill otherwise sure to have trouble in the Senate. Quick approval is unlikely, given the glum faces.
25 Jul, RMN, Monday saw little progress on patching the split in CRB ranks. The Californians were “adamant” over the change to a national commission and with a built-in delay of several years. Will meet tomorrow Tuesday. Sparks was waiting to speak with Aspinall who had made the change, and was clearly not happy about the situation, though Colorado continued to support the CAP authorization.
Meanwhile, conservationists took out another full-page advertisement in The New York Times.
27 Jul, Rep, editorial: Rep.’s coupons for the dams brought 7000 responses. Now, on Monday, the Club has put out another ad. Not quite so rabid, maybe they are growing aware the dams will not “flood” the Canyon. After a meeting with Rep. Udall, the Washington Post eased off. We scoff at the Club calling the river “wild”. There are no other ways to finance the CAP than by selling power from dams.
27 Jul, Sentinel, Clear on Wednesday that a final vote Thursday approaches. But first, the change dropping the feasibility study (approved 20-9 on 21 Jul) will be reversed in a complicated parliamentary procedure. This is a defeat for Aspinall, a Californian victory—the chairman had no support from other CRB states. But California’s victory will be costly, since there is “no chance whatsoever” that a feasibility study will remain if the bill is enacted. Also Saylor’s motion to drop Hualapai dam failed 16-13, a close vote indicating the dam cannot be held on the floor, and California cannot control its own representatives on the dam issue—two voted no on the dams. Other dam amendments also lost. California has said it will withdraw its support if there is no Hualapai dam.
The Sierra Club is also holding a press conference today.
27 Jul, Rep, B Cole reports the legislation was approved 22-10, with both dams left in. Aspinall thinks the report will take 2-3 weeks to write. The Arizonans were jubilant. However, Saylor has vowed to fight on, condemning them to hell for giving in to California on the water study. The bill’s provisions are listed. Rogers angrily voted against the bill since he was not consulted about adding back the feasibility study. Saylor bitterly denounced California for threatening a walkout when they had not gotten their way earlier. He moved to kill the bill, and when that vote lost 21-10, the parliamentary change putting the feasibility back was moved. Saylor objected, was overruled, and the change was made 21-10. Rogers criticized this proceeding, but the usual order was followed, with the bill formally reported with the final vote on Udall’s motion.
28 Jul, Rep: Banner headline: Reclamation Boss Says: DAMS HELP THE COLORADO. But really, it was just Dominy making the usual speech, this time in Denver (also reported in RMN). He attacked the “selfish” Sierra Club, and claimed the church of Reclamation was bringing a new day to the Colorado, transsubstantiating it into a trout stream with clean, cold water. He played a shell game, saying that with Glen Canyon dam, the river could flow all year round, as if that was good for it, instead of the trickle it would have been naturally. He also bragged about the huge storage amounts.
28 Jul, Sentinel: The legislation is approved 22-10. Udall received congratulations. However, there was little joy in the committee room: California had won hands down, besting the two top committee members in a show of power that shocked Aspinall & Rogers—the latter voted against the bill.
It will be mid-August before the report is written and a rule obtained. There will be a long minority report. Chances of House passage appear less than 50-50. Aspinall’s ability to maneuver is strictly limited. Saylor protested California’s high pressure, but helped with the maneuver to restore the study that used a recommittal motion making a substitution restoring the feasibility study.
Now here is an odd thing. Rep Saylor (of Penn.) was the ranking Republican, and the most ardent opponent on the House committee of the dams. Why did he get involved in making the bill more palatable for the Northwest? To slow the bill down and tangle it up, surely it was good that it contained a study that was anathema to the Northwest. Yet he worked to make the bill easier for the Northwest to swallow, which in a way meant that the only major issue left would have been the dams. Why would he not ally with the Northwest’s congressmen to put up impediments to the bill’s progress? Was everybody just too polite back then?
