William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 22
Boulder Dam and Dynamite
1924

THE SWING-JOHNSON BILL AND TROUBLING RUMORS

Controversy over Boulder Dam and the second Swing-Johnson bill (a bill to provide for the protection and development of the lower Colorado River Basin) dominated the news in Los Angeles during the fifteen months after armed ranchers had mounted the Big Pine Ditch and stopped work on the city's proposed diversion ditch in the summer of 1923. At the beginning of 1924, the discontents in Owens Valley were somewhat muted, and with a continued drought in the state, Mulholland's most critical concern was planning future water and power supplies in his burgeoning city. To maintain the power system, he felt it urgent to complete the dams in Weid and San Francisquito Canyons and to continue the campaign for the Boulder Dam project. Owens Valley water could supply current needs, but because he was responsible for future supplies and forced to look ten years ahead, he deemed that with the city's present rate of growth, only the Colorado River could supply those needs, especially for hydroelectric power. Concerned about the present supply's limits, however, he deplored some of the annexations and distant subdivisions being developed far in advance of need while land lay idle well within the existing city limits. 1

Joining in the Boulder Dam promotion was Arthur P. Davis, who in a political play had been relieved of his Reclamation post as chief engineer of the Boulder project and replaced by Frank Weymouth. Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work claimed the project needed an administra-

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