Interior Secretary Udall, as reported on 18 Sep, offered the idea of replacing the dams in the CAP legislation with nuclear power plants. About a week later (I have no media reports on this), Udall ordered a study of alternate power production as part of a sweeping review of the entire legislation. This set the stage for a CAP/Colorado River basin bill that would be free of dams and an import study. Just three years before, 3 Nov 1963, Udall had ordered that “a plan of action designed to deal constructively with the acute water problems of the Pacific Southwest”, which became the Pacific Southwest Water Plan (PSWWP) and the basis for H.R. 4671 the 1965-6 effort to reach basin-wide agreement on water issues. That effort came to a halt in August 1966. This new plan, a retrenchment from the grandiose 4671, would be used to launch more modest Basin water legislation in the Senate in 1967.
At the same time, those who wanted to retain the larger-scale provisions and those —Arizonans— who wanted to shrink back to just a state-built dam and waterworks, were arguing for their approaches.
1 Oct, Post, editorial commended Udall for his announcement of a study of dam alternatives. The 1966 bill was dead, due to fears in both the Upper Basin and the Northwest for water supplies and to “the Grand Canyon controversy”. The latter cast doubt on the dams’ validity. The editorial says both nuclear and coal plants need to be considered in a “full and impartial study”. New facts are needed. Then the arguments will start and compromise will be needed.
3 Oct, Rep editorial recapitulates: The Senate had held hearings on Hayden’s CAP bill in Aug 1963. This was shouldered out of the way by Udall’s PSWWP, which died three years later because Arizona could not guarantee California that the House would approve the entire package. In this “futile” effort, Secretary Udall provided much of the muscle for the expanded plan. However, when California blocked the bill, Udall went silent. Now he is back, calling a press conference to suggest “a complete re-evaluation and re-appraisal”. What have the past three years been about? Arizona accepted all his ideas, chasing the “will-of-the-wisp” of California’s support. But we are no closer to getting our water. Udall is optimistic about a new proposal. But we have no faith in nuclear plants to lift our water to us. They would only cause the Sierra Club more reason to oppose the dams. And cause more delay, at which “Stew Udall” has had much more success than in making progress.
The Republic was politically opposed to the Democratic Udall, and only too happy to heap the blame on him.
Thinking about this, however, what, in context, was this gigantic project? Nothing less than a commitment to re-build North America’s environment, a decades-long scheme to set Manifest Destiny into concrete. America turned away from that course. This was not a simple political affray; this was a monumental political decision for a future different from the over-blown boom-and-puff type of Western promotion.
Yet it was not singular choice. Just ahead was another such decision. On the boards and in the dreams of those who would conquer space & time was realization of a world-girdling fleet of hundreds of supersonic commercial airplanes. Again, the nation looked hard and made a monumental political decision: No to the SST.
This was an era of looking hard at homo presumptuous, and going another way.
3 Oct, Post: A somewhat fanciful article puts forward the idea that any big projects will now be postponed until a “comprehensive water study is made”. It cites the Northwest’s call for a national water commission, and a scheme to bring water from Canada.
7 Oct, Science magazine takes note of the Udall initiative, “long urged by conservationists”, to review the dams and alternatives to them. Some economists believe steam plants would produce more revenue than dams. Right now, legislative action is stymied by the opposition and divisions among the proponents. A speech in July 1966 by the Interior Under-Secretary called for looking at alternatives for reclamation financing. “Present procedures do not provide adequate comparison”. Instead, “countervailing powers” have to identify alternatives. He hoped for more objective appraisals of water projects, using Pentagon planning methods.
9 Oct, letter to NYTimes from geologist pointing out water loss from evaporation.
17 Oct, Sentinel, opinion piece by W.Nelson on “Perplexing Changes In Sierra Club’s Policies” reviewing and describing the 1949 Club approval, with conditions, of Bridge Canyon Dam. What, Nelson asks, changed Club policy to opposition to two Grand Canyon dams and even Glen Canyon dam? The Echo Park fight? The Club campaign creates erroneous impression Canyon would be filled to the rims. Now the Club backs an enlarged Park. But why, asks Nelson, did the Club wait two decades?
18 Oct, Washington Post editorializes in favor of a small Bridge Canyon dam, and opposes a nuclear alternative. Or maybe a CAP with no dams, even if there are financial problems. The country would feel a sense of relief.
