The Colorado River Problem in 1928

December 12, 1928

Report Outline
Conflicts of Interest Among Colorado Basin States
Status of the Colorado River Compact
Provisions of the Swing-Johnson Bill
Issues Presented by Swing-Johnson Bill
Colorado Power Development Issues

The Swing-Johnson bill's chances of enactment at the present session were improved on December 11 when a halt was called to obstructive tactics in the Senate, after a week of continuous debate, and a start was made, through the adoption of amendments, toward bringing the bill into conformity with the views of those who have led the opposition. The most important of the amendments adopted to date is one which would limit California's appropriation of water from the Colorado River to a maximum of 4,400,000 acre-feet annually. Some fifty other amendments remain to be voted upon. If the present disposition to compromise continues, and such compromises as may be reached in the Senate prove acceptable to the House, there is every reason for believing that the bill will be sent to the President at an early date. If, on the other hand, the bill as passed by the Senate and as finally agreed upon in conference, should fail to meet the views of senators whose opposition has blocked Senate action in the past, they would still be in position to renew their filibuster with at least an even chance of success. A filibuster that continued down to the final hour of adjournment on March 4, 1929, and prevented a roll call on acceptance of a conference report, would throw the entire Colorado River problem over to the Seventy-first Congress for final consideration.

The Senate's action on amendments remaining for consideration will be influenced to a considerable extent by interpretations placed upon the report transmitted to Congress at the opening of the session by the, special Colorado River Board. This board was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, with the approval of the President, under a resolution adopted by both houses just in advance of the May adjournment. The board reported that the engineering works proposed in the Swing-Johnson bill are feasible, provided certain changes are made in the plans of construction.

Report of Special Colorado River Board

The modifications in plans of construction recommended by the Colorado River Board would increase the cost of the project, according to the board's estimates, from the $125,000,000 originally contemplated to $165,000,000. And there would be a further increase to $176,000,000, if a branch irrigation canal to the Coachella Valley should be included in the project as finally approved by Congress. It was originally contemplated that the entire cost of the project would be repaid to the federal government through the sale of electric power and of water for irrigation. The increase in cost, in the opinion of the Colorado River Board, would require the subtraction from the amount to be reimbursed of a part, if not all, of the cost chargeable to flood control, and also of the cost of the proposed all-American canal to connect the Colorado River with the Imperial Valley in Southern California. Elimination of the cost of this canal from the amount to be repaid by the sale of power had already been proposed in an amendment recommended by the Senate Committee on Irrigation in its favorable report on the bill on March 20, 1928. The amendment, now before the Senate, provides that the cost of building the canal shall be reimbursed by the area directly benefitted, in accordance with usual federal irrigation practice. This provision had not been included in the bill when it passed the House, however, and it was the House draft that was used by the board as the basis of its report.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Water Resources