Statement of Governor Ronald Reagan on Colorado River Legislation

May 3, 1967

 

For presentation by William R. Gianelli, Director of the Department of Water Resources,, before Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources in Washington, D.C.

 

I welcome this opportunity to make known the official views of Californiaís new administration on the important water legislation now before this Subcommittee.The necessity for finding a legislative solution to the Colorado River water supply problem has been one of the paramount concerns of my administration since it took office.We concluded early that Californiaís new administration would join with sister states and the Congress in an all-out effort to obtain constructive legislation at the earliest practicable date.

 

I see no reason to replow ground that has already been thoroughly plowed.There is no need to recite in detail the importance of water to California and the West, and there is nothing I need add to reinforce the fact that Colorado River Basin and the Pacific Southwest face imminent and widespread water deficiencies.The record complied at previous hearings on the Central Arizona Project and the Pacific Southwest Water Plan before this distinguished body, and on the Colorado River Basin Project legislation before the counterpart of this body in the House, established those facts beyond a shadow of a doubt.

 

Californiaís administration, in concentrating on the support of basic principles, is determined not to be detracted by nonproductive argument over seemingly important, but often overemphasized, peripheral issues.All of the Colorado River Basin States have made accommodations to each other, to interests opposed to dams, and to the Northwest.California has participated, and will continue to do so, in negotiations which are essential to enactment of the legislation in this area.

 

Our goals are clear and, we believe, are above argument.The need for action is unmistakable.What the entire Pacific Southwest needs now is legislation which satisfies the regionís immediate needs through added development of the limited resources of the Colorado River, but recognizes also the areaís longer-range requirements and sets in motion a program to augment the supplies of the Colorado.It is my objective today to bring to your attention those elements that California believes essential in the legislation.

 

We ask first that the legislation recognize the accepted fact that the dependable natural supply of the Colorado River is insufficient to meet all compact and decree apportionments to the seven states of the Colorado River Basin; and the further fact that the dependable supply available to the Lower Basin will be unable to meet existing uses and the added burden of the Central Arizona Project beyond perhaps 1990 or the turn of the century, even with Californiaís existing uses limited to 4.4. million acre-feet per year.While it appears that the Lower Colorado supply has the potential of satisfying existing uses and those of the Central Arizona Project until then, this is the case only because several of the other states are not at this time using all of the water to which they are entitled and because Californiaís present uses will be cut back from 5.1 to 4.4 million acre-feet per year when the Central Arizona Project goes into operation.

 

The only certain way of assuring continued development and prosperity in the Pacific Southwest and of bringing peace to the Colorado River is to increase the natural supplies of the region.The legislation, then, should contain a reasonable promise that the additional burden of the Central Arizona Project will be relieved within a quarter of a century by augmentation of supply of the Colorado.In the meantime, existing economies should be provided with reasonable protection.

 

The merits of protecting existing water uses in the Lower Colorado River Basin, with Californiaís uses being protected to the extent of 4.4 million acre-feet per annum, are based on a solid moral and economic foundation.The Colorado River Basin States struggled with this problem for months before resolving it early in 1965 in favor of protecting existing economies.This solution was found acceptable last year to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and to the National Administration.There is no cogent reason to upset this accord.

 

Existing projects in the Lower Colorado River Basin were built on what has turned out to be an overly optimistic estimate of water supply.The economies that rely on these projects, all vital to the states and the nation, now face added hazard.The economy in California dependent upon the Colorado must scale back from an existing use of 5.1 million acre-feet per year to 4.4 as a result of the lesser supply in the River and U.S. Supreme Courtís decision in Arizona v California.The logical way to protect the economy dependent upon the remaining supply of 4.4 million acre-feet and enormous investment in physical works constructed to service this economy during the time interval preceding actual augmentation of the River is to provide in the legislation that existing uses shall have a priority over new uses until the augmentation is effected.With the 4.4 priority, the $0.5 billion Colorado River Aqueduct and distribution system of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will flow less than half full.Without it, the Aqueduct will face imminent danger of being dried up completely.

 

Hence, we urge that existing uses in the Lower Basin, including 4.4 million acre-feet of use in California, be afforded priority over the Central Arizona Project until such time as the supply of the River is augmented.To do otherwise is to create another burden on the River without doing anything to relieve the basic problem of short supply.Releif from shortage and continued development of the economies of the Pacific Southwest can only come from a program that includes early augmentation of the areaís limited supplies.

 

A primary purpose of the legislation should be to initiate studies leading to a well-founded decision on how best to accomplish augmentation.The nation can ill afford delays in getting those studies under way.We believe the essential ingredients of an acceptable augmentation study to be: (1) that it be conducted under the supervision of an impartial body; (2) that it be completed on a timely basis; (3) that all related factors be considered, including those outside the purely engineering and economic fields; (4) that the rights of the states and regions be fully respected; (5) that the affected states be permitted to participate effectively; and (6) that the expertise of existing state and federal agencies be used to the maximum extent possible.

