Vol. V. No. 2
'Wait 'Til Next Year' -- Old Tune, New Verse
Readers of my newsletters will recall the series of three reports I issued in 1963 reviewing history of the Central Arizona Project proposal and exploring the legislative paths ahead. Looking back on those days immediately after the Supreme Court decision favoring Arizona (in Arizona v. California) one realizes how far we have come. With but three votes in the House of Representatives our prospects then seemed so dim; today our water problems have captured the interest of the nation, and we have very substantial support in both houses of Congress.
What is the Central Arizona Project? Readers of those 1963 reports recall that the heart of the project is an aqueduct bringing Arizona's share of the Colorado River to the interior of the state. Financing the project would be, as initially proposed, a power dam at Bridge Canyon on the Colorado, 80 miles below Grand Canyon National Park. As our bill developed in the current Congress it was expanded to finance water projects in the seven-state Colorado River basin, and a second dam was proposed at Marble Canyon, 12.5 miles upstream from the park. From these power revenues ultimately would come financing for works to augment the inadequate flow of the Colorado.
Developing this legislation
and building support for it has been one of the greatest legislative efforts
ever mounted by any state or group of states. And until recent days those
of us here in Washington had remained reasonably confident that it would
be passed this year. Unfortunate and unexpected developments of recent
weeks have changed that outlook, and we now conclude that it is extremely
unlikely that our bill, H.R. 4671, the Colorado River Basin Project Act,
can pass the House and Senate in the time remaining before adjournment.
In view of this discouraging change I want to emphasize the following points:
BACKGROUND OF THE 1966 ACTION
Now for a little background. The most important House figure in water problems is the astute chairman of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Wayne Aspinall of Colorado, an old and proven friend of our state. In September, 1964, he came to Phoenix and addressed Arizona's leaders. His advice, briefly stated was this: Don't be impatient. Rather, try to develop an area-wide plan that all basin states can support. Unity is essential, and especially between Arizona and California. If controversy persists among the states involved, your, chances will be dim. With a unified approach your project will get the earliest possible consideration.
Arizona followed that advice
and immediately began negotiations with the Lower Basin states, California
and Nevada, to meet these conditions. After months of often discouraging
negotiations, a bargain was struck. Its essential elements were these:
At this point we thought we
had cleared the road and could roll rapidly ahead. Initial hearings were
held in August and September, 1965. However, the Upper Basin states then
raised vigorous objections, believing this agreement posed threats to their
future water development. Thus a second and even more difficult round of
negotiations began. Finally, in February, 1966, after months of travel,
conferences, discouragement and give-and-take, it appeared we had achieved
not just Lower Basin, but Upper and Lower Basin agreement. This
required other features to be added to the bill:
It was April 1966 before every detail of legislative language could be drafted and cleared with appropriate state officials and agencies in the seven states, and the heavy calendar of the House Interior Committee prevented the additional public hearings from beginning until early May. These time-consuming sessions were followed up in June and July by one of the most extended and bitterly fought
"mark-up" (or bill-writing) sessions ever undertaken by a Congressional committee. Many amendments were added to the bill -- a few of which enhanced chances of passage while many did nothing but add to the load our project had to carry.
There were more complications in the days immediately preceding final action, but when the vote came, it was in our favor. Thereupon the bill went to the Rules Committee, where a favorable vote is needed to bring legislation to the floor. And there it sits, held up for the lack of a majority on that 15-member committee. While many factors are involved, perhaps the most important is the fear of California that we lack the votes on the floor to pass the bill in its present form.
From this discussion it can be seen that passage of a major $1.7 billion bill is an extremely complicated exercise. Congressional procedures require a bill to pass a number of complex and difficult roadblocks. Powerful men, or powerful and determined groups who could not prevail in a vote of the whole House can exercise veto power at various Committee stages. These can be burdensome and frustrating events, but they are facts of legislative life and we must live with them.
It would be tempting at this point to level bitter charges against our California friends, but no useful purpose would be served. The fact is that many responsible California leaders gave us enthusiastic and effective help during the negotiations and in Committee. There were many acts of statesmanship and good faith on both sides. While Arizona's representatives believe California has been unnecessarily cautious and overly protective of its own interests, we recognize that, regardless of our future course, our two states must continue to live together. There is no point in recriminations. However, in the light of California's refusal to go forward with the bill as agreed upon, Arizona should serve notice that any commitment made in the past is going to be restudied to determine whether, in the future, it will advance the primary interests of our state.
OTHER FACTORS WHICH PREVENT 1966 ACTION
This background should explain
Arizona's present pessimism. But the dim outlook results as well from other
factors which should be mentioned:
THERE HAVE BEEN GAINS
Our goal this year was a law
authorizing CAP. We started three years ago on our own goal line. Apparently
we will not score this year, but we have penetrated the opponents' 20-yard
line, and there are quarters yet to play. If we fail this year, we do not
return 80 yards and start afresh. We will begin again somewhere past midfield.
And we can point to many net gains, including these:
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
In January 1967, a brand new
Arizona Legislature meets, and a new Congress assembles. By January, Arizona
will have at least three courses to choose from. Each has its advantages
and disadvantages. They are:
In the light of these considerations
Rep. Rhodes and I made these recommendations to the Arizona Interstate
HISTORY IS ON OUR SIDE
For some 30 years people on the eastern slope of the Rockies had dreams of building the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Like our project, it first won approval in the Senate -- in this case, in 1954. Two years later it passed the Senate again, and was reported in the House -- but never got to the floor. In 1958 the same thing happened. In 1961, greatly amended, the bill was reported -- but couldn't get to the floor for lack of a "rule." Yet the following year the bill passed both houses and became law.
I think there is a lesson in that story for Arizona. It may explain my belief, and that of Rep. Rhodes and Rep. George Senner, that the Central Arizona Project will be built in the not too-distant future -- and that the refrain "'Wait 'til next year" will no longer be heard in the land.
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