Friday, April 21, 2017

Dam Battle - September 1966 Press

1 Sep, Santa Fe New Mexican, editorial: Bill not being passed “is a bitter disappointment to champions of the project”. “Serious setback” given Arizona’s increasingly urgent water needs — and delay for two New Mexican projects. Several weeks ago, we attempted to reveal distortion and half-truths hurled by Sierra Club and Readers Digest. Many countering letters since from citizens. We published pro-dam statements by Cong. Udall and State Engineer Reynolds. “Main point” is whether dams are necessary or would harm canyon’s beauty. They “are sought only as a means to transport and better utilize the precious mineral.” Backers are already planning for next session, so public can be better informed and “realize that the contention of ruining Grand Canyon is comparable with dumping a bucket of water into Yankee Stadium.”

1 Sep, RMN: another report: most of bill’s supporters are “in a state of mourning” though a few are still hopeful. Rules Committee holds the bill, and there seems too few votes for House passage as is, and nobody wants the bare-bones substitute. Aspinall is heading for Colorado; his guidance would be crucial.

1 Sep, Sentinel reports on an emergency “loan” of water to Mexico. Any power loss at dams would be repaid in dollars.

1 Sep, AP, R.Johnson, one of Arizona’s chief CAP lobbyists (he later wrote a book about the CAP fight) said some “hard-nosed” Californians — “a small group of water leaders” (Johnson was likely thinking of Northcutt Ely) — were “scuttling” the hopes of all the basin states for a cooperative solution by imposing “unreasonable demands”. They were convinced the Saylor substitute would pass the House, so they would not let the bill out of Rules (there were two Californians on the small committee). He concluded, “We must begin a thorough examination of alternatives”.

1 Sep, Rep, B Cole, cited Johnson’s “three-paragraph blast”. Johnson added, “Arizona may have to go it alone.” His statement was unusual; Arizona has clung to public optimism. The Johnson statement was milder that unofficial Arizonan talk. California all along has taken a hard line on keeping the amount of Colorado River water it takes, though it is almost a million acre-feet more than its allotment.

2 Sep, Republic, reports Cong. Steiger suggests that Arizona consider renewing its effort to get a state dam in the new year.

3 Sep, RMN, F. Sparks, Colorado water chief, said his state stands with California. Changes in the bill would require re-negotiation. He was meeting with Aspinall and the governor to consider what to do in this Congress.

3 Sep, Daily Star, reported a public statement of support for the bill in a telegram from a Californian water group, if there are no changes. Arizonan reply was, then lets go ahead.

4 Sep, Sentinel reports an upper basin water official saying Arizona has choices next year as to whether to try to get just the CAP or re-negotiate the package.

4 Sep, Sentinel devotes a full page to the dam debate. [Has the appearance of something they planned because they thought there would be a floor fight, and even though the bill was declared dead, they didnt want their work to be wasted. Not a contribution; just the same old arguments.] “Whether the demands of a relatively few rugged individualists with time, money, and physique to run the river prevail” over the dams and their electricity. “Primitivists lump all power plants together.” Etc., etc. [Sort of a great big headstone over the dams’ grave.]

6 Sep, Albuquerque Journal letter supporting dams.

6 Sep, Sentinel, issues a warning that the Californians’ high-handedness may cost them their guarantee to Colorado River water above their allotment; the upper basin states are deciding to fight the guarantee.

6 Sep, article from an Idaho (?) paper on Goldwater floating its Salmon river, after having called for dams on the Colorado.

10 Sep, Republic, report on crop subsidies showing a few Arizona farmers among the top 10 receiving cash to keep cotton and feed grain lands out of production.

12 Sep, Sentinel, reports Senator Anderson of New Mexico (chair of the Water & Power Subcommittee, part of Northwesterner Jackson’s Interior Committee), is planning a barebones CAP next year, with few benefits for Colorado or California. He considered the current bill as “too big…an effort to please Colorado & California, even Texas.” There would be no import study or California guarantee of water priority. Dams are also likely to be omitted. Arizona would get CAP and New Mexico its Gila river water. Arizona might try for a “low” Bridge Canyon dam.

