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COLORADO RIVER BASIN
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1926
UNITED STATES SENATE,
El Centro, Calif. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment of Wednesday, at 10 o'clock a. m. in the assembly room of the high school, Senator Charles L. McNary, presiding.
Present: Senators McNary (Chairman), Jones of Washington, Phipps, Kendrick, Cameron, Pittman, Oddie, Shortridge, Dill, Johnson, and Ashurst.
The CHAIRMAN. The meeting will be in order. The committee is supplied with a list of names containing nine citizens who desire to appear this morning and advise the committee of their views. I want to express the hope that these nine witnesses may conclude their testimony by 1 o'clock. It will be necessary that the committee have an afternoon session, and we desire to quit not later than 1 and possibly to reconvene at 2. The first name is Mr. Charles E. Scott, representing the Colorado River Control Club, who, I am advised, desires to speak in opposition to the All-American Canal. Is Mr. Scott here? Come forward, Mr. Scott, will you please.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES E. SCOTT, REPRESENTING THE
COLORADO RIVER CONTROL CLUB
Mr. Scott. My name is Charles E. Scott. My profession is that of attorney. I am a member of the executive committee and appear on behalf of the Colorado River Control Club, a local organization of landowners. The amount of acreage owned by the people whom I represent in Imperial County amounts to 270,000 acres, which is more than half of the lands at present irrigated by the All-American Canal.
Appreciating your desire to obtain at first hand full information of all phases of the Colorado River problems, we submit the views of the Colorado River Control Club, an organization of over 1,300 business and professional men and farmers owning more than half the irrigable land of the American portion of the Imperial Valley, with an assessed valuation of more than half of all properties in Imperial Valley.
The club advocates that which is fundamental and of paramount importance, namely, the early construction of a flood control and storage dam or dams at a site or sites to be selected by proper governmental authorities.
The club contends that a flood control and storage dam or dams will meet the outstanding needs of the valley, namely, the conservation of flood waters for use when the river is low and removal of flood menace.
The club opposes the All-American Canal feature of the SwingJohnson bill as proposed on the grounds that it is not needed by the lands within the Imperial irrigation district, which lands are now, and for 20 years have been, adequately served by the present canals, and would necessitate an expenditure entirely disproportionate to any possible benefits.
If lands now arid need an All-American Canal, and will pay for it, or if the United States Government will construct such a canal for the benefit of ex-service men, the club will interpose no objection.
But the Swing-Johnson bill proposes that a considerable part of the cost of the All-American Canal, estimated to exceed $40 per acre, shall be borne by lands now irrigated, and the club contends that such an increase in our bonded indebteness would be ruinous. Surely in such a matter the landowners who must pay the bonds are to be considered, and the majority of them have, by joining this club and indorsing its principles, declared their unequivocal opposition to the canal as provided for in the bill.
The reasons advanced for building the canal are so unsound as to merit little attention were it not that they have been widely broadcasted and have intrigued the support of the uninformed. Chief of these is the claim that the All-American Canal would "get us out of Mexico." The club asserts that it would not.
As well stated in a letter addressed to Hon. Addison T. Smith by the Federal Power Commission, a copy of which is appended hereto:
The construction of the All-American Canal will not obviate the necessity of constant dealings with Mexico in connection with irrigation or protection of lands in the United States. Irrespective of the amount of flood-control storage in the United States, it will, for many years at least, be necessary in the protection of the Imperial Valley to maintain levees and revetments in Mexico, and arrangements must be effected whereby this work can be carried on whenever necessary without interference.
As is also affirmed in that letter, our problems with Mexico can only be settled through the State Department of the United States and not through the construction of canals.
Furthermore, an open canal of 150 or 200 feet on the bottom and approximately 1,350 feet across the top, extending through a 10-mile region of drifting sand dunes, which rise to a maximum height of 150 feet above the water surface, is admittedly an experiment, the practicability of which has been gravely questioned by eminent engineers who, at various times during the last 60 years, have investigated it.
Engineer Ebenezer Hadley, of San Diego County, selected a route through Mexico about 60 years ago. Subsequently, in 1876, an examination was made under Government direction to determine whther or not it would be feasible to reach Imperial Valley without following the route through Mexico. This survey was made by Lieut. Eric Bergland, Corps of Engineers, United States Army, who reported unfavorably upon a canal location entirely in the United States and again called attention to the natural route across Mexican territory.
