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.
8 May (a Pennsylvania? paper): Another, more light-hearted, eastern, echo of the RD meeting by a Robert Sylvester again wondered at the “ancient, settled, majestic” Grand Canyon being the subject of a “bitter” row between Reclamation and the nation’s Conservationists. Arizona and its neighbors contend the need for water is critical; the dams must be built. Not so, say dam opponents. RD, with a “powerhouse outfit”, the Sierra Club, hosted a fully loaded group of critics and journalists. Acrimony was the keyword. Rep. Udall spoke strong and loud for the dams. Goldwater was witty and sensible in their favor, though he thought “Marble Canyon is a very pretty place”. He also claimed “you easterners” dont even have to pay for water. Surprisingly the Colorado winds through other states, which seem to need more water, too.
Conservationists stood firm. And for this reporter, the strongest argument was a film of a trip through Glen Canyon, which now has in it a power dam, an ugly looking thing. Trails, caves, fantastic stone bridges and tunnels are now all gone. The conservationist ammunition was fired at just the right moment, with the Canyon, a national shrine (if a terrifying one), right at their feet. So we must listen and make our choice on the dams: costly and destructive, or essential power and water. Wildlife will be decimated although, says Goldwater, bird life is already going. How much of the inaccessible Canyon should be “left as it is” is arguable, but surely the best part “of the old hole in the ground should be left to us square sightseers and traditionalists.”
11 May, Rep, editorial: The current hearings have reached the “heart of the matter”— will Congress approve a study of redistributing water from areas of excess to areas of shortage. The political possibility of this depends on the Northwestern states. Rep. Udall says time is running out on a federal plan and local entities will then build the dams. The Northwest and the conservationists should be able to understand that argument.
And we and the Northwest did understand, and worked together if not openly, to thwart both the federal and any other approval of the dams.
13 May, Sentinel: A report from the hearings indicated that enthusiastic backers of one of the Colorado 5 wanted to sell water to develop the ever-hopeful, ever-too-costly oil-shale industry. Much water would be needed in the next 10-15 years. The backers of another project were more traditional: they would be able to cover irrigation shortages and satisfy the “dire need” for municipal and industrial water.
The dire political need was that more Colorado River water could be claimed by Colorado, so as not to lose it to lower Basin uses.
13 May, AP (paper unknown): At the beginning of the Basin bill hearings, House Interior Committee Chairman Aspinall of Colorado called the idea of a National Water Commission studying southwestern water shortages, “just a delay” during testimony by Ass’t Sec. Holum of the Department of the Interior. The pending bill calls for a regional study. Interior also asked for deferral of the bigger Grand Canyon dam and three of the Colorado 5 — also to be studied by a national group. Holum and Aspinall disagreed over who has responsibility for deciding water use.
Reclamation’s Dominy, despite Holum, bragged about the potential of Bridge Canyon dam—“the greatest power producer of all Colorado River dams”. Dam opponent Rep. Saylor got Holum to agree Marble Canyon dam was in the Grand Canyon, although not the Park. Dominy did admit, under friendly questioning, that the CAP could be built without water import or, “theoretically” without either dam. However, then power rates would have to be increased to help the irrigators.
Udall was protecting his major concern, getting central Arizona its water. Whether he was prescient or sensitive to the nexus of conservationist-Northwestern opposition, is not clear, since he fought on into the next Congress for a dam. Of course, his problem was keeping a Basin alliance alive; the Interior Department headed by his brother seemed more ready to recognize the strength of conservationist-Northwestern claims.
Our testimony about the dams not being needed for the CAP and about alternative power sources did not come until the last day ot the hearings.
14 May, Sentinel: Aspinall declared he wanted staff of the Interior and Atomic Energy Committees to study alternatives to the dams; this expert study will take a week. There had been “so much testimony” on dam alternatives, he needed expert review before he could bring the bill to the House floor.
Five Coloradans raised questions about the projects in that state, one noting a cost of $1700/acre, six times the value of the land to be irrigated.
