The Colorado River Problem

January 26, 1927

Report Outline
The Colorado River Compact
Provisions of Swing-Johnson Bill
Regional Issues Raised by Swing-Johnson Bill
Power Development Issues

The Swing-Johnson bill, as favorably reported and now pending before both houses of Congress, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to construct a 550-foot dam in the Colorado river, and to erect and. operate a hydro-electric power plant with an installed capacity of 1,000,000 horsepower. The plant would have a steady capacity of 550,000 horsepower, or about three times the steady capacity of the government plant at Muscle Shoals.

The action taken by Congress on the Swing-Johnson bill will decide questions of fundamental importance in connection with governmental policy on hydro-electric development. The bill presents the question whether or not the federal government, in making regional improvements such as the one it proposes, should seek to finance these improvements through the generation and sale of hydro-electric power. Or, carried one step farther, the question presented is whether public or private initiative should be relied upon for the exploitation of power resources developed in connection with regional improvement programs.

Physical Characteristics of Colorado River

In addition to power development, the Swing-Johnson bill is concerned with flood control, irrigation of desert lands, creation of stable domestic water supplies and settlement of rights to the waters of a, river which flows through seven American states. These questions are primarily of interest to California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming, but all are intimately related to the question of power development and the national policy toward such development which is proposed to be fixed in the pending legislation. To make clear the nature of the regional and national issues raised by the Swing-Johnson bill it is necessary at the outset to consider the physical characteristics of the Colorado river the third largest river in the United States and to consider the various problems of control to which these characteristics give rise.

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