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of the speakers, so we will have before us a compact and orderly presentation of the matter by the various witnesses, and with that brief introductory statement, I shall now call upon Hon. John L. Bacon, mayor of San Diego, who will, on behalf of the Boulder Canyon Dam and All-American Canal project, make a brief statement. Do you desire to be seated, Mr. Bacon, or stand?
Mr. Bacon. I think I shall prefer to stand.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN L. BACON, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF
SAN DIEGO, CALIF.
Mr. Bacon. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Senate committee, I will try to observe the rule laid down by the Chair and reach my terminus at the proper time.
Perhaps at the cost of going too much into detail, I want to repeat just a few things that I believe are really common knowledge to everyone concerned who has had anything to do with this Boulder Canyon project. As you know, some few years ago an irrigation project was started in the Imperial Valley which has now grown to such an extent that practically half a million acres are under eultivation. At that time the pioneers who went into that valley brought water in, as was to be expected, on these lands, by the easiest route: that route carried the canal through which every drop of water comes into the valley, through a foreign-Mexican-canal. For some 50 or 60 miles the main canal lies down below the border.
Now, if we will step back a few hundred years in history and look at the map of this district as it was at that time, we find something like this. This is a map showing parts of the State of Nevada, Arizona, and California, and a portion of the land lying south of the Mexican-United States boundary line. It has only been a few hundred years since the ocean followed these lines here. The Gulf of California extended up over this red area. comprising what is now the Imperial Valley. The ocean extended back into the United States probably 75 miles. Every year the Colorado River as it washes down in its flood season brings down an immense quantity of silt. This silt is carried in suspension until it reaches the low flat lands lying approximately at the border line, and here the silt is dropped. Now, that silt has gradually built up a dam, damming off the Colorado from the ocean, and damming all portions of the United States from the ocean.
I think we can get some conception of the amount of silt that the river carries each year when we realize that the amount of silt brought down by that river every year, the average annual deposit is about equal to the amount of excavation that the American commission took out of the Panama Canal. Let me repeat that: There is almost as much dirt brought down this river every year as the Americans dug out of the Panama Canal.
Now, that dirt is dropped here and dams off, has dammed off the ocean from this low-lying area. The Salton Sea is to-day some 250 feet below the sea level. Practically erery city in the Imperial Valley lies below the sea level. Under these old conditions every city and practically all the irrigated land in the Imperial Valley to-day would lie under the ocean.
Now, this damming process is continuing to-day with the result, that the dirt thus brought down here is now forming another damn at the delta and the Colorado River is attempting to get back into its old bed, into its old basin, and fill up this old basin, following above the Salton Sea and below the sea level. So much for the history.
Now, these are the facts as they exist to-day: We have here this Colorado River. We have water brought from the Colorado River irrigating the Imperial Valley. We have every drop of that water about a mile this side of the Mexican border line, carried over into Mexico, flowing through Mexico for some 50 or 60 miles, better shown, perhaps, on this map here, carried down along this canal and then brought down onto the American side. We have here a sort of a delta, a delta which is now confined in area by a series of dikes. The Colorado, such waste water as comes down here in floods, is now flowing down this stream, depositing its dirt on this delta and then flowing into the Gulf of California. Any United States map which you can get to-day will show the Colorado River as a fairly well-defined stream, meandering around here into the Gulf. But that river has ceased to exist at this point on account of the dirt that has been deposited there and is working over this way. At one time there was a great lake in here, known as Volcanic Lake. The first effort was the construction of a dike to keep that from flowing back into the valley.
All that keeps the water out of Imperial Valley is a bank of mud so soft that I have seen it tip right over and sink, because there wasn't enough strength in that soft mud to hold the water back. Some idea can be obtained by looking at this map here, which is a comparatively recent one, showing the flow of the water of the river and showing how it spreads out on the flat land. All of that silt, of course, is not deposited there. Some of it goes down in that canal in suspension, with the result that the banks of the canals are being built up, and this waste taken out of the canal in order to keep a sufficient stream bed there to take care of the water. This dirt being deposited there on the land is commencing to be a serious matter, because it is hard to keep it up. Roughly, the bed of the Colorado in this area here is rising at the rate of 1 foot a year, the dirt built up on that delta. One year is not such a menace, but when you commence to multiply that year by 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, etc., and realize that perhaps 10 years from now this bed will be up 10 feet higher, you realize that the Colorado is eventually going to flow back into this prehistoric basin here and fill up Imperial Valley. The longest life that I have heard given to the Imperial Valley is 17 years. In other words, there seems to be an engineering possibility of keeping the water out of Imperial Valley for not over 17 years.
