Wednesday, January 24, 2018

John Saylor and the Grand Canyon, 1950-73*

This “green Republican”, as Smith labels him, played a significant role in the Grand Canyon’s history, first in 1950-1, then in the 1963-8 major dam battle, and finally probably would have in the 1972-5 expansion of Grand Canyon National Park, had he not died (in office) in October 1973.

Assessing that role is not a simple matter, given that during most of his career, he was in the House minority, affecting his political weight even when he was senior Republican on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. Yet those were different times than today. Congress worked differently. Democrats figured prominently on both sides of conservation/environmental/resource/development/Western issues. Saylor was a conservative of his time, and believed in a government that could work and do good, for his district and for the American people. Therefore, it was his responsibility and joy as a legislator to act constructively, to make laws, sometimes to oppose them, but overall to move government along as a positive force in the nation’s life, even as he fulminated against “big government” and “reckless over-spending”. The barn-burners and toadies-to-wealth who wear the Republican label today would scorn and revile his commitments and activities.

Saylor was sworn in for the first time in September 1949, and assigned to the Public Lands Committee, upgraded to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee in 1951. Smith describes Saylor’s antagonism, right from his start, to Reclamation’s spreading ambition as due to his protectiveness for his district’s coal mines, and in general the coal and utility industries. That fitted in with his hostility to public power and big dams, as well as with his Republican fiscal conservatism and fear of big government.

Pp. 37-41, 1950-1
As Saylor began his career in the House of Representatives, the Arizona delegation was pushing its bill authorizing the Bridge Canyon Project. It had two major components: an aqueduct  to central Arizona from the Colorado River below Hoover Dam, and a new hydroelectric dam, called Bridge Canyon, located in the western reach of the Grand Canyon. The concept at that time was that the dam’s electricity would pump water for the aqueduct and generate enough power for sale to help pay for the waterworks.

The Senate had passed the bill, and it was debated in the House committee (including Saylor) in mid-1950, then set aside. In the next Congress, the bill once again went through the Senate, June 1951, but then got stuck in the House committee over debate about water rights to the Colorado. Smith says Saylor “recoiled” from this big reclamation project, raising questions about costs and irrigation benefits. More determinative was the Californians’ opposition based on their fear that a large amount of Colorado water they were using would go to Arizona. Saylor was the one who, after the weeks of debate, offered a motion that legislation would not proceed until the water apportionment question was settled by the two states or in court, a process that took until summer 1963. 

Smith notes that the location of the dam in the Grand Canyon was not a contested issue. In Congress, that was largely true, and the Bridge Canyon bill passed the Senate twice with no meaningful opposition from conservation organizations. The National Parks Association had asked that the dam be lowered to keep its reservoir out of the Park and opposed it “on principle”. The Sierra Club Board of Directors was actually led to approve of the dam “with conditions”. These events occurred, of course, before the fight over dams in Dinosaur National Monument had sharpened conservation perceptions about the stakes involved in development of Colorado Plateau country.

Ch. 10, “The Battle to Save Grand Canyon”. pp 180-205, 1963-8

Smith’s introductory paragraph alarms me; he describes the “battle” in July 1966 this way: tension tugged at the House (Interior) Committee as it completed deliberations over two hydroelectric dams in Grand Canyon.

Tension was certainly high. For a year and a half, negotiations among the Colorado Basin representatives had been going on, in public and privately, to put together a bill that would build the Central Arizona Project aqueduct, guarantee California’s water share, build several projects to protect the upper basin’s share, conduct a study on how to augment the Colorado’s over-taxed flow, and construct dams, in Grand Canyon and elsewhere, that would help pay for the authorized works and then, added in with revenues from existing Colorado dams, finance that augmentation, generally believed to have to come from the Columbia River.

