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feet to users in the United States; during August the respective amounts were 139,292 and 102,442 acre-feet. With the additional 100,000 acres mentioned above, Mexico will require half the water diverted during longer periods of the low flow of the river, increasing the frequency and length of water shortages. This means that there will be that much less available for the lands in the United States than was the case heretofore during these periods when the acreage across the line was not large enough to demand half the water for any great length of time.
This, briefly, is the situation with which the farmers of Imperial Valley are faced to-day. They realize that during any year their crops are liable to suffer great damage by a water shortage; that every additional acre irrigated in Mexico jeopardizes another acre of land now in crop in the United States; and that the welfare of the entire valley is dependent upon the storing of the flood waters of the Colorado River and thus make the surplus available during the months of low flow.
Senator Phipps. Now, Mr. Dowd, we are told that the elevation of the Salton Sea is 250 feet below sea level.
Mr. Dowd. Correct.
Senator Phipps. On this silt proposition it is your theory that if there was a large, deep dam on the Colorado River, say, at Boulder or Black Canyon, the silt would be held back there, collected there instead of coming down in the water with which you irrigate your land. Is that correct?
Mr. Dowd. Yes.
Senator PHIPPs. How do you propose to get rid of the silt when it fills in the dam?
Mr. Dowd. Well, of course, it won't fill into the dam; it will take a good many years to fill the dam up. That is the idea.
Senator PHIPPS. Well, I don't know that it will take a great many years, at the rate you have given us of the filling in, because the filling would naturally occur against the dam itself rather than in the waters that were held farther back.
Mr. Dowd. But Boulder Canyon, I understand, to receive about 389,000 acre-feet a year, and on that basis, allowing 500 acre-feet for silt deposit, you can readily see that it will be a good many years; and, of course, before that time there will be additional storage reservoirs on the river, not only above it but also below it.
The CHAIRMAN. Engineers before the committee have estimated the deposit at 100,000 acre-feet per annum—that is, at Black Canyon. On the basis of a dam 550 feet high, backing the river up 119 miles, in 300 years it will be completely filled and in 100 years it will be one-third filled.
Mr. Dowd. Certainly. There is no question but that with the progress of the country as a whole, and the demand for hydroelectric energy, the development of the river will go right ahead; and also it is very possible to increase the height of Boulder Dam if they care to do so.
Senator PHIPPs. It might also be possible to have a means of flushing out that silt through lower-down passages that could be opened at certain times when the water was not being used for irrigation purposes.
Mr. Dowd. It might be possible.
Senator PHIPPS. But it would seem rather unwise to build a structure like that with the idea of collecting the silt there and keeping it from coming down the river.
Senator JOHNSON. If it desilts for a period of 300 years, do you think it would be unwise?
Senator PHIPPs. You wouldn't have your flood control for half that length of time, would you?
Senator JOHNSON. By the passage of a hundred years you would have other improvements on the river that would take care of it absolutely. The engineers say that the building of the dam would take care of the silt problem.
Senator Phipps. We have been discussing this Boulder Dam proposition as the one and only thing, as I understand it from the testimony so far; but as to the silt itself you seem to raise great objection to the presence of it on account of the difficulties in irrigating and cultivating. Isn't it true that that silt acts largely as a fertilizer?
Mr. Dowd. Well, of course, that assertion has been made, and I suppose it does to a more or less extent, but the trouble it causesfor instance, every city, every man, woman, and child, every head of stock must depend upon that water for drinking purposes. There are no wells in Imperial Valley at all. That means that every drop of water that is drank down there must be settled and filtered. That alone-the cost of that alone would offset the value as a fertilizer. In addition to that, we have this big burden of a canal system on the land, which I would say is a hundred times greater than any value it may have as a fertilizer, and a good many types of silt that we get is a very fine reddish clay, and it is a detriment; it seals the ground surface. There is no question but that it has no fertilizing value whatever.
Senator Phipps. I always understood that the great value of the soil in the Imperial Valley was due to the fact that it was alluvial soil that came down these very rivers?
Mr. Down. That is true for the soil we get up above, but the soil from the Gila and the Little Colorado and the San Juan is not.
Senator ASHURST. Mr. Dowd, you stated that a large percentage of the silt comes into the Colorado from the Gila.
Mr. Dowd. We do not get so much silt from the Gila.
Senator ASHURST. Are you familiar with the Gila River! It is the most flashy river in Arizona.
Mr. Down. Yes; that is true; it is very flashy, and for that reason we don't get much silt from it. I think during the past 14 months we got 100 second-feet out of the Gila River. What makes it so bad is that the Gila, as a rule—we get our big flow during the low summer months, during cloud-bursts. It is during that time that the winter crops have been planted and that is furrow irrigated, and it runs right down the furrows and cuts them all out. If they came at some other time during the year, we would not notice it so much.