I have heard that there is a possibility that next summer's flood might be so great as to break the dikes and inundate the Imperial Valley. The result is inevitable. It will be filled up in spite of any. thing that can be done. We may have one of the greatest national disasters on our hands here that this Nation has ever had visited on it . The Imperial Valley people, after this land was under irrigation, realized that they were facing a very serious problem. The problem was twofold: During certain parts of the summer, after the snows had melted in the Colorado, there was a very great dearth of
water. There was not enough water to supply the lands under irrigation. In the face of that fact there was an agreement with the Mexican Government, under which this canal was built by which the Mexican interests took out one foot of water flowing in the canal for every foot taken out on the American side. Under the terms of this agreement it will work out in such a way that if the Imperial Valley people desire to place 1,000 extra acres of land under irrigation on the American side, they must provide for the irrigation of 1,000 acres on the Mexican side. For every acre of land that is developed up in this Imperial Valley water must be supplied for an additional acre on the Mexican side under the terms of that agreement.
The burden of the responsibility of keeping up these canals, keeping the canals open and supplying the water, rests with the American farmer, and the Mexican gets the benefit, because they must be benefited in exactly the same proportion as the water is developed on the other side. Then, on top of that, when the snows melt in the Colorado River, in the summer there is a great rush of water, which amounts, in round numbers, to somewhere around 200,000 secondfeet. There is actually required for irrigation in the neighborhood of 6,000 second-feet.
The river sometimes goes down to 2,000 second-feet. In other words, we have a condition in some seasons of the year when we have more than we can use and others when we have not enough water to provide for irrigation. On top of that is the silt matter, which I have explained. The situation is getting serious. When the dikes were built they were only temporary expedients, and they were hard to control, and an appeal was sent to the Government, and they sent out what was probably the ablest board of engineers that could be obtained. The report was made. We did not ask for this with the idea of carrying out somebody's pet idea not to put over some propaganda but to get help in the practical solution of a serious problem. That report was made and is contained in what is popularly known as Senate Document No. 142. This was a document called the Problems of the Imperial Valley and Vicinity and presented to the Sixty-seventh Congress, and is known as the Fall-Davis report. You might call it the Bible of the Colorado River. The recommendations of that report were that the Government should go up to a point, roughly, at the point where Nevada and Arizona and California come together-not quite there, but a little above it, at what was known as Boulder or Black Canyon. It is practically the same. The recommendation was that they go to this point and put in an immense dam, a dam large enough to control the yearly flood of the Colorado River, and from that dam should be sent down an even flow of water all the year around. It would then have the effect of settling out the slit and controlling the water, getting an even flow for irrigation.
It also has immense power possibilities, power possibilities which have proved so practical since that the fight has come to be really between control by the Government and control by public utilities corporations. I will touch on that point a little more in detail later.
Now, to complicate this question still further, the question of the allocation of distribution of the entire amount of water in the Colorado River came up. As you all know, in the Southwest here water is our greatest asset. Next to water is, probably, power. Now, we guard very jealously our water rights. Careful investigations were made as to the possibilities of irrigation in our various States. A'report was made in this same Fall-Davis report as to what could or could not be done with the amount of water required. An allocation was suggested. Later the Colorado commission went into this in detail and framed up a pact with the idea of giving to the lower States the flood waters of the river, which were immense and which nobody now uses. It seemed an eminently fair and just division. I think no one on the Colorado River is anxious to take anything away from anyone else. We are anxious to see a fair distribution. The West should be a unit. We are anxious to see this thing go through and everybody get a square deal. I think we guard a little too jealously, sometimes, our rights; but we are anxious to see a fair division up and down the Colorado River. California has been pretty strenuous about this reservation that was put in. There was no desire to amend the pact in any way whatever. The only desire was to protect California's rights, and so that if the Boulder Creek Dam proposition was authorized California's ratification would automatically go into effect. Without that Boulder Dam there is no object in ratifying the pact, as we would gain nothing by it, and I believe we would get nowhere. With this project assured-not necessarily commenced but authorized—so we would have the assurance that it was to go ahead, then that would mean that the upper basin States would take all the water that flowed normally in the Colorado River, leaving this dam down here to catch the flood waters which no one now uses.
