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COLORADO RIVER BASIN
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1925
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment on December 10, 1925, at 10.30 o'clock a. m. in the committee room of the Committee on Commerce, Senator Charles L. McNary presiding.
Present: Senators McNary (chairman), Jones of Washington, Shortridge, Phipps, Johnson, Cameron, Simmons, Sheppard, Kendrick, and Ashurst.
Present also: Representatives Swing, of California; Taylor, of Colorado; Leatherwood, of Utah, and Colton, of Utah.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will be in order. It is agreed among the members of the committee that this week be set apart to hear witnesses from the northern group of States, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. This morning we have representatives of the State of Colorado, designated by the governor of that State. Mr. Carpenter, you are first in order. If you will take a seat at the end of the table we will be glad to hear you. As the record will show, you gave testimony before the committee at Yuma regarding the compact. I only hope that you will not duplicate anything which has already gone into the record.
STATEMENT OF DELPH E. CARPENTER, ESQ., ATTORNEY AT LAW,
GREELEY, COLO.- Resumed
Mr. CARPENTER. I have had called to my attention the fact that some 80 witnesses testified before this committee on their journey through the South, and it is hoped that the few witnesses that appear for the North will be able to portray conditions obtaining in the Northern States, at least to cover the ground generally, and it is hoped that this committee will not judge us by the number of witnesses we produce or fail to produce.
The committee probably would have been benefited by having held hearings in Salt Lake City, Denver, Cheyenne, of the Northern States. We recognized, however, that it was not convenient for the committee to hold hearings at such places. On the other hand, owing to the long distance from home and the time required for men of affairs to be away, we are compelled to limit our presentation to that of a few witnesses, hoping that they will cover the ground and leave the record in such shape that our previous silence will not be misconstrued.
The upper basin States have presented very little opposition to the bills on this subject as they appeared before the Congress or rather before the committee. Such lack of opposition has not been through lack of interest. It was thought wise, in 1922, by those in the South who are interested in flood control, to present their bills before Congress and to proceed with the consideration of the subject matter of those bills, in order that all the time possible might be conserved and saved, and in order that when the treaty between the States has been finally approved, Congress would then be sufficiently advised to proceed at once to final legislation necessary for the protection of the Southern States.
In view of this general sentiment those bills were presented and have been considered, since the winter of 1922. Those bills, of which one is now under consideration, have for their principal objects the providing for flood control, power development, and irrigation in the lower river, and are in harmony with the Colorado River compact. In view of that fact it has not been encumbent upon the States of the upper basin to appear by a considerable number of witnesses and put on their case, because these bills had not arrived at the stage where they might get ahead of the treaty in the progress toward the final goal. The upper States merely wish to be protected by compact before further development is authorized.
It now, however, becomes incumbent upon the States of the upper basin to state their case as a matter of ample caution upon their part and as a matter of proper and courteous consideration of the committee, who are entitled to all the facts.
The witnesses have already described the Colorado River Basin. The basin is naturally divided into three well defined portions or subbasins. I have here a number of small maps entitled “The area affected by the Colorado River Project,” that might be of service to the committee in a better understanding of what I will try to bring to your attention. It will be noted that these subdivisions of the basin consist of the upper basin, or the principal source of the water of the river; the middle section, represented by the canyon from the mouth of the San Juan River to Needles, or thereabouts; and the lower basin, or that below Needles, including the Imperial Valley in southern California and southern Arizona.
Senator JOHNSON. Where is Needles?
The ChairMAN. Will not you designate on the map what you have referred to a little more clearly?
Mr. CARPENTER. Let the lower basin represent the part shown on the map as than below the Black Canyon. Now, the upper basin includes all that part of the Colorado River drainage in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, except that the State of Utah contributes water and lies partly within the middle section.
Senator SHORTRIDGE. You have, then, upper, middle, and lower sections?
Mr. CARPENTER. Yes.
Mr. CARPENTER. When I say Utah contributes to the middle section of the river, I mean it is the source of the Virgin River and other tributaries of that section.
This upper basin, situated mainly within these four States, named because of the topography of the country, because of the climatology, and many other natural features which control, irrespective of the works of man, differs from the lower basin, and one to be contrasted in most respects with the lower area. In the middle section or canyon region the greater fall occurs and the change from high to low altitudes takes place. The opinion seems to obtain in some circles that the upper basin is rimmed or bounded by sharp mountain ranges on the outer edge of the basin, that these mountains are the only mountainous areas in the basin, and that all the country lying within these bordering mountain ranges is flat and in some respects like the country of southern Arizona and southern California. Such is not the case. The upper basin is one great area of interior mountain masses, as well as an area bounded by the continental divide, with high peaks where the snow is perpetual. These interior mountain masses are more a source of supply to the river than is the continental divide itself, because, with respect to the continental divide, only that part of the snow falling on the western part of the range finds its way into the Colorado River, and that on the east finds its way into the Mississippi River, while all the water from the interior mountain masses is tributary to the river.
I have here, and I will ask that it be placed on the wall, a map prepared by Engineer R. I. Meeker after his extensive and thorough investigations of the western slope or Colorado River area in Colorado, showing the location of the streams of the western part of the State of Colorado, the irrigated areas along those streams, and the irrigable lands. I call attention to this map to bring to your attention the matter I have suggested, that the interior mountain ranges separating the various streams and their tributaries all constitute sources of supply of the river system. The same condition obtains in Utah, in Wyoming, and in New Mexico, for the most part. From this region [indicating on map], this upper section of the river, all streams flow toward Lee Ferry, and all the waters of every tributary in that great region of origin check in and flow through a common channel at Lee Ferry a short distance below the mouth of the San Juan River. So that as regards the hundreds of large and small streams in this upper region, or region of origin of the stream, all differences are ironed out and all waters unite at the head of the canyon at Lee Ferry. Then, as already described by the witnesses, these waters, augmented by some contribution below, plunge down through the canyon section and appear in the lower country at points below Boulder Canyon.
