AUGUST 6, 1954
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I have received five or six letters on the subject of a dam called Echo Park Dam which would impound the waters of the upper Colorado River. These letters come from people in Utah, who are much annoyed because they say that it was during my husband's Administration that an investigation was started by the Bureau of Reclamation and that the land was set aside subject to the possibility of building this dam.
What my husband's attitude was, I don't know. It would have been impossible for him to tell me in detail what he thought about every one of the innumerable conservation problems that were studied throughout the country during his Administration.
The people writing me say that the Sierra Club, composed of people from Southern California, is attempting to obtain for California all the water from the Colorado River system. They feel this is not fair because, through an agreement between the states in 1922, the upper Rocky Mountain states were allowed water which they should have the privilege of developing.
One lady writes me: "If the dam is built, California will not be able to use the water which they are now using. They realize that a large mass of water in the Colorado River basin which legally belongs to the upper basin—Utah, Wyoming and Colorado—is now being used by California."
Anyone who knows Southern California knows that they not only use water from the Colorado River but need much more. However, it may well be true that, under such a formal agreement, what is now being proposed could be done. But the particular argument brought out by the Sierra Club was that this dam could be built outside the present park and forest reserves.
In a letter received from Senator Arthur V. Watkins of Utah, there are enclosures in which the statement is made that the site proposed as a substitute would mean that an enormous amount of water would be lost by evaporation. On the other hand, the material sent me by the Sierra Club claims that this is not true. I find as usual, now that I have read the literature on both sides, that to get at the truth is extremely difficult. One side or the other is not always telling the exact truth.
But since I recommended that you read the material sent out by the Sierra Club, I am glad to comply with the Senator's request and tell you that the material in favor of building this dam can be obtained from the Upper Colorado River Commission, Grand Junction, Colorado. And the Congressional Record covering the hearings can be obtained through Senator Watkins.
I am not particularly interested in whether this particular dam is erected except that it is part of a trend at the present time which I deplore. One is seeing more and more land taken away from the reserves that have been set aside either in forest areas, national parks or for wildlife purposes, and one is seeing more and more water being used for private development instead of by public authority. I cannot help believing that this trend is bad for conservation. That is why I always question doing things which mean taking land away from the forest preserve, the national parks, or areas for wildlife protection.
However, I am convinced that irrigation is extremely important to all the states concerned in this particular area, and it may be that it is just the opposing interests of these states that have created this difficulty. One must decide how the greatest number of people can be benefited by whatever is finally done. I am in no position to decide this, and I am glad to leave it to the majority of the people who have given it careful consideration.