Arizona newspapers did of course report on the events of the 1966 Colorado River Basin legislative struggle. In addition, or even as part of their reportage, they published material aimed at blunting, denying, and countering information put out by the anti-dam forces, in particular, the Sierra Club. These published pieces deserve their own display, in part because they were not central to events, but a side flow — this was the Arizonans’ preaching to their own choir. What I present here is a judicious selection and editing in order to provide a sense of what being so relentlessly targeted was like.
The pieces come mostly from Phoenix’s Arizona Republic (Rep) and Gazette (Gaz), Tucson’s Daily Star and Citizen (Cit)
This intense dis-informative coverage in my files starts with the “invasion” of Arizona by the Club and the Reader’s Digest in late March 1966.
24 Mar, Rep: “Sierra Club Prepares A ‘Low Blow’ at CAP” speaks of the Club’s fight “to scuttle the Central Arizona Project dams”. Reader’s Digest was sponsoring a workshop on the brink of the Grand Canyon. An R.D. representative was in Phoenix “issuing hurried invitations” to Arizonans to take part in the sessions to “explore possibilities of destruction of the Grand Canyon”. The Club’s Brower will moderate. The Club was the conference promoter, and the format was heavily weighted toward its point of view. The RD rep said newsmen and western officlals had been invited. They would be flown in and taken to the workshop. Goldwater was unable to come. The RD rep had contacted the CAP’s chief lobbyist, R Johnson, for help. Johnson was bringing several other pro-dam Arizonans, interested in “balanced development”.
The AP version of this story ran in several state newspapers.
By contacting and thus alerting the pro-dam Arizonans about the event, the RD man was acting contrary to what the New York organizers (J Walter Thompson advertising agency) had agreed with us was to be a pro-Grand Canyon presentation.
27 Mar, Rep, columnist B Avery attacked the RD, spending money “like it was going out of style” to get newsmen to the meeting. RD doesnt care a whoop about the Canyon, but is anti-reclamation. There is not one iota of truth in its article’s charge that the river ecology would be destroyed. The article was by a knowledgeable conservationist, David Bradley, and had appeared first in Audubon.
31 Mar, Star reported Rep. Udall had been excluded from the meeting, which began with a controversy over the Club’s effort to get rid of Reclamation’s large plastic model of the Canyon. Udall was angry because he was not to be allowed to speak; no reclamationists were.
31 Mar, Rep reports that Udall won the right to speak, though not other pro-dam attendees. Those from the Club made it clear they thought the workshop was to be keyed to their interests against the dams. Udall’s fury led to his threat to call a news conference, so the RD let three pro-dam speakers come on after the five conservationists. Goldwater was also prevailed on to appear, flying in to speak at today’s breakfast.
Conservationists agreed that Arizona has a right to the water, but not at the expense of desecrating the “majestic canyon”. We wouldnt let that happen, said CAP advocates, and the Canyon would be more accessible. Conservationists were clear that they wanted to protect the whole 280 miles of the gorge, and a bill to expand the park to include the entire Canyon would be introduced. Opponents sought to downplay damage to the Canyon by dwelling on the existing Park, covering not even a third of the Canyon.. Thermal power plants were proposed. Udall said 104 miles of “free-falling” river would be left.
31 Mar, Gaz, reported that Goldwater touted the virtues of a lake behind Bridge Canyon dam. N.Ely of California was glad to support Arizona’s project. Udall argued thermal plants were not acceptable to Congress. There was no accessible point on the rim where the damage could be seen, was a point urged by those in favor of the dams. The article quoted two anti-dam conservationists, one who came on his own from Tennessee. Alternatives are available; any dam would disrupt wildlife and geological features.
1 Apr, Gaz: letter defends the right of those outside Arizona to fight the dams. Proponents say the Canyon will not be flooded to its rim, but when water came up a few feet in our Kentucky house, we had a flood.
The editor then added that the dams were not “in” the Grand Canyon. And there would be no raising of water at Bright Angel Lodge. [We used to call this paper the Gazoo.]