Even this inadequate listing doesnt do justice to the complications of this all-but-the-kitchen-sink legislation. The tension arose, first, because the augmentation study had the undying opposition of the Pacific Northwest, countered by the adamant insistence on it by California and Colorado, whose Congressman Aspinall was Interior Committee chair. Aspinall was thus in charge of trying to get the horses working together in the House, but the Senate’s stance would be set under the guidance of the Northwest’s Senator Jackson, committee chair there, in firm alliance with the other Senate powers, Hayden and Anderson. Second, the Sierra Club, with a multitude of Grand Canyon supporters across the country, had made keeping dams out of the Canyon its primary conservation goal. Key to the anti-dam position was the understanding, underlined by conservationist testimony, that the REAL purpose of the dams was to produce future revenues in such amounts as to provide a down payment for augmenting the river’s supply by importing Columbia water. These two closely coupled factors, both insisted upon by the basin states, California in particular, made impossible the usual course of reclamation authorizations, where everybody was given something they wanted, and all went along with the package. The two “no’s”, on import and dams, were powerful barriers to those who insisted on “yes”.

That overcoming the barriers was impossible for the CAP-based legislation in July 1966 was both obvious and denied. Aspinall, for instance, tried to soften the augmentation study provision, hoping to soften the Northwest, and lost control of his committee’s work. California, with a clutch of essential eggs loaded into this basket, insisted on the study and, even more, the revenue-producing dams, threatened by the Canyon advocates’ defense and Saylor’s threats to go after the dams through House floor votes. Aspinall sulked; California balked and sabotaged the legislative process; the House leadership refused to bring such a mess before the House.

Admittedly, Smith’s paragraph is simpler and punchy. And he does then take half a dozen pages to tell the story that led up to the July 1966 “tension” over the legislation’s provisions. However, as significant as the dams were, the July 1966 committee deliberations were not over them; that arena was too friendly to their approval. Indeed, although John Saylor was principal House spokesman against the dams in the House, his influence never received the ultimate test since the dams never came up for a vote on the House floor. Nor in any other significant arena. Fought out in the media, with public debate, and back in governmental workrooms, the dams disappeared from legislative consideration without ever having an up-or-down vote. They were not slain; they were removed and buried deep, “in the stilly watches of the night”, as one congressional sage put it.

The fuller story

Going back with Smith, recall Saylor as being the one who moved the Arizona-California water allocation dispute out of Congress in 1951 and into the Supreme Court. Smith’s footnotes do not indicate any further Saylor activity on this matter until House hearings in November 1964. However, this period contained the significant battles over dams in Dinosaur National Monument and the protection of Rainbow Bridge. Saylor was deeply involved in these. For dam opponents / Park supporters, those battles were highly educational in congressional ways as well as the principles on which to fight such resource battles in the future.

When the Court decision did emerge in June 1963, the significant mover became Arizona’s Stewart Udall — a committee colleague of Saylor’s 1955-60. As Secretary of the Interior since 1961, he superintended the re-casting of Arizona’s simple 1950’s project of CAP aqueduct + Bridge Canyon dam into the 1960’s mammoth West-wide scheme, the Pacific SouthWest Water Plan.

Smith introduces Arizona congressman Morris Udall (Stewart’s brother and successor to his 2nd District seat) as a usual Saylor ally on conservation issues. But Udall’s position, temperament, and political skill almost mandated him as the House leader for legislation to authorize the Central Arizona project, including (necessarily, its backers thought) the two Grand Canyon dams. As project proposals had matured through the 1950’s, both had now been surveyed and found to be feasible by Reclamation. (There were also two smaller subsidiary canyon dams, to help retain silt, both damaging to their scenic locations. And still another, in the smaller canyon of the Gila River in New Mexico, whose reservoir would stretch well into the oldest American Wilderness.)

Introducing the dams, Smith notes that Bridge went through Grand Canyon National Monument and into the Park. What he doesnt mention is that the thinking of leaders like Brower of the Sierra Club (stirred and educated by such as Harold Bradley and Martin Litton) had evolved through the 1950’s so that the goal was no longer just National Park protection, but preserving significant places like the Grand Canyon, designated or not. This more ethical stance of defending the “Grand Canyon in its entirety” was adopted May 1963 by the Sierra Club Board of Directors, putting it definitively in the leadership role for the conservationist/preservationist position just as, on water policy, Secretary Udall was asserting the leadership of the administration through the PSWWP.