19 Oct, Republic, has call by CAP lobbyists not to let CAP or dam issues be mixed up in election.
20 Oct, Star, reports CAP lobbyist suggested Arizona may have to consider state project.
20 Oct, Republic, reports Sec. Udall affirming that under no circumstances would he run for the Senate in 1968. Goldwater had already announced he was running again. [Given the partisan balance in the state, and how there were reciprocal influences between partisans and CAP policy, there is no telling what the impact of a Goldwater-Udall would have been in 1967-8 on the outcome of Basin water legislation, though it is fun to speculate. In any case, this decision by the Secretary must have given him the sense of being “free” in shaping CAP policy to ignore Arizona politics, e.g., the following item.]
20 Oct, Republic reports “Pinal County (between Phoenix & Tucson) farmers organized for a state water project, claiming Sec. Udall was “trying to squelch the state program” in favor of his regional plan. The group included county irrigation and electrical districts. They were not against a federal program, but “definitely” opposed guaranteeing California its river water allotment. A telegram to Rep. Udall favored “immediate steps” to construct a state project, and opposed any federal project with guarantees to other states.
Governor Goddard has already asked for a state feasibility study, ready about 1 Dec.
21 Oct, Salt Lake Tribune: letter says reservoirs behind Hoover and Glen dams have combined surface of 320,000 acres; Bridge + Marble would be 21,000, a recreational addition not worth mentioning. Pleased to see alternatives study; may it consign proposed dams to “limbo”.
23 Oct, Post, reports rumors administration and some senators are considering a Natural Resources Department to swallow Interior and similar agencies. Opposition expected from Army Engineers and Forest Service.
25 Oct, Sentinel: Goldwater offers a “compromise”: a state CAP, nuclear power plant, and low (not inside the Park) Hualapai Dam, meanwhile dropping Marble dam and adding that area to the Park. He said, “We could get a compromise because we need the water… The Sierra Club approved Bridge Canyon dam in 1949”. He saw no role for the federal government; it was not needed.
The article noted that conservationists had turned down the idea of a low dam several months ago.
26 Oct, Republic opinion piece from Arizona water policy old-timer: Lots of legal complications, but federal government could revise treaty providing water to Mexico by building nuclear desalting plant.
26 Oct, Farmington Times report on situation with Reclamation trying to sell power from its upper basin dams—not doing so well.
28 Oct, Sentinel reports on “highest levels of Interior” taking “new” look at repayment for CAP bill features. Possibilities: 1. Low Hualapai dam, but objected to by conservationists. 2. Pay for features using revenues from existing dams, which would be opposed by California power interests. 3. Raise price of water, though doubtful that would produce enough revenue. 4. Let the water users buy power from the new private coal-fired plants. 5. Put Reclamation in business of building thermal plants, as suggested by Sec. Udall and opposed by Arizonans. 6. Find “an entirely new method” to pay off projects, an idea of low desirability among project backers. The idea of making projects non-reimbursable would be opposed by Aspinall. Finally, Arizona could build the project.
27 Oct, RMN: In a speech, Dominy says someday there will be additional water for Colorado River users from one source or another. He notes the reservoirs are down, and river flow fluctuates sharply — so its good that we can store water.
29 Oct, AP reports that state study will show it can build its own CAP, although governor is aiming to try for the federal project again.
30 Oct, Republic, B. Avery reports meeting where there is Arizona consensus to decide the next move right after the coming election. Arizona congressional delegation in favor of trying for federal project again, but door open for state project. Harza & Parsons Engineering firms are looking at state dam and CAP. Major state figures want all to work together. The delegation expressed confidence Senate will approve CAP in next Congress. Rhodes spoke of a bill that “does not try to solve all of the water problems of the basin for the next 25 years”. Udall was optimistic about a new bill with administration support, but asked Arizonans not to indict Californians for failure this year. However, he suggested more money be spent to counteract Sierra Club propaganda.
Oct newsletter of Colorado River Assoc (of Calif.) round-up: California’s Ely urged all to stay roped together; good chance in next Congress. Congressmen insist that there are not enough votes to pass bill, though some California sentiment wants to keep trying. Some Arizonans want to go ahead with state project. Utah and Wyoming reiterate view that CAP bill must have import study. So far, general basin feeling is for bill as it stands.
Oct, Western Water News (California irrigation group): In next 25 years, $10.7 billion will be spent on water projects in California, about half by federal government and half by state and local agencies.