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we must, in order to sustain life here, have a water supply on hand here for a number of years, and we feel safer when we have eight or nine years' supply on hand, and we don't have that supply on hand very often, very many years. At the present time we are estimated to have three years' supply on hand, and storage capacity for seven or eight years. But, in order for us to grow it is necessary for us to build dams and keep on building them until we have built all the dams which can be constructed in San Diego County to conserve the great flood run-offs. And when we have developed them all we will be able to support a population here of probably between five and six hundred thousand people; and then we will have to stop growing, and when a place stops growing it must necessarily retrograde-nothing ever stands still. But in order to keep on growing and reach the population which we hope to have, maybe a million or a million and a half in some 40 or 50 years, we must go to the Colorado River. And whether we bring the water through the mountains, as Mr. Covert has outlined, or whether we join with Los Angeles, it is necessary for us to make an application for our appropriation of the waters from the river, and we should make that application now before the waters are all gone. There are other communities who are striving to place their claims upon the water, and it is for us to make use of the water.
In Mexico there are some 800,000 acres that are being planted to crops which they do not expect to harvest, in order that they may lay claim to more water than they now would have any right to claim. So the city of San Diego should, through some of its officers, put in a claim for at least a proportion of the waters of the Colorado River, and as Mr. Covert has said, if we take 150,000,000 gallons of water here we probably could grow to a population of about a million and a half. And we will, of course, now need that until we have grown so that we can financially construct the claims that are outlined, but in the meantime we could be developing our own supply, and as we develop our own supply, we increase our wealth and our bonding capacity so that eventually we could be able to bring this water from the Colorado River.
And I might say in connection with the Boulder Dam that it has been my observation that it is absolutely necessary that it be constructed and not be put off too long, because I have stood on the banks of the Colorado River and seen the water within 10 inches of running over the levees, and thousands of men sacking sand and piling it on the levees to keep it from breaking through, and they did not know at that time whether the river was going to rise and swamp them or whether it was going to recede. And that was in 1917. They controlled the flood, but if it had broken through at that time and entered that new river, the Imperial Valley would have been doomed; because there was a channel about 100 feet deep caused by the break of 1903 and that channel would have cut back to the Laguna Dam in 1906 when this flood occurred. I had told to me an experience of a man who camped along what is known as the New River. He camped at a waterfall which was about 75 feet high, and when he woke up in the morning the waterfall had moved a half a mile back from him and he was at a loss to know what was wrong; he thought he had moved during the night. That is how fast it cuts through the silt. And if it cuts a deep channel again clear back to the Laguna Dam it will not be possible to stop that flood. And it is a necessity that the Boulder Canyon Dam be constructed, and constructed soon or we will lose the Imperial Valley.
STATEMENT OF HON. PHIL D. SWING, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE
ELEVENTH CALIFORNIA DISTRICT
Mr. Swing. Chairman McNary, and members of the Senate committee, the reporter of one of the Los Angeles papers undertook to interview me when I was in Los Angeles, but I refused to give him any statement because I wanted to reserve what I had to say until this time. I have kept the Senate committee in suspense now three days, and I am going to at this time disclose my position upon the Colorado River project.
I was asked by the reporter if I was in favor of the SwingJohnson bill. Captain Hobson, when touring the United States lecturing for prohibition, was introduced once in a small town by an elaborate introduction in which the chairman of the meeting took pains to explain how carefully Captain Hobson had gone into the subject, how he had made a deep and thorough scientific study of alcoholic liquor, how he had worked out the effects of alcoholic liquor upon the blood, the effect of alcoholic liquor upon the muscles, the effect of alcoholic liquor upon the bones, the effect of alcoholic liquor upon the brain. He closed by saying, “ I now have the honor and privilege of introducing Captain Hobson, who will address you upon the subject of intoxicating, liquors, and, friends, I want to assure you he is full of the subject."
Having lived for 17 or 18 years in the Imperial Valley and drank Colorado River water, I can truthfully say I am full of the subject.