Aspinall’s declaration was made the evening after dam opponents had testified about other sources of power and financing for the CAP. Our appearance, recounted as Brower’s MIT 3 (Alan Carlin, Larry Moss, and me), was intended to unsettle and rearrange the dam debate. Not that the arguments for the natural qualities of the Canyon were not sufficient in our eyes, but because Aspinall would not allow any more of that testimony (several people had so testified in the 1965 hearings), and we were convinced that the “technical” aspects of the dams could also be viewed unfavorably.
If the RD convocation was our first big game-changing attempt in 1966, this testimony was the second. The third was the publication in early June of the full-page ads in The New York Times & Washington Post. These were followed by the most attention-getting item of all — the IRS investigation of the Sierra Club for lobbying for the Canyon too much — for that boost, we could thank the Canyon’s would-be despoilers.
14 May Rep, B Cole: “Enemies” of the dams testified “atomic-power generators would be a cheaper and better way to finance the CAP. Rep. Udall and Hosmer (of Calif.) immediately challenged this. L. Moss, “youthful atomic engineer”, was undismayed by the attacks, insisting atomic power is competitive with hydro — and is safe, and has flexibility of location. This was part of a “rowdy” time when Brower appeared, with Hosmer objecting. (Unfortunately, the rest of the article is missing.)
Over 70 witnesses appeared during the week’s events.
Arizona and New Mexico are close to settling the latter’s demand for 40 kaf of Gila River water.
The hearings certainly had more coverage than is in my files.
15 May, Sentinel: The current hearings point up the need for an impartial and complete study of water augmentation. The Northwest is suspicious that the Southwest and Reclamation are ganging up on them. They will fight like tigers on the issue.
Unity on the current legislation is “extremely fragile, if not a myth”. Utah and Wyoming are accusing Colorado of using their water. However, everyone wants water import. And this need will solidify them behind the dams, which will help pay for the imports.
18 May, RMN: Aspinall still wants a regional import study instead of by a national group as urged by Sen. Jackson and Sec. Udall. This was in response to hearings before Jackson by a panel of economists saying a national water commission was needed for an objective, independent study.
The southwesterners were warned. But then, they were trapped. The Basin States’ politicos “knew” the Colorado was not adequate, and ‘knew” more water transfers were THE answer.
18 May, Trib: Brower spoke in Salt Lake City, saying Reclamation was like beavers—they cannot stand the sight of running water.
18 May, Sentinel: Reclamation’s Dominy had the opportunity in Colorado to strongly counterattack, defending his dams. First, there was a panel at a Water Resources Engineering Conference in Denver. M.Goddard, a Pennsylvanian, complained about how little attention eastern states got on their water needs, while marginal western lands are brought into production through subsidized development. He attacked the Grand Canyon dams, when steam electric plants were better. Public power rates are subsidized. It is wild that questionable irrigation projects are justified by building power plants. The taxpayer in the east is getting “hornswoggled”. And the east needs help in tackling massive pollution problems. “We have subsidized your dream long enough.”
This view found support from a Stanford U. professor, though he did not attack Reclamation, instead calling for a change of national attitudes, including curbing some of our uses instead of always looking to bring in more water.
In reply, “Dominy Flays Critics of Reclamation”: We need conservation AND preservation, he stated. The 1960’s rival the early 20th century for contributions to water utilization and conservation. We, you engineers and me, share being targets of those who would build walls around resources that have useful purposes. The critics are uninformed; T. Roosevelt and J. W. Powell were conservation leaders. A study shows irrigated farmland supports many more people and tax-payers. The two dams are needed for peaking power and to build a fund for water augmentation. Mine-mouth electric plants cannot economically supply peaking power. CAP water is needed, not for new farms, but to make up for ground water disappearing. Ive seen all the wild rivers I want to see — right after every flood. The public power from Hoover and Grand Coulee helped win World War II.
