William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
A Plan Revealed
1905

Some people appear to be objecting to the scheme. They say we worked in the dark. In fact, we worked in the light, while they were in the dark, for if some of the objectors had been “on” to what was happening, there would have been a migration to the Owens Valley, and we never could have obtained the water for anything like the price we are to pay.

WILLIAM MULHOLLAND, 1905


A SECRET POORLY KEPT

Months before the proposal to acquire Owens River water for Los Angeles was finally made public on July 29, 1905, hints and rumors circulated around town. In December 1904, hardly able to contain his secret or enthusiasm, Mulholland gave a statement to the city's newest morning newspaper, Hearst's year-old Los Angeles Examiner, which had urged the city to solve its chronic water shortage. He assured the public it had no need to panic at the present population but warned that growth beyond 225,000 would cause a problem—unless, he slyly suggested, a way were found to kill Frank Wiggins, perennial civic booster and spokesman for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Mulholland commented that if a gigantic project were to be undertaken, it would require large expenditures. “Hence, ” he went on, “it would be the part of wisdom to have appointed a commission composed of good business men, together with, say, two or three hydraulic engineers of standing, whose residence and practice here have been long enough to acquaint them thoroughly with hydrographic conditions in Southern California. ” Mulholland also advised the city to plan ahead and not wait until it found itself short, for “it will require the work of years to guarantee against the future, and we should begin the task at once. ” Thus in general terms, as if preparing the public for the coming specifics, he spoke of great undertakings. 1

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