If I were to take a text, I would take the last statement of Secretary Weir, in which he starts the Colorado River discussion with the statement that the Colorado River is one of the great natural resources of the United States. Some of us people in the seven basin States would modify that slightly by saying it is one of the great resources of the people of the seven States in the Colorado River Basin. But, be that as it may, it is one of the great natural resources of our country, and although I have lived 18 years in the Imperial Valley and been close to the problem, where the shoe pinchest tightest, because the river is at once the hope and fear of those people, for fear in flood season they will get too much water, and they hope in low seasons they will get enough.
I am trying to-night, in the short time I intend to take, to divest myself of any local feeling and will try to discuss one phase of this problem from the standpoint of a national point of view.
To-morrow, when you go into the Imperial Valley, you will meet rugged pioneers who went down there in 1901 and 1902 and succeeding years, with very little money, with empty hands, but courageous hearts, and determination to make something out of a desert waste by the bringing of Colorado River water in there. Those earlier pioneers wanted the United States Government to do for them what it was then doing for other communities in the arid West, but because of some competition between the capitalists who had gotten in on the ground floor and were in possession of some claims to a water right and to the ditches, nothing in particular came of it at that time. However, the United States Government did survey out an All American Canal as one of the solutions of the problems of Imperial Valley; and there hangs in the office of the Reclamation Service a map dated 1906, showing the proposed All American Canal in practically the same position as it had been surveyed out in recent years. If the Government had then stepped in, many of the complications, many of the problems that have arisen to-day would never have existed.
You will hear when you go over there from the people themselves the problems, the complications, the difficulties, the loss in time and in money, the uneconomic method of that great irrigation district, which has to spend between two and three million dollars annually in operation and trying to do business under two flags, and one of those flags a nation which has not maintained for some eighteen years any very stable form of government, whose people have not in recent decades shown any particular friendship for our people; the fact that 50 or 60 thousand people are dependent for not only all the water to keep their crops going, all the water to keep their stock alive, but for the very water they drink, upon the good will and consent and permission of a foreign country-it is à precarious condition which you will realize when you go there and see the situation upon the ground. I need not at this time go into the nuisances, the inconvenience, the expenditure of money in just simply trying to carry on business across the line, or the payment of duties for the privilege of building a protection levee which protects the capital of the northern district of Mexico, as well as our own country; I will not go into the question of having to pay exchange upon the very money with which we pay this duty, the problems of tying up construction awaiting the approval which must be obtained from Mexico City, as well as from the State capital at Sacramento. Our engineers may work out a plan which is the best thing for the American farmer, who has to foot the bill, get the approval of the State engineer at Sacramento, send it off to Mexico City and find out that from their point of view it is not to the advantage of the lands in Mexico, and the proposition may be turned down or indefinitely delayed.
The fact that the canal in Mexico is for a great many miles above ground, and open to attack and destruction-when I was there as a county officer we were in great fear during the fight between the contending factions, when one faction held the capital, Mexicali, another army of another faction was camped upon the Colorado River and planning to in some way drive the opposing factors out of the city of Mexicali, and the plan which they evolved, which would involve the least risk to them, was to come down to where this canal was above ground and, with a few sticks of dynamite cut off the water supply of the city of Mexicali and so force their opponents to vacate. The fact that it would also force 60,000 people to vacate, with all the stock that they had, which could not be gotten out in the length of time that the water supply would remain-because
there has never been over three or four days' water supply in the local storage reservoirs in the cities in Imperial Valley—was a matter which was of no concern to the contending Mexican factions. That I am not going to discuss. I am going to discuss the river and the water as a national asset.
The upper stream States have become alarmed at the possibility of putting the waters of the Colorado Basin to a beneficial use in the lower basin States, to their possible and probable detriment in future years. It is their water, it falls upon their soil, so they tell us. I have often wondered what their position was during 1905 and 1906 when the water was tearing through the heart of the Imperial Valley, devastating that country to the extent of millions of dollars of property, if they still claimed it then. When we have too much water, "It is not ours,” but when we haven't enough, “It is ours." We, however, have tried to see their point of view; we want to meet their point of view; we have agreed that they are entitled for their future use to one-half of the flow of the river, and we are willing to cooperate to set aside the decision of the Supreme Court in Wyoming versus Colorado, so that they may have, whenever they want it, half of the stream for their use. The same reason which prompts them to look askance at putting this water to beneficial use in the lower basin States is a thing which also causes any American citizen to weigh and consider the use to which this water can be put and to which it will be put in Mexico unless we make some provision to make a prior use of it in the United States. God in His infinite wisdom placed Mexico upon the last part of the stream of the Colorado River. Mexico contributes nothing in the way of the water which flows into the Colorado River-it all falls upon American soil. It is subject to appropriation and use by American citizens, and as long as it remains in the United States.