That was the solution proposed by the United States Government engineers in approving the building of the Boulder Dam project. There have been a half a dozen other solution offered; solutions will be offered, probably, until the end of time. Every man has his own idea. The thought was that the report of the Government engineers would be accepted and some sort of construction work would be authorized. That is the reason why the people down here have been so enthusiastic about the Boulder Dam project. We felt that there was a logical, a reasonable, and thoroughly practical method of controlling the Colorado River in its lower stretches.
The Colorado has gone on rampages before. At one time, I think about 20 years ago—-15 or 20 years ago-it broke through here, and it took years to stop up that gap. Since then the bed of the Colorado has raised 8 or 10 feet, and the menace is just about that many times greater. It broke through here and flooded this entire area; cut out a great river basin, in some places a quarter of a mile wide, and up here at the Salton Sea and at Calexico and way back over the border. If another break occurs, it will only be this short distance from here to here, through soil that is so soft that it is sometimes referred to as sugar soil. Thrown into a body of water, it disappears into a cloudy mass in no time at all.
To-day every city in southern California is dependent upon stored water for its supply, or a large portion or some portion of its supply. In San Diego we, probably, face a more serious problem than any other city. In San Diego to-day we must keep stored
ahead at least five year's supply of water for domestic purposes. There has been a time in the history of San Diego where for seven years there was no run-off whatever. Five years is a meager supply. Seven years is a good supply. We have, to-day, about four years' supply of water ahead, and we are praying for rain this winter, because if we do not get it I do not know where we will be.
The cities of southern California are doubling in population every 10 years. Our actual growth is limited to about 10 or 15 years. I think that general statement will hold good for practically every southern California city. Without an additional development of water somewhere for domestic purposes we are absolutely limited in our growth. We must say to the settler in the next few years, “ You can't come to California, because we have no water.” We are looking now to the Colorado River for our actual domestic water. It is a serious situation and growing more serious every day. That is one of the complications that has come in recently.
Now, under this Boulder Dam proposition, three things were ha in mind: First of all, there was the flood control; secondly, there was water for irrigation, and to that now can be added just as much and important a demand for domestic water; and third, there was this power possibility, a power possibility so practical and so great that the sale of the power right—there never was any proposition for the Government to put in a power house of its own, but simply to lease the power; but the power proposition was so great that it was felt that that would pay for the entire project. I will not go into the financial end of that. But at least three different schemes have been put forward, and everyone of them is so practical that eminent bankers have passed on them and considered them perfectly sound investments.
We are faced with this situation, that Imperial Valley has a life ahead of probably about 15 years, unless this project or one similar to it is put forth. There will be contention as to the proper manner from now to the end of time, probably. The most certain way to delay a project is to consider other propositions or other projects or something of that kind. Action must come, because delay of action may mean that it will be too late. It is perfectly within the realm of possibility that the melting snow of the next summer may bring down a rush of water into the Colorado that will break through those dikes and make gap that never can be filled up, and before it stops I think there is no question but what it will scour its way back through into Yuma, wipe out the Southern Pacific Road up in there, put the Imperial Valley completely off the map, and just simply take away this entire asset from the United States as it exists to-day.
Somebody has said this is a vast project; it will require too much money to finance it. This is a statement made over two years ago by Mr. Ballard, vice president of the Southern California Edison Co. Mr. Ballard was so careful in his statement that he wrote his statement rather than to give it orally. This is a report on page 294 of this same Senate Document 142:
Our investigations indicate in agreement with those of Director Davis, that there is water enough in the river, if it is properly conserved, to supply all possible demands by irrigation and domestic use, and still leave an abundance for power, and that there is power enough to meet the needs of all the States tributary to the river.