The one figure who had to assert nothing was Carl Hayden, Arizona’s primary national legislator since it became a state over a half century before. He had worked for a CAP bill in the late 1940’s and early 50’s. He certainly symbolized the right and desire of Arizona to take its share of the Colorado. Although often unmentioned, Roy Elson served Hayden (85 in the summer of 1963) well as his principal aide. Smith says that all five members of the delegation introduced a CAP bill upon news of the state’s win in Arizona v. California, and suggests that the five-year span until the CAP bill was passed in 1968 was “nearly as lengthy and agonizing as the court case” (12 years).

Smith summarizes a Morris Udall document, sadly undated, “Arizona’s Water Fight Shifts to Congress”, in which he described Saylor’s strong skepticism of reclamation and fervent conservationist position, calling him “dynamic, resourceful, hard-hitting”, and adamant on “the integrity of the national parks (, he) will have much to say about the proposed Bridge Canyon Dam.” The dam will also draw preservationist wrath. [I note here that we called ourselves “conservationists” in this era; “preservationist” had a more special ring. “Environmentalist” of course came later.] Interestingly, he noted that Hualapai cooperation would be required, though as it turned out, they were ignored at first.

M. Udall went on to point out the advantages of having Hayden in the Senate (he was Appropriations chair) and S. Udall as Secretary in the executive branch. But California heavily out-numbered the three Arizonans in key House positions. And then there was Saylor, who had “almost engineered the defeat of the Colorado River Storage Project in 1956.” Possibly because he was just thinking of a simple re-run of the aqueduct + dam legislation, Udall seems not to have considered the Northwest, water import, or even upper basin qualms.

However, as Smith immediately discusses, M. Udall’s analysis and the Arizonans’ simple CAP bills were rendered moot by S. Udall’s Jun-Aug 1963 release of the PSWWP draft. Smith casts this a bit narrowly as “before Saylor and preservationists could mount a full offensive against Bridge Canyon Dam, they were confronted with a bolder, more ambitious plan”. That was followed in September by Chairman Aspinall’s endorsement of the regional approach including river augmentation, and his insistence that all the basin states had to come together on this approach.

As Smith describes elsewhere, Aspinall’s mode of operation was to insist on working out details and controversial items in committee, so there would be a united front on the House floor. Thus, Arizonan complaints about the PSWWP were irrelevant; though it is tantalizing and a bit scary to contemplate a simple CAP aqueduct + dam bill zipping through the Senate in 1963, and then being blessed by a compliant Aspinall in committee and the full House. Never could have happened? Maybe not, but the larger frame of the PSWWP in truth provided the elements for the confrontation of immovable vs. irresistible that created the tension Smith notes in July 1966.

Discussion and debate over the PSWWP occupied the rest of 1963 and most of 1964. Interior had concluded there would be no CAP without Californian and other  basin states cooperation. This had to be brought about given the now-apparent shortfall in Colorado riverflow, leading to the PSWWP’s $4 billion plan to build various state waterworks while adding to the flow by building desalting plants and bringing water from northern California and/or the Pacific Northwest.

Smith lists these obstacles: The cost. Washington Senator Jackson’s intolerance of any “pirating” of Columbia River water. Cooperation of the Hualapai and the Navajo. [Smith is not correct about the Navajo position vis-a-vis Marble dam, and no effort was made to conciliate them.] “Preservationist resistance” led by Saylor who, so far, had nothing to say. [Being fussy, I think Smith mis-describes our evolved position, the Canyon, and the legalities.] Indeed, Smith thinks, Arizonans were mystified by Saylor.

The evolving PSWWP dropped the $1 billion desalting plant and any mention of the Columbia. The Secretary, Smith says, then “cajoled” Hayden into adopting his revised regional approach. However, California started insisting on being guaranteed its share of the Colorado in any future shortages. Conservation groups criticized the regional proposals and defended the Canyon.

