FOR RELEASE June 21, 1962

Congressman's Report

By Morris K. Udall

"Out of the Fryingpan--Hope and a Lesson for Arizona"

The growth of our West is to a great degree the story of reclamation. Roosevelt, Hoover, Grand Coulee, and the other projects have nearly exhausted the choice, low-cost dam sites. Future projects pose more difficult engineering problems. Water must be carried longer distances; new engineering ideas are needed to help put the water where the people are.

On June 13, the House voted to bring into being a sound engineering dream--the Fryingpan-Arkansas project. If the Senate goes along this project will bring water and power to semi-arid southeastern Colorado. Water will be collected high in the Rocky Mountains on the west side of the Continental Divide. It will be sent churning eastward through a six-mile-long tunnel drilled through the Rockies at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Then the water will tumble down the eastern slope through a series of canals, reservoirs and power generating plants and into the Arkansas River.

Farmers who today don't know if they'll be able to harvest the crops they now plant will be assured of water to stabilize production. Colorado Springs, Pueblo and other thirsty municipalities will have more and better water to supply increasing populations. Badly-needed energy for farms, homes and industries will be created. Disastrous floods will be curtailed. The minimum flow of water needed for fishing and other recreation activities will be assured.

In the 10-12 years needed to complete the project, the federal government will invest $170 million. Over a 50-year span, $153 million of this will be repaid. (Only monies invested in fish and wildlife, recreation and flood control are not reimbursable).

The Fryingpan-Arkansas project has been under study for three decades. It has been officially before Congress since 1953. President Eisenhower strongly supported it. President Kennedy wholeheartedly endorses it. Yet the project drew heavy fire in the House--from those who ridiculed the idea of a trans-mountain tunnel as a "Rube Goldberg Project" and those who asserted the $170 million will simply be money thrown away. Members of Congress are always looking for "economy votes" and reclamation is often a likely target--especially from the big city Eastern members. One of the principal critics of the tunnel idea was a Long Beach Congressman whose people turn on their taps to draw water which has come 200 miles across the desert from the Colorado River through many mountain tunnels.


CONGRESSMAN'S REPORT ... "Out of the Fryingpan"
June 21, 1962

In the House debate on this bill, I made these statements:

"Based upon some of the debate here today, one might assume that this was $170 million we are going to throw down a rat hole somewhere. Reclamation does not cost; it pays. This is not a drain on the taxpayer. This will be paid back--nearly all of it paid back--with interest."

"Let us go back to 1911. If one had been asked to select the 10 least likely places in America to be major cities, I think Phoenix would have headed this list. It was a dry city of 12,000; when these people occasionally did get water it came all at once--right in the living room--and flooded everyone out. It was a hot and barren country. When Teddy Roosevelt and other farsighted leaders--and I can hear the opponents in the Congress in those early days laughing at this Rube Goldberg project in Arizona--supported this type of reclamation, they probably did not fully realize that would happen. Yet this first major project has now paid off. It cost $20 million. The federal government takes out of Phoenix $200 million every year in federal income taxes. Phoenix has 700,000 people; it is one of the nation's major cities. Phoenix would be a little town today except for the foresight of the Congress back in the 1900's when it decided to invest $20 million." 

The Fryingpan-Arkansas project diversion idea is in many respects a scientific and technological breakthrough. Passage by the House is an immensely important political breakthrough--one that bodes well for the $1 billion Central Arizona Project which will come before Congress if the Supreme Court acts favorably in the California-Arizona water suit. The lesson for Arizonans is contained in the Interior Committee report on the bill:

"The Fryingpan-Arkansas project has been under study and consideration for over 30 years. It has been ready for authorization for 8 years. However, it was not until recently that all interested parties in the State of Colorado were able to agree on the development."

In Arizona we have achieved substantial unity over the Central Arizona Project. The more we strengthen that unity , the better our chances for getting the financing which will bring in the water we must have to expand our state's economy.


Previous Report: June 1, 1962 -- "Medicare"--The Battle of Madison Square Garden
Next Report: July 6, 1962 -- The Farm Problem -- Swept Under the Rug Again

Section Contents: 87th Congress
Next Section: 88th Congress

Congressman's Report Main Page

Congressman's Report
Newsletters by Morris K. Udall