William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
Aqueduct Progress
and Political Fireworks
1911

A WORK DELAYED

Having maneuvered the shoals of the previous year, Mulholland remained optimistic about the aqueduct's progress in 1911. The city demonstrated its continued faith by offering to purchase $500,000 of its own bonds in order to advance funds when the foot-dragging New York syndicate was reluctant to sell its 1911 subscription. With money available, the work could advance. Only 1,295 feet of granite separated the two Elizabeth Tunnel crews digging and blasting their way through the mountain to the anticipated meeting; the steam shovels, drillers, and concrete workers were progressing across the desert at a rate of five or six miles a month; and the Haiwee Dam was shaping up rapidly. When only the last 86 miles of the aqueduct's 235-mile stretch remained to be completed, a reporter suggested that Mulholland could turn to authorship and compose a treatise describing all the innovative machinery and engineering that the project had introduced and employed. Instead, by year's end, he found himself embroiled in the very brand of politics he had hoped to avoid.

Questions about the electric power to be developed from Owens River water now gained public attention. Was this enterprise to be completely municipal or would private companies (that is, investor-owned utilities) be allowed to coexist? The city's chief electrical engineer, Ezra Scattergood, was adamant that the project be completely municipal, but the private companies, especially California Edison, pushed to come in, and public debate grew heated. Some of the Progressives, including political leader

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