Not until November 1964 did the focus settle on the House committee. There the sole Arizonan, M. Udall, had urged Aspinall to bring his committee to the state for a fly-over of the Grand Canyon damsites and Phoenix hearings on local water concerns and considerations, (which did not include the elements of the PSWWP). For whatever it is worth, this was just the time when Johnson was bashing Arizonan Goldwater in the presidential race. And Saylor, at dinner, admitted the CAP was justified, but questioned the need for any dam that would violate Grand Canyon National Park, even suggesting one only high enough to go through the Monument.

Hayden and California’s Kuchel seemed in agreement in the new Congress; their Lower Colorado River Basin Project bills authorized the Grand Canyon dams with revenues going into basin accounts to pay for projects. Kuchel added on California’s guarantee.

Smith now has Saylor in high gear. His piece inserted in the Congressional Record lauded nature and scenic beauty. Arizona’s counter praised Saylor but noted Marble was not in the Park and Bridge only a little. The reservoirs would increase accessibility. Saylor replied the dams were one of Reclamation’s darkest schemes. The dams were not needed, since existing dams could provide the subsidy and private coal-fired plants the power.

Smith puts in a footnote the Sierra Club’s publication of the exhibit format Time and the River Flowing and devotes 1-1/2 pages to Saylor’s attack on Dominy’s Reclamation publication of a glitzy brochure on Lake Powell: Gem of the Colorado, with its “powerful sensual punch”. [I dont think he even mentions the Club’s movie and book on Glen Canyon. It is important to remember that this is a biography of Saylor, not an account of the fight against the dams.] The government publication was sent to congressmen and newspapermen. Saylor attacked this blatant violation of lobbying laws. He was attacked back for a similar booklet on a Pennsylvania project. Smith relates Dominy’s amusement over the Gem flap and his basic disagreement with Saylor over public hydropower, Saylor being a defender of coal. Smith writes about his delight in baiting witnesses, especially Dominy, who often got red in the face. But also Smith relates their going hunting together.

The May 1965 administration report on the Senate bill recommended deferring a decision on Bridge Canyon dam. Smith calls this “a major setback…from which (the proponents) never fully recovered.” [I would call that judgment only possible by someone who has no feel for the controversy as it actually played out in 1965-6. He also suggests that the national water commission idea came from the administration, not Senator Jackson. Perhaps, but the trouble I have with his account is that I think his sense of the pace of actions is off. It was the intra-basin negotiations of 1965 that produced the momentum that powered the kitchen-sink bill of 1966. From the proponents’ point-of-view, they were doing the hard work of getting together a package with solid basin states’ support that Aspinall would judge to be a defensible bill. The administration may have taken this or that position; Saylor may have been an entertainment; the bill progressed. We feared and fought that progress, with no assurance of success until the events of July-August.]

Aspinall and Jackson, from their opposing stand-points, now made a significant point clear:  both demanded that a feasibility-level study of water import be congressionally mandated. Jackson meant that it could not be done just with Reclamation’s or an administration’s authority. Aspinall meant that all the basin states must agree on a bill that included such a study. And that meant that should there be such a bill, Jackson would work against it. Aspinall’s “demand” became part of the kitchen-sink bill when all the states finally agreed, and Aspinall then scheduled hearings to start in late August 1965.

Testifying, M. Udall listed five features: the CAP and Hooker dam, California’s guarantee, a study of western water resources, an import of water from surplus areas, the Grand Canyon dams. The administration testified with a straight face that Marble dam alone could do the job. The Hualapai urged that their dam be built anyway; if not they would seek a license to do a non-Park-invading dam themselves. Northwesterners, outnumbered in the House, were against any import. The Upper Basin states worried about the Lower Basin using the entire flow, so supported the import. Saylor and conservation group members opposed both dams, though Saylor mostly attacked California and mocked the import idea. Udall defended the dams, and scorned the idea that Reclamation could construct thermal power plants. Not noted by Smith are Udall’s confrontations of witnesses (even from his district) who were making arguments based on nature, beauty, the Park system. Aspinall concluded the hearings with the understanding that more work needed to be done on the bill.