1 Apr, Rep with its report on Goldwater’s appearance, leading conservationists to lament that they couldnt beat Barry on his own ground, and what was to have been a pro-Canyon workshop did not succeed in that. [The fracas certainly did, however, raise awareness of the controversy.]
1 Apr, Rep, letter attacked “phony” conservationist Sierra Club. They just want to retain their “private little reserve”.
1 Apr, Gaz, analysis: Arizona won the debate, but not necessarily the battle. Canyon advocates admitted Goldwater made a compassionate and knowledgable speech. He also noted his reservations about Marble dam. The conservationists scored saying that some agencies were muzzled. The meeting was a stacked deck, as the RD insisted, but when Udall protested, the moderator yielded with good grace and both sides had equal time. [We thus did something the dam proponents never did for us.]
In another piece, Udall, mistakenly invited, was able to counter conservationist claims. When he went on to ask that Goldwater be brought in, again he threatened a press conference to tell
“what was really going on”. So the writers got to hear there are some valid arguments for the dams.
5 Apr, Rep, three letters defending the Club and its defense of the Grand Canyon.
5 Apr, Rep, letter anti-dam: they will soon be obsolete.
6 Apr, Rep, editorial: Sierra Club held public hearings on the reclamation project. It was intended to persuade the public that the Canyon’s scenic, geologic, & wildlife assets will be destroyed forever. The RD joined in the ploy and flew 50-75 newsmen to a workshop presenting the conservationist point of view. Obviously aimed at building sentiment against dams. As afterthought, Arizonans were invited, but were only able to speak because of Udall’s fury and threats. No one knows who won, but pro-CAP speakers made an excellent presentation. Best of all, “the fact” was established that the scenic beauty will not be destroyed. Inaccessible areas will be opened up, instead. However, our reporter still thinks CAP chances are slim and bleak, since the modest project bill has ballooned to gigantic proportions. We hope Secretary Udall and the Arizona delegation can succeed, but if not, then we had better build the project and dam ourselves.
14 Apr, Star, report on Rep. Udall’s speech attacking the RD for trying to “sabotage” the CAP. Only his threats opened up the meeting. He insisted there would be only a small amount of water in NPS units. He brought up the possibility of a state dam, and insisted dam revenues were essential for the CAP. He called the RD one-sided and told conservationists to admit the advantages to providing boat trips to the canyon bottom.
In April, letters came in to both the Phoenix papers, the Republic and Gazette, with the Sierra Club being both defended and attacked, the dams labelled as essential and obsolete. The project backers (Cong. Rhodes, Commissioner Dominy) remained optimistic, as obstacles were overcome, such as New Mexico’s demand for more water, obtaining Interior approval of the Colorado projects, and the wish of Texas to join in any water import bonanza.
In May, the big event was the second set of House hearings. Interior did not want Bridge Canyon dam included, Dominy testifying we “lost the battle”. Interior also sided with the Northwest, calling for a national water study. Club witnesses were provoked by Cong. Hosmer, calling their remarks “repetitious”; Saylor defending their rights. Our technical attack was mentioned, but so was a defense of Hualapai needs.
14 May, Republic, B. Cole led a report with L. Moss’s pro-nuclear presentation. He held up under Hosmer fire, undismayed, and insisting that nuclear power is competitive and safe. He noted a “rowdy” time when Hosmer objected to Brower’s remarks, and Saylor and Aspinall huffed at each other. Cole also mentioned A. Carlin’s economic analysis, though it was interrupted by more bad behavior from Hosmer. The article portrayed the day as more of a sporting event than usual. The Gazette described “multi-colored cardboard displays and rattling off study figures” by Club witnesses. The latter were surprised by pro-dam testimony by Hualapai anthropologist H. Dobyns.
27 May and 29 May editorials from the Phoenix papers were not sympathetic to Brower’s feelings about the Canyon, and irritable about Reader’s Digest & Life climbing on the Club’s bandwagon of nonsense.