Senator PHIPPS. Then, the construction of the dam at Black Canyon or Boulder Canyon would not cure your great cause of complaint?
Mr. Dowd. Not with our present intake; but, of course, it is planned to make connection with the dam.
Senator PITTMAN. Mr. Dowd, one of the great damages of silt filling up the bed of the river is the constant raising of elevation on each side, is it not?
Mr. Down. Yes.
Mr. Charles L. Childers, attorney for the Imperial irrigation district, will discuss conditions in the Imperial Valley for a few moments.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES L. CHILDERS, ATTORNEY FOR THE
IMPERIAL IRRIGATION DISTRICT
Mr. CHILDERS. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, for the sake of brevity and to avoid constant repetition I will read a brief statement [reading]:
Since the earliest times in Imperial Valley it has been recognized that the present system of diversion and control of water is unsatisfied and that sooner or later these conditions must be changed.
The predecessors of the Imperial irrigation district appropriated under the laws of California 10,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Colorado River for use in Imperial Valley. At that time the land that now comprises the Imperial irrigation district was a desert and had no credit and could not expend nor could any one on its behalf expend large sums of money for diversion works and canals which even then were desirable. It was found that the water could be diverted at a point just north of the international boundary line between the United States and Mexico and by use of an old overflow or river channel known as the Alamo Channel, the water could be conveyed to the place of use with virtually no expense.
This, however, necessitated the conveying of the water into Mexico and through Mexico for a distance of about 60 miles before it could be reconveyed into the United States. Regardless of the effect it might have, this was done, however, and settlers were brought upon the lands in Imperial Valley and canal systems were laid out and constructed and homes were built and farms developed.
Soon the question arose as to the right of this corporation foreign to Mexico to convey water into Mexico and back into the United States. Negotiations then took place which, in 1904, resulted in the formation of a Mexican corporation and a contract with the Republic of Mexico, whereby this Mexican corporation was authorized to receive the water at the international boundary line, convey it into Mexico and back into the United States, provided, however, that in so doing the lands in Mexico were entitled to take water up to one-half of the amount passing through. By the terms of this contract the Mexican corporation becomes the absolute owner of the water the moment it passes the international boundary line. The contract further provides that no rights under it shall at any time be conveyed to a foreign state or government.
This sort of operation raises a number of interesting complications. The constitution of California was amended some years ago to authorize an irrigation district to own the stock in a foreign corporation. That constitutional amendment was made to enable the Imperial irrigation district to own this Mexican corporation and thus own its water. It was soon, however, recognized that such an ownership would be a violation of the contract under which they were operating, and thus the stock of this Mexican corporation has never been purchased or owned by the Imperial irrigation district, but the whole capital stock has been held and is now held by the five directors of the Imperial irrigation district personally. As one director retires from the board he simply indorses and transfers his stock to his successor and in this way the board of directors of the district is enabled to keep some control of the affairs of the Mexican corporation. Even so, the Mexican corporation and its ownership is entirely separate and apart from the district.
Now, this is rather a serious situation when it is recognized that a district of more than a half million acres of land with property values of more than a hundred million dollars and of perhaps 60,000,000 people, including five incorporated cities, is wholly dependent upon this Mexican corporation for every drop of water which it receives, even to water for domestic use.
The Imperial irrigation district is the largest reclamation project in the United States and without doubt one of the most successful, and yet the district as such, after diverting its water from the river loses entire jurisdiction and control of the water before it is served to the ultimate consumer.
The agreement by which the district takes its water through Mexico is simply a contract between the Republic of Mexico and a corporation which is the creature of Mexico and nothing else. For a violation of the terms of the contract by the corporation, Mexico has reserved the right to cancel the contract and if the Government of Mexico should decide that the terms of the contract have been violated and it exercises its right and cancels the contract, it would indeed be difficult to prevent very serious complications and losses. It would seem that if the government were right in its determination that the contract had been violated, then even though hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property had been destroyed for lack of water and even perhaps human life lost—there would be no recourse—the district simply having dealt with a private foreign corporation that had violated its charter. If, indeed, it should ultimately be found that the Mexican corporation had not violated its contract or charter, even in that case it would seem that the only possible recourse would be a damage claim against the Republic of Mexico or, indeed, possibly numerous damage claims by the numerous persons injured.
We point these matters out to the committee simply that it may be observed that there are many difficulties in the way of such an operation. The Mexican corporation has at all times conscientiously endeavored to scrupulously live up to every term of the concession, but in the operation of a system of thousands of miles of canals carrying large bodies of water 365 days in the year, it is almost too much to hope that at times there are not technical violations of some portions of the contract. These conditions are well known. Where a water system is operating under such conditions as these, capital is timid. Investors are not taking the chance of placing their money where every right may be lost through some act of a foreign corporation or a foreign government over which they can have no possible control. So much for the Mexican contract.