 

In recent weeks, several proposals have been advanced that call for a feasibility-level study of the North Coastal area of California as the initial source of export water supply for the Pacific Southwest.The State of California does not now, nor has it ever, objected to the inclusion of it North Coast as one of the areas to be studied.We have asked and still ask, however, that the selection of Californiaís North Coastal resources as a source of supply for the initial stage of the regional program be based upon a demonstration, using comparable levels of investigation, that it is, in fact, the best source for the Pacific Southwest.The people of the Southwest and of the nation at large have a right to expect that the project eventually constructed to relieve the water supply problems of the Pacific Southwest is the best of all available alternatives.This is not only existing federal and state policy, itís good economics.

 

California, like any other potential state of origin, must insist on full legal and economic protection to assure all users within its boundaries that water supplies will be available for use therein adequate to satisfy their ultimate requirements at prices to users not adversely affected by the exportation of water.The protective provisions must also give the users within the states of origin a priority of use, so that those users have in effect a right of recall, or a right to replacement with water of equal quality and no greater cost.Such provisions are included in S. 861, S. 1242, S. 1409, but omitted from S. 1004 and S. 1013.

 

These provisions would apply to all interstate supplies regardless of source.As the new economy developed in the Pacific Southwest would not be allowed to perish, recall would be unlikely, and the state of origin would probably have to rely on replacement of its supplies.This would require that large sums of money be available within the program at that point in time to finance the replacement.Hence, California strongly supports creation of the proposed development fund, and dedication of a portion of the fund to protection of the states or origin.

 

Success of the regional program of development will depend in large measure upon the financial strength of the development fund.We must make it as strong as we can, and can ill afford to forego construction of justified projects that will return surplus revenues to the fund.Hence we support construction of the optimum development at the Hualapai site that can be justified considering all potential uses and needs, giving full recognition to scenic and recreational needs, as well as to hydroelectric peaking power needs and values.

 

I say this in full knowledge of the strong stand conservationists have taken on the Hualapai Dam issue.The important values associated with the preservation of open spaces and wild areas must be given full consideration in reaching decisions as to the future use of the Colorado River and the natural areas associated therewith.However, reality also requires that full recognition be given to the requirements of meeting the food, fiber, power, and recreation demands of an expanding population.

 

Some of the bills before you contain, in addition to the Central Arizona Project, authorizations for the construction, operation, and maintenance of five new projects in the Upper Basin.Since it is our understanding that these features are favored by the state directly affected; are economically justified on the basis of Bureau of Reclamation studies; and, on the basis of both entitlement and physical availability, can reasonably b expected to have an adequate water supply, we support their authorization.

 

As previously stated, we believe that the studies of alternative sources of supply to augment the Colorado should be supervised by an impartial body, should include effective state participation, should be free from duplication of work force and work effort, and should make maximum use of expertise already available.California supports the formation of the National Water Commission to review national water policy.We also support use of the National Water Commission as an impartial supervisor of the studies of means of augmenting the supplies of the Pacific Southwest.This support, however, is conditioned on: (1) immediate implementation of the Pacific Southwest regional study so that alternative solutions will be available for comparison by the early 1970ís, and (2) assurances that the commission will not be used as a mechanism for delaying those studies.

 

For the augmentation studies to be meaningful they must also be timely.A high federal official recently stated that he was confident that the Colorado River would be augmented by 1990.We certainly hope that is the case.But less than 23 years remain to accomplish this objective.Augmentation could come from any, or a combination of several alternatives, including sea water conversion and weather modification.The critical time demands, however, relate to the possibility that broad-scale interstate exchanges of water represent the best solution.If so, many have proclaimed that 25 yearsí lead time will be required for such a regional program.The lead time, however, will be at least five, and perhaps as much as ten, years longer if the planning studies are deferred until the National Water Commission attempts to first solve the nationís water policy problems.If that happens, the Southwest will face a major water crisis before the turn of the century.

 

The Northwestern States have not been asked to defer their regional water planning to await the findings of a National Water Commission.The Northeast United States Water Supply study is already under way.

 

California is concerned over the possibility of too many national and federal water bodies and agencies becoming involved in western states regional water planning.Certainly, every effort is needed to avoid duplication of future planning efforts, the redoing of that which has already been done, and bypassing of local authorities and expertise.Coordination of existing agencies and commissions is already a most difficult a most difficult task.The Senate bill to create the National Water Commission, S. 20, as passed by the Senate, obviously seeks to avoid duplication, particularly as regards the Water Resources Council.However, it is equally obvious that the measure does not contemplate the Commission actually performing western, northeastern, or any other specific regional planning effort.

 

The provisions of the legislation authorizing studies of means of augmenting the supplies of the Pacific Southwest should recognize the planning expertise of the state organizations and the 11-state Western States Water Council.For example, the National Water Commission could be directed to consult with the Western States Water Council in developing western states water programs.

 

We regard the National Administrationís position, as announced by Secretary Udall on February 1, and as contained in S. 1004 and S. 1013, as a log step backward from the regional approach which he initiated in 1963 and which had piecemeal approach now proposed by the Secretary avoids the fundamental water problem facing the entire West.The Administrationís proposal would add materially to the burden of demand on the River without attempting to solve the basic problem of an insufficient supply in the Colorado.California urges the Subcommittee to reject the Administrationís proposal and to continue to seek a regional solution to what is truly a regional problem.