I love history as a journalistic storytelling technique for two reasons. First, it often can provide built-in context. Second, it can provide a natural narrative arc. So when I sat down Friday with Mike Connor, the new head of the Bureau of Reclamation, I tried to frame his job today in terms of the western water giants who held the job before him, larger-than-life figures like Arthur Powell Davis and Floyd Dominy.
Connor, who’s only been in the job for a couple of months, was clearly thinking the same way. As he was preparing a talk recently, he reread the Dominy chapter in Cadillac Desert. And realized, he said, that there was less there than he might have hoped. From today’s story:
Michael Connor, the New Mexican who took over as head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation three months ago, inherited an empire.
It is an empire built by predecessors like the famed dam builder Floyd Dominy, the man who built Glen Canyon Dam.
But when Connor went back to reread Dominy’s story recently in preparation for a talk, he realized how different things are today.
More than perhaps any other government agency, Reclamation shaped the West. The great dam builder of the 20th century, it is the agency behind Hoover and Glen Canyon dams.
Those days are gone, Connor said in a recent interview. “There was a lot of good,” he said, “and there was a lot of bad.”