Smith inserts here Saylor’s introduction (actually done six months later, and with two others) of the Sierra Club’s “complete Grand Canyon Park” bill. Only later does he mention the Reader’s Digest conference that the bill was associated with. He notes the bill was “buried in committee”, missing the point that we wrote it to have something positive to point to as a goal, beyond opposing the dams. Park expansion got un-buried very quickly after the dams were interred in 1968. Not quite on the point, the reader is given a view of Saylor’s usefulness and comic sensibility, a reminder that this is a biography not a recounting of things as they happened.

Over the winter, Aspinall found a way to secure, at least in part, Colorado’s share of the river: he brought into the discussion five upper basin projects that would be authorized at the same time. Arizona accepted this, and with more enthusiasm brought in the Hualapai (actually Arizona and the Hualapai had been cooperating on dam plans for at least ten years), with provisions for remuneration and sharing of the dam’s benefits. Smith suggests the Arizona congressmen considered a suggestion from Dominy to keep Bridge, drop Marble, and expand the Park upstream as a compromise with dam opponents. Seems dubious to me that anyone even floated such nonsense, and Smith notes the Arizonans were certain that with Saylor fighting his hardest, they would see the bill “glide” through the Committee. Any vote-counter would have had to agree.

The Reader’s Digest fracas merits only a mention: of Bradley’s article and “a massive letter-writing campaign” to RD from dam proponents. Again relying on Arizonan internal memos, Smith suggests they were thinking how to neutralize Saylor in any floor fight (surely, months away). With negotiations complete enough to gather approval from the various basin states, another set of hearings was held in May. M. Udall had added the five Colorado projects, the Hualapai provisions, and upped the import from 2.5 to 8.5 maf. He lauded the “delicate balance” of use and beauty that the dams would bring. Saylor attacked the cost, complained that Arizona was giving away all its gains. When he asked why Udall didnt throw in Echo Park, too, Saylor was told he should propose it. He complained the administration check on Bridge Canyon dam was being ignored, and Udall twitted him on that.

The northwestern speakers pushed the idea that any study must be done by a national water commission. S. Jett noted the Navajo were being ignored. Astonishingly, Smith says anti-dam witnesses only complained about marring the Canyon, suggested thermal power, and showed existing dam revenues could pay for the CAP. Aspinall suggested conservationists accept one dam and expand the Park. Saylor remained adamant, and Aspinall suggested not being so extreme. Thus the fight would now move to voting, and on the full committee Aspinall had the upper hand.

Smith describes the Sierra Club ads in the The New York Times and Washington Post and the subsequent IRS action that “helped turn public opinion against the dams”. Saylor made a speech defending the Club and attacking Udall’s future as a conservationist. He inserted more anti-dam material in the Record, and tried to counter pro-dam steak luncheons run by the Arizonans. His motion to remove the dams during subcommittee mark-up failed, and the vote against approving the bill only attracted the votes of Saylor and the northwesterners; 13-5 moved the bill but as time would show, the minority actually had veto power.

The dams survived a full committee vote, too, with Saylor scolding Udall mercilessly, Smith reports. The next step in the committee was important, involving Aspinall trying to modify the import study provision. First he succeeded with Udall’s help, then the Californians were able to reverse Udall, and Aspinall lost. In disgust, the latter washed his hands of responsibility. Smith doesnt quite get this, only noting that Aspinall did not urge the Rules Committee to act. It did not. The consensus formed that the Californians, although they had gotten what they wanted out of the committee, were even more fearful of Saylor being able to successfully offer a floor substitute that would eliminate their gains. Smith describes in some detail the Arizonans’ attempt to persuade the Californians that the bill had the votes. No use; power was perception.

Smith also gives credit to the Sierra Club’s Sistine Chapel ad: “public criticism continued to surge.” He adds that the Navajo now voted in favor of using their coal to fire up the power plants. Saylor sent out a 25-page letter to House members with “pertinent facts” about the dams. He promised to offer a substitute on the floor with the CAP and private thermal plants. Members worried about upcoming elections; never had there been such flak from conservationists, remarked one. Smith details a supposed Saylor offer to put up a modified bill with a low dam, but nobody was buying, certainly not Aspinall, and likely the story is apocryphal. 