As the House reclamation subcommittee worked on the bill in June, the Republic added to its editorials, a cartoon and a set of coupons to send to DC VIPs. They emphasized how the dams would open up the Canyon. This campaign reached a sort of peak when the Republic printed, in full, Cong. Udall’s June 9th, 30-minute speech (after the Club ads were run) “to express shock and indignation at the dishonest and inflammatory attacks” in Washington and New York newspapers. [I will deal with that speech as a separate item, as representing the best the pro-dammers could do.] This period also brought the IRS invasion of the Club offices.
And as the Republic headlined: Canyon Debate Rages On; Readers Oppose Editorial”.
interestingly, in late June, a Colorado Basin senator, Moss of Utah, felt the need to go on the attack, maligning Brower, while touting his own belief in “full development of our natural resources”.
He was countered, 30 Jun Gazette, by New Jersey’s senator C.Case, contending the dams, a “financing gimmick” would destroy a great part of the Canyon and radically change what remained. He preferred to pay more taxes for the water diversions.
29 Jun, in Rep, from the Los Angeles Times, a report on a Dominy speech that talked of “scare tactics”, “deliberately misleading statements”, in a “selfishly motivated” cause to “lock up” 253 miles of the river “for a very few”. [Please consider as I report this attack by a high government official that staff of the National Park Service had been forbidden to say anything about the dams, even though the agency had had reports prepared over the years that indicated the damage the dams could do, and the high values of the Grand Canyon outside the limits of the much-too-small National Park.] These people are carried away “by their single-purpose zeal”; failing to “recognize the great gray area between total preservation and total development”. These dams’ll “create”. Conservationists make “glittering generalities” against reclamation, but fail to point out that there will be no change in the vista from any rim viewpoint in the Park. He is pictured alongside Reclamation’s taxpayer-financed misleading model of the Canyon.
Dominy had a good rhetorical partner in the Republic’s Ben Avery, who on 29 Jun, wrote that the Club makes no effort to be fair, knowing they cannot win by being fair. However, his hero, B. Goldwater, questioned Marble dam, and Avery agreed, only giving “my support wholeheartedly and without reservation to Bridge Canyon Dam. Those who oppose it do so out of ignorance of the facts”.
1 Jul, Rep & Gaz, report on a 3-hour tv debate between Brower and R. Johnson of the Arizona Interstate Stream Commission. The latter went on about lack of Colorado River water imperiling agriculture, Tucson’s growth, and Phoenix’s future. Brower answered, so get your water, just leave the Grand Canyon alone. He also charged “some Arizonans” and “cabinet level influence” with bringing on the IRS probe. He offered figures — loss of membership fees, cost of the anti-dam campaign, the Club budget ($5K/day, $25K, $1.5 million) — and said the Club operated at a loss. He raised again the claim that Interior agencies were “muzzled”, and said Hoover revenues could help finance the CAP.
2 Jul, AP reported in a separate interview that the Club would oppose even one dam. What exists is “a gerrymandered park” that needs to be consolidated.
3 Jul, Rep letters included a lumber man praising the beauty of the dams, and a farmer asking what will we eat? Sierra Club’s Barnett was allowed a long reply to the farmer.
6 Jul, Gov Goddard got the other Basin governors to “throw the lie in the teeth of Sierra Club propagandists” about the effects of the dams.
11 Jul, Rep ran a series of long articles recapitulating the arguments. Not unfair, but nothing new was said.
11 Jul, Tucson Citizen editorial excoriated an editorial in an Illinois newspaper — “without benefit of research”, “unqualified assertions”. “typical of much comment being spread around the country”.
13 Jul, Rep reports a joint statement by California water groups in support of the CAP: The Sierra Club does not speak for California. The Club is national and has only 40,000 members; it will be no help in paying for dams and aqueducts.
17 Jul, Rep editorial sneers at Club complaining about IRS “persecution”. It goes on dismissing the claims about dam damage to the Canyon as only “89 Feet At Stake”.