Marble Canyon dam would take the mud out of the river and make it a trout stream; otherwise it would be untouched. And we “destroyed” Rainbow Bridge, too, by backing water under it to make it look like a bridge.
At a press conference, reported in the Post, he complained about a deliberate campaign of misrepresentation; Dr. Bradley distorts the facts. They say the Canyon would be flooded out by the dams. But the Park will not be harmed and the water quality in it will be improved. Water from Marble Canyon dam would create a clean pure trout stream flowing through the Park. Revenues would eventually finance the cost of water importation. (Bradley had pictured Reclamation as in a bureaucratic bind tied to obsolete dam construction programs.) The two dams (he was now using the name “Hualapai”, for Bridge Canyon dam) would have new stable reservoirs opening up a largely inaccessible area to millions. Dominy hoped Bradley does a better job with physics than in analyzing water programs. He bragged that Glen Canyon dam maintains river flows, and evaporation is sharply reduced. There is no intention of permanently shelving Hualapai Dam. Even though there is a question about water import studies and three of the Colorado projects, the legislation still has a good chance of passage.
Although there were certainly others, these two appearances give an excellent chance to get a sense of Dominy in action. No quiet bureaucrat he, but a dominating figure with every intention of getting what he wanted. Given the depth and breadth of the Reclamation staff’s skills, he felt confident in leading them in an aggressive campaign to shape the future of the American West. A photo from the Denver Post article:
Now, from a well-respected eastern newspaper, another long analysis providing another outsider view
19 May, Christian Science Monitor, “The ‘Battle of Grand Canyon’”. The long summary piece included a full page with map and photo. Summary: Conservationists are aghast at two more dams across the river that gouged out Grand Canyon. Dam power would help pay for water to thirsty central Arizona. In opposition, conservationists say: leave Grand Canyon alone.
Reclamation wants to build two dams, what Commissioner Dominy calls “cash registers to ring up sales of electric power”. (I repeat that this is a tin-eared tone-deaf mis-metaphor.) California wants the power. Arizona wants power revenues to help pay for their water project — to help “thirsty” users deal with their “diminishing” ground water.
Confronting them, Audubon, Sierra Club, National Parks Ass’n, Isaac Walton League, and others, are unalterably opposed. The effects look like a threat to the National Park. The river flow would change, if not destroy, the geology of the Canyon’s floor. Glen Canyon dam already does this. There is a report on dam effects, but Secretary Udall has never had it circulated. (This was on Bridge Canyon dam’s effects and had been done some 25-30 years earlier.) Water would go into the Park for 13 miles. Reclamation says the maximum depth would be 90’ in the Park; also the area is inaccessible and cannot be seen from any Park viewpoint. Also, the “huge new reservoirs” would have “great recreational value”: tens of thousands could water ski, instead of hundreds boating or hiking. Dominy points to Lake Powell: a 115-mile “finger” of water replaced “a twisting, treacherous stretch of the Colorado” and 700,000 visited in 1965. A total of 15,000 had made the “rugged horseback trek” to Rainbow Bridge. Now, 13,000 saw it last year. Millions could go on Bridge Canyon’s reservoir; only 900 total have ever been on the river. The reservoirs would be moneymakers.
Sierra Club brings up the Kanab project, diverting 90% of the river through a tunnel around the Park. Reclamation says it is planning on getting power from Marble Canyon dam, so water cannot be diverted to a Kanab tunnel.
All Basin states are agreed on CAP, so it is politically opportune. But conservationists say this would impair the Park, and that building dams is the expensive way to meet water and power needs. Coal and nuclear can supply power more cheaply. Reclamation answers that private power companies are looking for more hydroelectric power, because of its peaking capability.
The Bradley brothers ask if impairment is worth the cost, and the rock would leak like sieves, and there isnt enough water to go around, and there would be more evaporation waste, and why not a special CAP tax or subsidy or do more research, and hydropower use is dropping percentage-wise, now less than 20%?