Smith puts forth and then down the thesis that Saylor never really had the votes, and the bill’s demise was due to Californian double-crossing machinations. Instead, Smith characterizes the Californians as just not certain, as not willing to take a chance. It was so late in that Congress anyway, meaning the Senate could not act, given the bill’s content. Perhaps these events were proof that Aspinall, in his mode of operating with all parties consenting, had a real point, and when the Californians offended him over the study compromise, they fatally weakened the alliance’s strength—at least for that moment.

In the fall, with the effort blunted and stalled, it was not clear how to put the legislation together again in another effort. Smith notes this, and tells a story about Saylor and Rhodes talking things over.  Again, as somebody who was there, I can recall the depressed feelings expressed in newspapers and meetings by backers of the legislation. Focusing on Saylor, Smith fails to highlight the significance of the action that Secretary Udall now took to re-assert his leadership.

The Secretary took advantage of his position and ordered Reclamation to study ways to make the CAP work without the Grand Canyon dams. He was ready to do an about-face — no grand western plan, no overall solution for the river’s inadequate water supply. Smith does not see this, only remarking, “Udall proposed a revised federal plan”. My analysis is that this was based on Udall’s political judgment, and also a values judgment made possible by his being more sensitive to changes in American public concerns than true western development types like Aspinall and most of the Basin state figures. In any case, the Secretary had the authority and the personnel to implement a revised view of the situation. Smith only suggests “practical political reasons” for his seeking the CAP, namely, Hayden’s imminent departure. He credits Udall with having “gravitated toward a preservationist perspective”, ignoring the fact that it was only the failure of the kitchen-sink bill that gave the Secretary room to swing around. Did he “prefer” to leave the Grand Canyon undammed, as Smith writes? I hope so, but to me the more significant quality is the Udalls’ political sensitivities, alive here to Senator Jackson and the public outcry over the dams.

Smith is not careful in his next statement: Udall “recommended federal construction of the CAP with coal-fired steam plants …providing the power.” Stated this way, there is either no “revised federal plan” or a misleading error. Dubious, too, is Smith’s subsequent statement, highlighting Hayden’s endorsement of the administration approach as a “surprise to many Westerners”, since Hayden “had pushed for hydroelectric dams on the river since the late 1940s”. Angry at Udall’s “flip-flop”, many Basin watermen certainly were, as the noisy opposition to what became the administration-Hayden-Jackson initiative showed. Fierce and outraged, yes, and surely in part because the California & Colorado leaders knew that initiative could not be defeated or derailed in the Senate. Aspinall, in particular was cognizant of the danger posed by a Senate-passed bill with no dams or import study — the danger of Saylor grabbing the legislative initiative to bring that bill to the House floor. Smith relies on an M. Udall memo to show that in the House, Arizona had to work with Colorado, Aspinall, and California since the option of going with Saylor would not work. Going further, Udall noted there would have to be changes in their joint position, changes that in fact Hayden made in the Senate — giving California some guarantee and Colorado its five projects.

The Basin states opposing the Hayden bill — California, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona in the House —were now going to insist on Hualapai (once Bridge Canyon) dam and a study. So the House hearings in March would sort of be a re-run, except for the administration position. Aspinall tried the cutesy trick of dropping the upper dam and including Marble in an expanded National Park. So, in Smith’s words, Saylor had only Hualapai to “rage at”. He backed the administration, but asked S. Udall to expand the National Monument down to the Hualapai damsite. He strongly defended the national park against any dam by any name. Good early 1950’s rhetoric, yet ignoring the broader position of recognizing the Grand Canyon in its entirety, as he also ignored Udall’s humorous jabs.