19 Jul, in different papers, Gov. Goddard and B. Goldwater attacked the lack of truth-telling by the Club. On the 21st, the nationwide “Today” show featured a debate between Brower and banker L.Mehren.
22 Jul, Citizen reported a Canyon-friendly meeting that heard an attack on the newspaper and its misleading characterizations of how little damage the dams would do.
25 Jul, AP, in several papers, reported that the Club had published another full-page ad in The New York Times.
27 Jul, Gazette, Goldwater says he will run for the Senate by showing a film of his river trip in the Canyon, and defending the dams as “necessary” to provide “much-needed water”. Once the water was for farms;now it is needed for “essential domestic purposes”. Spurning the “big lie” of the Canyon defenders, Goldwater lied that they said the dams would turn the Canyon into a huge bathtub filled with water. Goldwater was “witty” and “cheerful”.
29 Jul, Star editorial endorses Californians’ attack on Sierra Club.
30 Jul, Gazette editorial attacks Club’s “dangerously false arguments”.
30 Jul, Rep reports that 29 Congress members pledged to defy the IRS stance on the Club, and deduct contributions. The New York Times, 3 Aug, reported the number was 12.
3 Aug, Rep headlined Cong. Udall’s big “Blast” against the Club Director. The speech was reported in the Gazette and the two Tucson papers: Brower was “rapped”, “accused”.
4 Aug, the Star had another take: “Udall Says Sierra Club Indulges in Subterfuge”.
4 Aug, Citizen, reported the governor had opened an exhibit of Reclamation’s model of the Canyon, so people could come to the capitol and see what the facts are. [The model featured two lift-out reservoirs, but showed none of the roads, power lines, buildings, and all the other physical changes that would come with the Canyon’s industrialization.]
He took the opportunity to denounce the Club for its “campaign of deceit”, 5 Aug, Star.
5 Aug, Rep, reported that the local irrigation districts had sponsored a film taking the side of the Basin states.
5 Aug, Rep, reported the governor’s commission on Arizona Beauty had been asked by him to endorse the waterworks. However, Club members had asked to address the group. Its chairman had asked state employees to draft a statement “dealing with the aesthetic aspects of damming the Colorado”.
7 Aug, Star reprinted a Times article about the spurt of Club membership, up to a rate of 1000/month for the 42,000 member group. It reprised the Club’s current situation.
9-10 Aug, five Arizona papers reported Cong. Hosmer “blasts”, “assails”, “raps”, “lashes”, “damn”s the Club.
12 Aug came reports of a Club anti-dam film (the beautiful one made from slides of pre-dam Glen Canyon) being banned by Yosemite NPS bureaucrats.
13/24 Aug, it was Arizona Senator Fannin’s turn to “hit”, “renew attack”, and “lash at” the Club. [Whether these screeds, printed in the Congressional Record at taxpayer expense, were given in person is, of course, irrelevant; the purpose was to get the headlines”. Now what is pleasantly ironic is that we could read these outbursts of fury spewing even as it was becoming clear the Basin bill did not have the support it needed to pass the House unscathed.]
Cong Udall, in the 16 Aug Gazette predicted “House Will Get Water Project This Session, even though, said a 14 Aug Star editorial, “Falsehoods Becloud Colo. River Picture”. And it was echoed with another empty warning from Republic’s B.Avery: if Congress doesnt approve the dams, they would be built by the state.
18 Aug, Gazette, reported that an exchange of letters between Cong. Udall and Brower had been put in the C. Record, at the same time as Brower had his chance to answer Goldwater, by attacking the dams before the National Press Club.
My record of anti-Club material does not continue into September. There were several reports on the negative impact of the IRS ruling, which did not come until the end of December.
Meanwhile, it was time for the CAP backers to pick up the pieces.
Sec. Udall suggested there would be a compromise. California’s N.Ely was encouraging about the bill’s chances next year (Gazette, 21 Sep, Star, 22 Sep).
23 Sep, Rep, editorial praised “unsurpassed” Glen Canyon dam on the occasion of its dedication by the First Lady, and also denounced the “powerful cult” led by the Sierra Club.