The dams do not store water for diversion, but only for the traditional policy use of helping pay for project costs. So this is a political question, to be decided by Congress: “Can an economic-recreational resource be exploited and still leave the Colorado River to its ageless work?” (There was a second part to this write-up by K. Hendrick, on importing water from the Columbia. I do not have it.)
The article included this photo, provided by Reclamation:
19 May, Post: Report on last day of hearings. Witnesses discussed how to price any imported water that would flow on down to Mexico. Two more dam opponents were heard, bringing up the possibility of lower-cost nuclear-generated power. In his usual style Calif. Rep. C. Hosmer scoffed at their expertise, sneering at the group’s funding from the “wild-and-woodsey set”.
19 May, RMN:”Colorado Basin Officials Make Minor Central Ariz. Changes” starts by saying that the changes were “to ease the fears of Pacific Northwest lawmakers.” Mark up of the bill to amend/approve its provisions was postponed a week. On the House floor, there will be stiff opposition on dam construction and water import study. Colorado water chief Sparks says the study “must” be done by the Interior Dep’t, but the bill will contain reassurances that the Northwest’s water will be protected. How to take care of the commitment to supply water to Mexico was also being debated.
20 May, Sentinel, W.H.Nelson; “Decisions Wont End Controversies” predicts there will be a CAP, even if Arizonans have to fund it themselves. There will be a transbasin diversion despite the Northwest. Bridge Canyon dam will be dropped, and maybe also Marble. Then Arizona and California interests will try to build them, so the battle over damaging the Grand Canyon will not end. The five Colorado projects will get lumped together. There will be delays in planning other Colorado projects. Output from nuclear and coal plants will be integrated, and maybe combined with pumped storage (to get peaking power). All Colorado river project operations will be coordinated, involving many problems.
Also from the Sentinel: CAP backers say that it is now the Senate’s turn to begin action. But the House Committee has to complete its action — another two weeks or more. Article calls “fiction” the notion that Senator Hayden is quarterbacking the project — he has been hospitalized for several weeks. Also, Republican Senators are reluctant about bill because of its price tag. If there are hearings on a barebones CAP bill, a Colorado Senator will introduce the five western Colorado projects. Jackson will not act, anyway, until the national water commission bill is done.
Nelson is almost predicting that the current bill was not going to make it.
22 May, Des Moines Sunday Register, The Grand Canyon Needs Help: Writing for a general audience, the Canyon and the dam danger were introduced. “Opposition to the dams is mounting.” Hugh Nash, Sierra Club Bulletin editor, is quoted, especially on the experience of being in the Canyon. There would be power lines and access roads, and there would be an end to river trips, one of the “exciting adventures still left”. Nash’s eloquent statements are quoted as main substance of the article. Main attack is that dams are not for water, but power for sale.
23 May, Post/NY Times, on intention of Texas to lay out a federally supported Reclamation project to move half a million acre-feet of water from east to west Texas. Article notes Texas had already asked to be included in Colorado river import study.
24 May, Rep, “Bill to Okay CAP Faces Amendments” reports that subcommittee began four-day work session. Udall was pleased with “very fruitful, open discussion”. He has 11 amendments to offer to implement the agreements reached in the past several months: protection for Hualapai interests, New Mexico’s interest in Hooker dam, water import study, etc. Chief concern is over the import. Senate committee has approved its water commission, but Southwest wants Secretary to do study.
25 May, Post, B Hanna: “Chances Even on Basin Bill”, according to Sparks. He hopes bill will be reported in mid-June, but there will be amendments. There will be an import study; the national water commission would be the wrong vehicle. It is “anybody’s guess” what Congress will do about the dams, though Sparks is sure the committee will recommend both of them.
25 May, (Star?)’: CAP lobbying group asks Tucson for funds.
26 May, Navajo Times, letter from Stephen Jett, a professor at UCDavis and author of guide to the Navajo lands, stating his recommendation to oppose Marble Canyon dam as of little value for the Navajo. Work instead for tourist development on the Canyon’s east rim, he counseled, it is all on Navajo land. He had talked with Goldwater who told him the Navajo had not been consulted. Jett noted that the Navajo would profit if the dam was not built and coal plants produced CAP power.