There can be no new development in the upper basin States or in the lower basin States in the present condition of the stream. Last year Imperial Valley for 70 odd days took all the water there was at their heading, and only had half enough. Any new use in the upper basin States, you see, of necessity, in self-defense of the existing units would have to be in order to protect those water rights in the lower basin States. So, as it stands to-day, there is no hope for any further development in the Colorado River Basin. However, should a dam be built, whether it is a small dam or a high dam, whether it is built for storage or built for flood control—because if it is built for flood control the operation of it simply is that you hold back the water during flood season and then let it loose to flow down the stream in the only time of the year you can let it flow down, and that is in the low flow season, and thereby augment the low flow of the stream, thus making possible additional reclamation somewhere below the dam when you turn the water loose.
If the United States Government builds a flood control dam, as has been suggested, of 10,000,000 acre feet, and that 10,000,000 acre feet is let loose during the low season, low flow of the stream, it will virtually benefit the present low flow of the stream. That means double the present area somewhere in the lower stream can be put into cultivation, provided, of course, finances are arranged and irrigation projects are carried out. If the United States Government should think it wise to simply say, “We are going to build a dam for the regulation of flood control only," the result would be that practically none of the water would be used in the United States, although the Government engineers estimate that there is a million acres that can be economically brought under cultivation between the dam and the Mexican boundary line. Across the line there is an additional million acres of land, some 200,000 on one side of the river in Sonora, and over 800,000 in Lower California. Capital is ready in that country to put in new surplus water to a beneficial use, and they will do it with the cheapest kind of labor, because there have been 8,000 Chinese imported into Mexico, and while no more Chinese can be imported because of the exclusion act, there is no exclusion act against Japanese, and Japanese have been looking for years toward Lower California as a possible colony. Locations have been made, it is known in the State Department, by leading Japanese capitalists looking to the colonization of that partly Mexican Imperial Valley, which is very promising indeed.
So this situation appears to me to be as clear as day, that if the United States Treasury is burdened with $25,000,000 or $30,000,000 to build a flood control dam, or if it is burdened with any amount to build a storage dam, that water is going to be turned loose, and we are charged with the knowledge, and the American Government is charged with knowledge of the geography of the country, and that water is bound to run nowhere except down to Mexico, where it will be put to a beneficial use. Why shouldn't it be? The land is level, it is awaiting reclamation. It has no water right at the present time. Possibly it can gain legal water right merely by beneficial use, which we will be bound to recognize. But ever time this question has ever arisen between our Government and any other government, we have recognized the moral claim of the opposite country to the amount of water which they have put to a beneficial use. If Mexico should succeed in putting 600,000 or 800,000 or 1,000,000 acres under cultivation, I challenge any one of us here to make the assertion here that we could or we would rather, subsequently withdraw that water from that land. Public opinion of the world would not support it. It would constitute the economic murder of any community which we stood by and permitted to develop with the use of this water. And we would be further estopped if we became an active party by making it possible and storing the water and turning that water down to them.
In the case between Egypt and Great Britain this very question was up and this principle was recognized there in the treaty between the two, that the lower country should be recognized for the amount of water which they had put to a beneficial use.
All we know with reference to this river is that each year there is a new use to which it can and will probably need to be put. Who would have thought ten years ago that the city of Denver, 353,000 acres around the city of Denver, would bond itself into an improvement district and put up the money to build a tunnel through the Rocky Mountains to take the Colorado from the west side of the Rocky Mountains to the east side! a commendable enterprise which excites my admiration and commendation.