Aspinall had conceded on the national water commission, possibly hoping this would placate the northwesterners on some aspect of the dam/study crux. Smith thinks this caused the Senate to act on the Hayden bill with conciliatory amendments for California & Colorado. But of course, this was all part of the administration-Hayden timetable to move their bill quickly so that Aspinall would have to face its threat for over a year — the very opposite of the situation in 1966. Saylor helped by bragging that he could take the committee away from Aspinall — as indeed California had the year before. Instead, Aspinall —Smith says with Saylor’s agreement— announced he was ending committee business after Labor Day for the rest of 1967. Relying on M. Udall, Smith says Saylor got Aspinall’s promise for early 1968 action on several conservations bills as well as the CAP.

Aspinall’s delaying spurred action by Hayden as Senate Appropriations chair. Smith is dubious in its having the effect of getting Aspinall to move, since Saylor sided with him, but the result was an announcement that the committee would vote on the Senate bill. M.Udall grew optimistic. Even more when in January, Aspinall worked with him on a bill that he hoped the Arizonans would prefer. All of a sudden, all were  “conciliatory” in still another set of House hearings, with no “withering volleys from Saylor and Brower. S. Udall remarked that Saylor must be delighted that coal was now to be used; perhaps, an Arizonan wrote, we will erect a statue to Saylor once industry starts moving to Arizona to use its coal.

Committee action once again saw Saylor making a try, but his substitute and many amendments were all defeated. This included his trying to get rid of the Gila Wilderness invading dam, but we New Mexican conservationists had already prevailed on Senator Anderson and M. Udall to back away from that dam as well as one Saylor wanted to substitute for it. When Saylor found out about our going behind his back, he was vividly livid.

On the floor, Saylor offered only token resistance; the dams were excised, but he didnt like the “add-ons extorted” by the other states such as the California guarantee and the five Colorado projects. Saylor, with “a brave front” lauded both sides and offered no substitute. Smith says Saylor was the only dissenter in the conference, which accepted the House bill. Since Smith suggests the House bill contained a feasibility-grade study to import water, and the final legislation did not —indeed it forbade any study of importing water from non-basin states—, that must be an error. In any case, it was signed 30 Sep 1968.

“Preservationists were satisfied with the outcome. With the help of a massive publicity campaign and Saylor’s relentless efforts in committee, they had managed to protect Grand Canyon by eliminating both dams from the bill.” Not to be picky, but both dams were firmly in the legislation until Secretary Udall, spurred by the combined opposition of the Northwest and conservationists, took the initiative,   dropped them and produced a proposal that Hayden and then the Senate adopted in a masterful strategy that went on to overwhelm the crafty Aspinall and his friend Saylor, as well as California and the other Basin states. Saylor, using his well-worn techniques, did ride the new-fashioned waves of public opposition and conservationist argument as they swamped the old Reclamation certainties. Reclamation never recovered; environmentalism became part of the national agenda; Saylor continued to battle on other preservationist fronts.


Although not covered by Smith, Representative Saylor continued to introduce bills to expand Grand Canyon National Park, in part to mark the Canyon as off-limits to dams. The legislation was not seriously considered until Barry Goldwater, back in the Senate in the seat Carl Hayden had held, sponsored it and received Senator Jackson’s blessing for action in 1973. Passing the Senate in the summer of that year, it was headed for House hearings and consideration at the very time when John Saylor unexpectedly died after heart surgery in October 1973.

There is no way to know, but his presence and likely cooperation with M. Udall on a generous Park expansion might well have produced a friendlier outcome for the Canyon. I mourned him then, and celebrate him now as one of the key old-time architects of modern America.

*Largely, my summary of and commentary on
Chapter 10, “The Battle to Save Grand Canyon”, in
Smith, Thomas G., Green Republican, John Saylor and the Preservation of America’s Wilderness, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.
I occasionally paraphrase rather than quote extensively.

In going through Smith’s footnotes to this chapter, I found a heavy dependence on the papers of Arizonans Stewart & Morris Udall and John Rhodes (but not Carl Hayden). He makes use of Pearson’s Still the Wild River Runs, which also is heavily dependent on Arizonan sources. Smith, of course, consulted the official hearings and the Congressional Record for Saylor’s positions and statements. There are also many references to conservationist sources, but the story he tells is that of Saylor’s impact, and thus will differ from my personal memories, and the impressions left from my concurrent survey of newspaper clippings.

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