Carl Hayden: “water as cheaply as it can be served”

Carl Hayden, 1916, courtesy Library of Congress

Carl Hayden, 1916, courtesy Library of Congress

Here’s a great quote from Carl Hayden. It was June, 1922, still in the early days of the jockeying for development of the Colorado River’s water. Hayden was at the time a relatively junior member of the House, having not yet ascended to the political heights from which decades later, as Arizona’s senior senator, he engineered the construction of the Central Arizona Project:

It seems to me that the irrigator under a reclamation project is entitled to receive his water as cheaply as it can be served to him. I think that is in the public interest.

That’s from the 1922 hearings before the House Committee on Committee on Irrigation of Arid Lands on HR 11449, A Bill to Provide for the Protection and Development of the Lower Colorado River Basin. Hayden didn’t get his way on the provision of irrigation water for Arizona until 46 years later, when Lyndon Johnson finally signed the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968. But on this central point – cheap irrigation water to underpin the “public interest” in the West, there seems to have been little disagreement.

That Hayden kept plugging away for the whole 46 years is, in and of itself, a remarkable thing.

(h/t Jack August’s Vision in the Desert for its discussion of Hayden’s comments, though the transcript I found differs in some respects from the version August included in his book.)

One Comment

  1. I have been reading an unpublished dissertation by Rose Diaz. US Senator Dennis Chavez kept plugging away at water and irrigation issues for a similar amount of time as Hayden. He was aware of the 1922 discussions and compact and kept pushing the trans mountain diversion of the Colorado river.

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