Making the Desert Bloom
Arthur V. Watkins, Senator from Utah, proclaimed to Congress on March 22, 1954, that President Eisenhower had thrown his support behind the upper Colorado River Storage Project. This project, with the acronym CRSP, focuses on providing a reliable flow of freshwater to the Upper Colorado River Basin States (New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming), while also ensuring that the mandated amount of water goes to the downstream Lower Basin states. CRSP also provides hydroelectric power, irrigation/reclamation of arid lands, and flood control.
“If some of this vast western wilderness can be put to work doing something useful, instead of being merely ornamental, it should not be looked upon as a national calamity”
- Ebenezer Bryce
People living in the Upper Colorado Basin became convinced that they needed to control water in order to support development of any kind. The people of this region benefit from the Glen Canyon Dam's water and power for agriculture, manufacturing, and cities that rose out of the desert. Building the dam created thousands of jobs for a location in the middle of the United States with sparse employment. In “The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature,” Thomas Munro argues that those who protest the dam are mostly vacation goers who visit perhaps three months out of the year, then return to their homes and work.
Between 1956 - 1966 the United States Bureau of Reclamation was responsible for constructing the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell behind it. The commissioner of the Bureau at the time was Floyd E. Dominy, who had joined the department in 1946. Over Dominy's career, he helped build close to two billion dollars in water infrastructure across the contiguous United States.
Floyd Dominy considered Glen Canyon Dam his crowning jewel. He wanted to "give life to a parched land" and was very persuasive on Capitol Hill to ensure funding for his projects. Growing up in Nebraska during the Dust Bowl, Dominy knew the struggles of scarce resources such as water. He believed that damming rivers would bring civilization to the West and improve society. He was a dam builder who indeed made the desert bloom.
This manuscript is a fold-out page provided by the United States Bureau of Reclamation detailing answers to a multitude of in-depth questions about the dam’s construction and benefits. It covers quantitative answers regarding the electrical output potential, materials used in the construction process, and the provision of jobs in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area.
From 1961 to 1969 Stewart Udall served as Secretary of the Interior under the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations. During the dedication of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1966, Udall served as the master of ceremonies.
"Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man."
- Stewart Udall
Although Udall enthusiastically supported the CRSP, he also became an important conservationist in the 1960s, aiding in the enactment of environmental laws including the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, the establishment of Canyonlands National Park, and many other important acts passed by Congress. Udall also contributed to the modern environmental movement through his book The Quiet Crisis (1963).
The dedication of Glen Canyon Dam took place on September 22, 1966 with important figures such as First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, representatives from the Lower Basin States, and tribal leaders of the Navajo Nation. Key speeches were made by the Governors of Arizona and Utah, the First Lady, and the master of ceremonies, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall. Mrs. Johnson spoke of water being a vital commodity in the Southwest and how many hopes were being born and fulfilled by the Glen Canyon Dam. This was "a new era of wise water conservation," as she put it.
Stewart Udall closed the ceremony with a voice of warning asking the people to conserve and use the water wisely. “There is something very precious and very special that all of you have here. Use it well and wisely, but don’t pollute the water, leave the landscape unlittered and unscarred."
Both Lady Bird Johnson and Stewart Udall used the term "conservation" in the sense that the early head of the US Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, used the term: wise human management for the future. Pinchot argued in a utilitarian sense that conservation of a resource (e.g. timber or water) meant doing "the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run."