The CHAIRMAN. May I ask at this point if the citizens of Imperial Valley ever suffer any molestations by the citizens of Mexico respecting this canal ?
Mr. CHILDERS. In minor respects, Senator. I am not qualified to answer that question fully. [Continues reading:]
The diversion point for the Imperial irrigation district lies alongside of the Yuma Valley of the Yuma reclamation project. A long time ago it was recognized that no diversion dam could be placed in the river at that point without a tendency to injure the Yuma project. The banks of the river at that point are low and a diversion dam might cause the river to overflow the Yuma Valley and destroy it and, indeed, if it were not overflowed it would raise the water level so that the land would be injured by seepage from the river. However, it was impossible to divert the water into the canal system of the district without in some manner checking its flow by means of a dam or a weir or 'other structure in the river.
In 1916 the people of Yuma Valley became fearful of the results of such construction and a suit was started in the superior court of the county of Yuma to enjoin such construction. An injunction was issued which still is in effect. This did not, however, change the physical condition, and in order that the Imperal Valley might have water at all times during the late summer of each year the Imperial Irrigation District annually enters into a contract with the Yuma County Water Users' Association, whereby it agrees to fully indemnify not only the Water Users' Association but all of the land owners against any and all possible loss caused by the construction of a weir in the river, and to insure the payment of such damage claims, a surety company bond in the amount of half a million dollars is executed annually to the Yuma County Water Users' Association and to the United States. Upon the execution of this contract and bond the injunction above referred to is temporarily waived, and before the district can obtain the permission of the War Department to construct the weir, it must show that the Yuma project has been fully satisfied, and in addition to that, must make bimonthly reports to the War Department showing in detail what progress is being made toward changing the diversion point from its present heading to the Laguna Dam.
In other words, the district, through sheer necessity for its very existence, must execute this contract and bond to the Yuma project annually and agree to an obligation which might be extremely burdensome. This again is a condition which seriously interferes with the proper development of the Imperial Valley. These conditions are likewise well known and the investor does not care to take the chance of placing his money in an enterprise that may be wiped out by the lack of water or may be seriously burdened by damage claim. Soon after the injunction was issued, above referred to, the district entered into negotiations with the Department of the Interior to change its diversion point to the Laguna Dam. This resulted in a contract dated October 23, 1918, by which the district agreed to build the All-American Canal and purchase for a consideration of $1,600,000 an interest in the Laguna Dam and transfer its diversion point to that place. This consideration was payable in installments and the consideration was payable in installments and the contract has been fully lived up to by the district upon which it has paid more than $200,000 and now stands ready to fully comply with the contract by the building of the All-American Canal if and when authorized by the Congress.
It will be recalled, as this committee well knows, that more than a quarter of a million acres of public lands will share in this development and should share in the building of the All-American Canal. Furthermore, the district has paid its installments on the purchase of its interest in the Laguna Dam; it has paid for river protection; it has paid for its diversion works, but the All-Amercan Canal at a cost of in the neighborhood of $30,000,000—which will benefit not only the Imperial irrigation district but the public lands of the United States and the lands of the Coachella Valley-should not be borne wholly by the Imperial irrigation district but is a matter in which the Congress is very much interested.
We now have this situation: Here is a great reclamation project very largely developed and depending simply upon the good faith of a foreign corporation and a foreign government for its very existence. Furthermore, the low flow of the Colorado River is wholly exhausted. All of the States of the Colorado River Basin are demanding, and justly so, their proportion of the water. The engineers tell us that there is more land susceptible of irrigation than there is water to serve, and by the way, a moment ago Senator Ashurst asked a pertinent question—I don't believe the witness quite understood it. That was, when more land is reclaimed in Mexico, what effect does it have on reclaimed land in the United States. Now, I believe the engineers are pretty well agreed that there is more land susceptible of reclamation in the United States and Mexico than there is water to serve it; and that being the case every additional acre that is irrigated in Mexico means an acre forever doomed to the desert in the United States. If that is the point the Senator had in mind.
Senator ASHURST. That was the point I had in mind. I do not think it was the fault of the witness that he did not understand it.
Mr. CHILDERS. And yet land is being brought under cultivation in Mexico constantly that is demanding water which legally belongs to the States of the basin. As it is a well-recognized legal policy of the United States that Mexico is not entitled as a matter of law to any of the water of this stream. Regardless of this legal proposition, however, we have as a precedent the Rio Grande case, where the water was actually given to Mexico, and it is entirely possible that when the United States treats with Mexico concerning this water, the water that is actually being put to beneficial use in Mexico will be allocated in that country in perpetuity. This would prompt us to believe that relief should be had at the very earliest date, to prevent further and wide development in Mexico.