Dr. Elwood Mead, in his report of 1917 (see p. 29), stated that,
The present canals cross the Mexican territory. Financial considerations make this the proper route and render an all-American canal impossible,
The All-American Canal Board, consisting of Doctor Mead, W. W. Schlecht, and C. E. Grunsky, have this to say:
The contract between the Secretary of the Interior and the Imperial irrigation district under which this board has been appointed is specific and definite in the requirement that an all-American canal route be surveyed and examined. No alternative has been left open. The surveys and investigations which have been made relate, therefore, to a canal located throughout upon American territory. Our investigation could not be broadened out to a full consideration of the wisest and best treatment of the irrigation problem of the lower Colorado River in its broadest aspect. This is to be regretted, because the lower river presents problems of unique perplexity.
As implied by the All-American Canal Board in the foregoing quotations and asserted by other engineers the mesa lands can be watered by other means for less cost.
The cost of maintaining the proposed canal has not been estimated, but would, doubtless, exceed the cost of maintaining the present canal, which cost is more than offset by the revenue derived from the sale of water to Mexican lands. In 1924 Chief Engineer Carberry, of the Imperial irrigation district, submitted a financial report which shows that the revenue thus derived is sufficient not only to pay the entire cost of maintaining the canal through Mexico, but, in addition, pay the entire cost of diverting the water from the Colorado, the entire cost of maintaining the protective levees in Mexico, and to leave a net balance of approximately $60,000. According to that report, the American farmers who own the Imperial irrigation district receive their water at the international line with all those costs paid, plus a substantial profit.
This proposed canal, so far as the lands now under irrigation in Imperial Valley are concerned, if and when constructed and in operation, can be no more than a substitute conduit for carrying a supply of water from the Colorado River to those lands. It would entail the abandonment, without recompense, of that system of structures and canals, no longer an experiment but now in satisfactory operation and found practical and efficient after many years of experience and the expenditure of very large amounts of money. To ask the present irrigated lands to abandon the present system found efficient and accept in exchange the untried experiment of a canal built through shifting sands in itself would be unjust, but to further propose that these lands bear any portion of the expense of this costly experiment is earnestly protested against by the membership of this club, composed as it is of those landowners who would be compelled to pay the greatest part of any expense charged up to the Imperial irrigation district.
Finally, the Colorado River Control Club opposes the canal on the grounds that it is delaying legislation necessary to Colorado River development. We believe that there is urgent need for action without unnecessary delay, and that the various States and communities interested can more quickly be brought into accord by a program of a river development considering only paramount issues and freed from all local and controversial proposals.
We attach hereto other papers more fully expressing the club's attitude which you may be interested to read.
In submitting our views for your consideration we ask you to keep in mind that the sole interests of our members are in the American portion of Imperial Valley, and that they are actuated only by desire to aid in accomplishing that which is for the valley's greatest good.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Scott, what is the water charge per acre now assessed against those whom you represent?
Mr. SCOTT. The bonded indebtedness, does your question refer to ?
The CHAIRMAN. No. But answer in your own way.
Mr. Scott. There is a $16,500,000 bonded indebtedness. as I understand. The CHAIRMAN. What would be the debt unit
acre ? Mr. Scott. Well, it would approximate 500,000 acres to share that burden. But, on that point, that can be computed—I am not familiar with the computation. On that point our experience in this valley has been that a great part of the lands have, by reason of alkali reverted to the irrigation district, and are not carrying the burden, a very large amount, and therefore throwing an unusual burden on the present irrigable lands.
The CHAIRMAN. Have those belonging to your organization sufficient water coming to them now, under the present ditch ?
Mr. SCOTT. They have.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you experienced a shortage in the last few years?
Mr. Scott. It has been dangerously near a shortage on some occasions. We were threathened with a shortage last year, but, however, we escaped by rains in the mountains in Arizona, and on several occasions we have been in constant anxiety about our shortage. In other words, to picture this Colorado River, it has a velocity sometimes of 35 miles an hour in the canyon and rushes to the Gulf of California, and then a little later the very antithesis exists. The waters calmly subside and keep us in constant anxiety as to whether or not-we will receive any water for our irrigation and expecting constantly that our crops may be ruined.
The CHAIRMAN. Is this organization incorporated ?
Mr. Scott. It is not an incorporated organization. The organization, if I may state, was originated primarily in a belief that the legislation which we most earnestly desire was being delayed by reason of the All-American Canal feature. We believe that the Congressmen, your colleagues, can not be made to see the necessity of bringing additional land under irrigation.
The CHAIRMAN. You don't believe that your organization should be compelled to carry a further load in order to construct the AllAmerican Canal ?
Mr. Scott. We do believe that our organization should not be compelled to carry a further load, because the benefits would not accrue to our land to that extent.
The CHAIRMAN. By the construction of this canal would the land be compelled to carry the additional charge which you claim to be $40 an acre?
Mr. Scott. We believe that that would be the result under the bill.
The CHAIRMAN. If you have sufficient water and you are not in the corporation or the district, how could you be forced to pay for this water which would not benefit your lands and which you do not want?