Before I started in January 1966 as the Sierra Club Southwest Representative, much groundwork had been done on Colorado River legislation. The Supreme Court had affirmed Arizona’s water rights to Colorado River water. In response, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall had overseen the development of a grand plan — the Pacific Southwest Water Plan — to satisfy Arizona and as well set the stage for avoiding water shortages looming in the Southwest’s future. Senator Hayden was once again ready to move a CAP bill, but set it aside to let the House, a more refractory setting, see what it could come up with. H.R. 4671, the Arizona bill from Representative Morris Udall, was worked on in 1965 under the guiding hand of Wayne Aspinall’s House Interior Committee.
The only press clippings I have from this period come from the end of the hearings before the Reclamation Subcommittee, when anti-dam testimony was heard. This recounting then is only a fragment of what must have been a time of vigorous discussion on how to get the seven Colorado Basin states into agreement.
31 Aug, Phoenix Gazette (AP): “Conservationists Attack Dam Plans” started off by reporting the testimony of C. Callison of Audubon and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower and Editor H. Nash. They argued that dams were not needed because coal-fired electric plants could produce cheaper power. Callison urged that Marble Canyon be added to the national park; a dam would diminish river flow, altering one of the earth’s grandest areas of scenic beauty. The lower dam at Bridge Canyon would be “an outright invasion of the national park principle by backing water into the existing park”. Nash testified that boat trips through the Canyon would be virtually impossible, because of the difficulties presented by a dam in Marble.
Aspinall and other committee members said they thought “conservation” meant the “proper use of resources, … what is best for the people”. Udall said the choice was letting Arizona dry up and blow away or a couple of dams — which would not harm any scenery anyway. The water backed up could not be seen from “any existing trail or lookout point on the canyon rim”. He averred, —in a misstatement of staggering dimension— “Nobody would know the reservoir is there.” Hosmer of California, unintentionally contradicting Udall, argued thousands would be able to see now-remote canyon areas. Callison’s answer was that they would not longer see “the natural” canyon.
Udall pulled his little trick of showing a picture of a full reservoir and asking witnesses if it wasnt beautiful. Callison replied he had seen pretty pictures of subway tracks. Aspinall then moved that the rest of the 17 witnesses have limited time (10 minutes), to finish on the next day, after which there would be no more hearings this year, but will be next year if necessary.
Opening testimony was on 23 Aug. Arizona & California Congress members, and former senator Goldwater, all backed the water storage, aqueduct, and power projects. Principal opposition was from the Pacific Northwest.
1 Sep, AP: On the eighth & last day, a Californian deputy sheriff claimed to be a Sierra Club member who loved the dams and detested lobbyists with little consideration for the “mass of people in the middle”. He, the only opponent of the Grand Canyon, was given a third of the article. The only two anti-dam witnesses shared two paragraphs, about the same as Udall’s answer that the witnesses did not understand the national park act, and anyway, they did not represent their members. Aspinall presided over the subcommittee, noting there was no chance of action this year.
1 Sep, Republic, B.Cole (their principal Washington reporter) started his article by citing a dam opponent from Aspinall’s district, who said Arizonans should have their water bills increased.(Aspinall chastised him for speaking beyond the limit on pro-Canyon speakers: “incredible and ridiculous”.) He was one of a “parade of outdoor-lovers’. Udall used a 17-year-old’s testimony to praise his own love of the canyon and his great-grandfather for building Lees Ferry [he was later hanged]. He repeated his nonsense that “in no way” would the canyon be spoiled, and anyway it would be accessible to thousands. F. Leydet, author of the Sierra Club’s Time and the River Flowing contended the dams were unneeded. “All conservationists insisted that steam-generaed power could run the pumps and fill the coffers of the Lower Colorado River Basin fund better than hydroelectric projects. J Tyson of Albuquerque supported the CAP, opposed the dams, and touted thermal power. J. Ricker (chair of the Arizona Sierra Club chapter) argued there were already enough lakes, and the canyon should be preserved for our descendents.
Udall was humorous with an anti-dam letter on endangered “Yellowstone”. He told J.McComb that he was hurt by people from Arizona promoting the Grand Canyon instead of the dams. More fun was had with a “prematurely white-haired nuclear physicist”, who at first demurred from saying when thermonuclear fusion would be available, and then suggested 1990. Udall labelled the Club as “socialist” for suggesting the federal government, builder of many dams, go into thermal power. [One presumes the USSR could not have built dams, since they were capitalist tools.] R.Bradley repeated his suggestion that investing the dam cost into bonds would be more profitable.
Callison’s statement asked that we have the courage to either subsidize the CAP directly if it is essential or through more competitive coal power. Udall said he appreciated being able to present his views to an Audubon convention, but added that the hearing room (24’ high) would have only 4” of water at the scale of project. [He was probably trying to limit the debate to how much water would be in the park, 4” out of 24’ only gives a 73’ dam. A better comparison would be that the hearing room would be “flooded” to a depth of 2’ — no problem to the politicans; they were on a raised platform. The people, though? —wet to the knees.] In conclusion, Smith of the NParksA said the prompt way to get the CAP was to use coal.
[What is interesting here is that the connection was not being made —yet— between the dam revenues and building a fund to import water, an issue that dominated the 1966 debates, though Aspinall clearly pointed to it.]
1 Sep, Gazette, adds information that whereas in the previous seven days there were crowds and standing room only, on the last, there were few spectators and 3 congressmen. Again, the pro-dam deputy sheriff got 40% of the coverage. Udall complained at one point, “How can reasonable people not understand that dams give us money for water. We cannot go out into the streets with a tin cup.”
1 Sep, Star in its summary report, quotes Aspinall about future action: “Theres too little understanding between the Colorado basin and the area of proposed importation.” The latter referred to the testimony from Northwest congressmen and civic leaders opposing import of water from the Columbia River’s mouth. Finally, D. Luten stated that the dams would subsidize farmers whose average income was the nation’s highest.