The 17 Mar edition had carried an editorial appearing to oppose the dams.
27 May, AP, “Sec Udall Defends Two Dams” in closed-door session of House Subcommittee on Public Works. The dams “would not do violence” to the river’s balanced development. Udall only conceded that the harm would be to “one small section of the Grand Canyon”. The balance included development, history, outdoor recreation, and park protection—there already were two parks, a monument and two recreation areas.
28 May, RMN (also AP), At a meeting of Republican governors, Evans of Washington urged southwestern states to work on better water conservation and sources of water other than import. Joined by the Idaho governor, he disputed the idea of the Columbia having a surplus; the evidence is inadequate—import could take 5/6 of riverflow, impairing navigation, waste discharge, and power output. Cut irrigation water loss and look at desalinization, he urged.
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.
28 May, Rep, editorial: First the other reclamation states were the chief obstacle to the CAP; now it is “uninformed people in other parts of the country”. Articles in the Readers Digest & Life say the Grand Canyon belongs to the nation, not to Arizona. “Palpable nonsense” that the Canyon will be forever destroyed. The two cash registers are needed. And lakes will make mass visitation possible. “Neither dam will in any way affect the majestic view from the rim”. The Canyon will not be “filled”. Write to the President and Senator Jackson.
28 May, Rep: letter from New Yorker arguing Grand Canyon belongs to all Americans. And there is “editor’s Note” This is the sort of letter Arizonans must refute. See editorial.
28 May, AP: CAP bill may come up this week, if quorum is present. Also, the Senate Interior Committee may dispose of the national water commission bill.
28 May, Rep, B.Cole, “CAP Bill Ready To Advance” with House reclamation subcommittee completing its work today. Texas & Kansas added to import study. Dams have tentative approval. Saylor will try to remove the Colorado 5—an effort that will fail. Sweeteners included that federal payments to tribes would not have to be reimbursable by water users, Hoover dam federal payment will be continued to Arizona and California, any imported water right would be junior. Udall, tense in stairway news briefing earlier and grimly determined not to be falsely optimistic, was much relieved at end of the session—extremely encouraging and most productive.
29 May, Rep: Three proposals disposed of: Foley of Washington’s to strike all references to import study; Burton of California’s to drop dams and have direct federal payments; Saylor’s to strip all from bill except CAP. Udall and Rhodes presented case to newsmen at lunch. Udall delivered “scathing denunciation” of Sierra Club claims.
May, WWN, features article on speech by Arizona governor Goddard to California water group. He praises ability to cooperate after so many years of conflict. In looking at Columbia, he talks only of “borrowing” water and only of studies.
It is one measure of the change in national sensibilities that even though the predictions of a shortfall in water for the Colorado Basin states now seem to have come true in some fashion, there is no talk of grandiose studies to move huge amounts of water, to redistribute this crucial natural resource.
Part of this is surely the loss of our mid-twentieth century’s extension of Manifest Destiny: Grow and expand, Grow and expand. The environmental movement, rigidified though much now is, came out of conservation to become part of the national ethos. Ideas of finding new supplies have withered; those have flourished of clean-up, recycle, be more careful in use.
And the Northwest was certainly right that had import of water south been started, it would only have become entrenched and swollen beyond any promises of respect for the Northwest’s “rights”. The biggest argument the Northwest had was the Southwest’s history of water appropriation, often surreptitious and not always wise.
Perhaps, then, it is not inappropriate exuberance to suggest that opposition to the dams — producers of huge funds to garner control over more of the West’s water — was the vehicle for launching the re-evaluation of what kind of society we wanted to be. Not that today’s debates are not just as weighty with consequence over the same issue cluster. But at least for the last third of the twentieth century, the old game was overturned, and Americans had the chance to reconsider amended rules to guide our resource choices.