The article says the feasibility study was taken out by an alliance of Aspinall, Rogers & Saylor, the senior committee members, with whom most members then went along. In reaction, California “put Udall’s feet to the fire”, so he reversed, and support for the feasibility was restored. Of course, the four northwesterners now voted against the bill with the stronger study, a signal that Senator Jackson would not hold hearings on such a bill.
28 Jul, RMN, D Thomasson, reports the CAP was “finally approved” by the committee, but “backers may have lost some important friends in the process”. The “overwhelming” vote of 22-10 covered the unhappy circumstances that lost the powerful ally of Rep. Rogers. He was furious at the stronger water study, and Texas being dropped from it. “Unyielding” Californians forced a bit of legislative razzle-dazzle that left behind confusion and a charge of “unfair” from Rogers. They therefore remain solidly behind it, since they get advantages on water issues not otherwise obtainable. The fight on the floor looks to be close.
28 Jul, RMN, report on Goldwater press briefing on dams, praising opponents though they are wrong. I have to favor people, though the Canyon is his mistress. And the Canyon would not be destroyed. He criticized the IRS for investigating the Sierra Club.
That organization was holding a press conference itself, with six non-western congressmen, trying to save a national treasure from the grasping greed of the Basin states.
29 Jul, Sentinel, rehashes past weeks, noting Rogers and Saylor were critical of how bill was handled. The final study provision has the national commission supervising a reconnaissance by Interior, which could then go right into a feasibility study if it chose.
30 Jul, Sentinel: Aspinall calls himself “fettered”, and had no prediction for bill’s chances. The bill will not be brought to the floor unless the proponents can show they have the votes. “I will do what I can,” Aspinall said, “ but the leadership is in the hands of the Californians and the Arizonans.” “Whenever outside interests take over without responsibility, it jeopardizes legislation”, was another jibe at California, which, led by Ely, reversed Aspinall on the study provision. Now it has to produce. The Basin states water men would lose the bill rather than Hualapai dam and a feasibility study, said one of their group.
29 Jul, AP, “Basin Plans ‘Dead’ For This Session” according to Cong. Aspinall at a press conference in Denver. Those responsible are dam opponents and Northwest senators who want to “spell out terms” for water study. CAP proponents will try again next year.
30 Jul, Rep, reports that several congressmen intend to donate to the Club and tell the IRS they have claimed the deduction.
31 Jul, Albuquerque Journal, long article, 1 part of 3, on the dam controversy. Purportedly trying to find “the truth in the middle” of pro- and anti-dam claims, but in effect builds the article around material from Reclamation and Goldwater.
Reviewing these clippings revives in me that sense of what led to our being confident as August went on that the immediate threat had passed of a House vote for the dams. The Basin states as led by California had dug in on their determination to have a national commitment to “solving” their water shortage. They must have figured that either they could later strike a compromise with the Northwest in the Senate or just bull their way through. Add in the connection even they made between the dams and paying for water augmentation, and their intransigeance makes some sense. The Committee bill ended up as the hard pro-development, pro-import position. From there, on the House floor and in the Senate, it would be down-hill, but as July closed, they could take satisfaction in having held their line, even at the risk of Aspinall’s & Rogers’ having been run down. So maybe a question is: Why did Aspinall/Rogers/Saylor go for a weakening of the study provision? That Saylor was invested in the attempt raises the possibility that a deal was cooking for the floor, whereby Saylor would get to defeat a dam while not making a fuss about the rest. Of course, the hard position on study + dams made the tacit alliance of Northwest and conservationists stronger and more justified in the event of Senate action. Perhaps Aspinall, after all, was trying to peel the Northwest out of that alliance. I dont see how that could have worked, though — no matter what, we had shown that the dam revenues were aimed at an import-financing fund. Fantasizing a Senate battle: It might have been an epic clash, instead of the whimper emitted by the dams as they evaporated from House consideration into historical wisps.