This upper country is one of high altitudes, short growing season, and varied climatology. The snow-capped peaks are devoid of timber, because they are so high that snow is perpetual and trees can not grow.
“ Timber-line” corresponds with the arctic circle. Then as you proceed down each of these streams you pass from the region of grasses and meadows at the head to the region of the hardy grains, such as oats, barley, etc. Farther down is the region of longer seasons and greater average temperatures where the potato and other crops join with the grains of the higher region. And thus it changes until you get into the valleys of the great fruit regions, the deciduous fruits, where peaches and pears and apples and plums and prunes and other like fruits thrive luxuriously and the soil responds to the cultivation of many crops. All this is the region of the livestock industry, principally cattle and sheep. A large part of the agricultural products of the region are consumed by the livestock, and those livestock in turn move to markets either on the Pacific coast or to Chicago.
This is a four-season region. That is, we have winter as well as summer and fall as well as spring. During the winter season no water is used. The same is true of early spring and late fall. The average period of irrigation of this upper country would probably not exceed 120 days; more than that down in the regions as low in elevation as Grand Junction and much less up near the timber line. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that this is a four-season climate, each of these tributary valleys, each of these areas which is segregated from its neighboring area by intervening mountain masses is a region of towns and farms, with people living by the fruits of agriculture, by industry, by livestock, and by mining. But these people have great difficulty in marketing their products by reason of the fact that railroad facilities are very limited. The economics of the situation make railroading unprofitable except in the limited degree that railroads now traverse that region. Of consequence the development is slow and is controlled in large measure by the transportation facilities, which have been somewhat relieved by the auto transport, which is tending to encourage development of isolated areas which heretofore were not in cultivation.
This whole upper river country is one of striking contrast with the region at the lower end of the river. In the latter section semitropical conditions obtain; in much of the area frost is almost unknown, and it is a region of the citrus fruit and other products familiar to this committee. Here, however, irrigation obtains not only during the hot days of the summer but to some degree throughout the entire year.
The upper region, or that region contributing to the river above Lee Ferry, produces about 16,600,000 acre-feet of water on the average. Water which has flowed from the upper area is, of course, never again available for use after it has passed. It must be caught as it flows if it is to benefit mankind in that region. The people of that country look to this river and all its tributaries as their primary source of sustenance and prosperity. Outside of the mountain masses the region is one generally with a rainfall of about 8 inches per annum. The use of the water of these streams is not only convenient and profitable for agriculture but imperative to successful agriculture. Therefore, it is necessary for the people of each of these valleys to make first use of the water as it flows. This water is diverted onto “ shoestring tracts," or tracts the outer boundaries of which parallel the stream not far distant. A large part of the waters so diverted return to the stream, the time of return depending upon the character of the underlying soils.
To illustrate: If the water is applied to an area composed of gravels and bowlders, the return is almost immediate, and in quantity almost the amount diverted and applied. If, however, the soil is of fine texture, such as clays, the return is very gradual and sometimes far removed, but nevertheless occurs. Each of these applications, made in June and July, is in effect a conservation of supply to the lower-river section in that the flood is retarded and made to flow down at a more remote period. That applies generally over the area, so that if it were possible that all of the water in this great river system could be diverted and applied to land in the upper country, it would so flatten the flow of the stream as to make reservoir construction on the lower river practically unnecessary. A part of this water applied would be consumed by plant growth and natural evaporation, and a part, and usually the greater part, returns for reuses below.
But another peculiar condition exists up Here [indicating on map on wall]: In that area practically every tributary enters a closed channel, a canyon, before it leaves the boundary of the State in which it originates. To illustrate: The Green River rises in Wyoming, and by the time it enters Utah it is in a canyon, and that canyoned condition obtains in most part from there to where the river emerges from the lower canyon. There can be no irrigation conflict between Utah and Wyoming over that river, because as an irrigation asset it has already served its purpose by the time it passes into Utah.
The same condition obtains with the Bear, the White, the Dolores, and other Colorado streams. The same condition obtains with respect to the San Juan, which is an available stream in Colorado and New Mexico, but enters a canyon as the river leaves New Mexico and never emerges until it has gone through the entire canyon region and comes to the lower country. Chance or opportunity of conflict between these upper States is very limited. Nevertheless, as I have already observed, it is imperative to the future growth and prosperity of these communities in all this great upper country that the first use of the water of the rivers be held available for future development. I do not mean held in a physical aspect but in a legal aspect. We can not stop the flow of this water. It will flow downstream each year. But as each community develops, step by step, with the progress of civilization and the peopling of this very healthful and invigorating region, the people must look to these streams for each step of improvement, and they must be unhampered and unfettered by clouds upon their title.
To illustrate, if the claim were pressed that a lower reservoir had appropriated all the water of the river and that none could be used, irrespective of the strict legal aspect of the case, money would not be available for hire to these upper people necessary for their development, because financiers would stand in fear of suits that might possibly, although they never would be, filed. This upper country must have this water unquestionably available.
Secondly, the water must be available in quantities sufficient to be combined in larger development and carried out to the higher mesa lands.
“There is one thing I intended to mention with respect to the return supply: On the South Platte, just across the Continental Divide in Colorado, the river was said to be “overappropriated” by 1885. At that time there were about 500,000 acres irrigated. To-day the river supplies 1,500,000 acres, and the supply going across the inter