Some foreshadowing: The kitchen-sink agglomeration put together by Rep. Udall under the guidance of Chairman Aspinall had failed in its goal of keeping even the seven Colorado Basin states together. In earlier times, the strategy might well have been to take what had been accomplished and launch it again in the new Congress of 1967-8. And indeed, it seems curious that that course was not immediately put forward as the natural next step.
  Instead, it seemed that the failure of a legislative strategy became a failure of spirit, or nerve. What we get to watch now, and the influential Senator Anderson was the bellwether, is the gathering force of those who had been on the sidelines or in opposition. Looked at one way, the legislation will now attract even more allies as its more cumbersome elements are stripped away. As we will see, it is almost as if the central players of 1966 (Arizona, then California and Colorado, New Mexico, the other three basin states, and even Texas, were now tar-babied in by their previous decisions and pinioned there by the excluded elements (the administration, the Northwest, the Senate, anti-dam forces) who wrapped them up tighter and tighter, squeezing out the obnoxious elements to reach a final settlement. Fun to watch.

13 Sep, Sentinel advises of upcoming meeting of upper basin water commission; first of many that will be discussing what to do.

16 Sep, Congressional Record — Senate, pp 21900-9. Remarks by Wm. Proxmire (D, Wis) opposing the dams. First, he details damage by the dams and their reservoirs. Then he questions the benefits, skewed toward agriculture. He notes water loss from evaporation. He questions the economic analysis of Reclamation, and the hide-bound rules that govern its work. “Most astounding”, the dams are unnecessary for power and revenue. He inserts Reclamation-generated payout schedules for the projects, first with the dams, and then without, to show that their revenue is not needed for the authorized projects. Indeed, even with Reclamation’s pro-dam assumptions, the damless projects are paid off 13 years earlier. “The most ardent proponents of the dams admit (in their calculations) that the project can pay for itself without the dams.” [This is the argument I had made before the House subcommittee in May. It was endlessly gratifying to have the argument taken up.]

18 Sep, Sentinel, reports a meeting of Arizonans, House members and lobbyists, with Sec Udall attending, and who grabbed the headline: “Udall Proposes Nuclear Plants Be Included In Basin Project”. He suggested dams-out, nuclear-in. There was immediate vigorous opposition from Republican Cong. Rhodes. Others feared it would bring the battle of the century, and appealed to Udall’s Under-secretary, C. Luce. Ignoring that, Luce wanted to know whether the southwestern utilities were ready to reserve some of the output from their “new huge coal-fired plants” for “preference customers”. [Pumping CAP water would be a preference use.]  The article suggests Interior did not want single use power dams anywhere anymore. However, Udall’s idea “shocked” the Arizonans; a bill with nuclear plants would certainly be doomed. The article also says “conservationists killed the 1966 bill”.

19 Sep, US News & World Report, carried a four-page article on the issues raised by the idea of bringing Columbia River water to the Colorado Basin. The reporting is heavily from the Northwest; there is little space spent on the needs of the Southwest. The main issue: a diversion from the Northwest would lead to similar projects across America, and no diversion would mean people would have to go where the water is. Several northwesterners are quoted on the latter point, based on the idea that the Southwest wants water for agriculture, which could be developed further in the Northwest.
  A Californian says the new year will bring their bill back. Jackson says, this is only one battle in a long war.  [And yet, the war fizzled.]
Here is what it might have looked like:

Several quotes from Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho make clear they “dont want to become a dependency of southern California”, and “we need time to develop our water resources without fighting arbitrary demands”. The article goes on with a long review of the Columbia’s hydropower. Jackson cites figures to show that water demands from the Southwest will grow without limit: 2.5 maf to 8.5, and then adding 20 maf from Texas. The article winds up with a summary of a Sierra-Cascade scheme, characterized by huge numbers, up to 30 maf. And a final question from a chief in the Army Corps of Engineers: Is everyone entitled to settle a chunk of desert and then demand that the government bring water from the general direction of the North Pole?

22 Sep, Sentinel, Coloradans are considering pushing for a river basin commission to help in planning water resources and use.

26 Sep, AP, article lists several measures dealing with water issues that will be considered in the next Congress.

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