Marvin's Window: 100 years of reclamation

I looked out my window this week at the dry desert location of Kingman while I paused from reading about the 100-year celebration of the founding of the U.S.

Bureau of Reclamation.

I wondered how the West would look today if we could rewrite the history of the last 100 years.

The celebration closed Hoover Dam to traffic Monday as the Bureau chose the site of that engineering accomplishment for the birthday bash.

Fifty years ago, a similar birthday was celebrated at the same site with a lot of Mohave County and Kingman participation.

With Kingman celebrating 50 years of incorporation this year, it seems strange that so little attention is given locally to the Hoover Dam event.

Today, a bridge across the Colorado River is near construction to handle traffic between two desert cities that hardly existed in 1902 when the Bureau of reclamation came into being.

Phoenix was just a small, hot place with little source of water and a struggling agriculture.

It would be another 10 years before Arizona would become a state!

Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River was one of the first undertakings and gave Phoenix a sure water supply.

Without it, who knows what might have happened to the area around Phoenix where three million people now live?

Las Vegas was just sand and heat.

Getting from Phoenix to Las Vegas was so unimportant that the Bureau used the top of Hoover Dam for a bridge.

Hoover Dam did provide a lot of jobs when the U.S.

had unemployment rates at 25 percent I have seen pictures of families camped in the desert to apply for construction jobs before congress had even authorized the dam!

Over on the Pacific Coast, across the Mojave Desert, a small town was beginning to grow.

With water and electricity from Bureau projects, the Los Angeles area has become the home of about one in fifteen Americans.

They get a lot of water from the Colorado River and Hoover Dam still generates much electricity for their residents.

I wonder if they would live there without a century of Bureau of Reclamation projects?

When the rest of California was screaming about high-energy prices in the summer of 2000, Los Angeles was selling excess power at high rates.

LA remains a major user of electricity generated at Hoover Dam.

Water resources in the West today were developed first to irrigate the farmlands and develop a resource-based economy.

Today, cities buy farms to get the water rights for lawns and car washing in the never-ending housing developments.

Agriculture could be called the "bank" that developed the first need for water and made use of it until someone else needed it.

The West was developed with the natural resources of mining, timber, agriculture and water.

It was the lure of gold and silver, free land and irrigation that brought people West.

Gold in California brought enough people to the Pacific Coast to gain statehood by the mid1800s.

Can you imagine Kingman without a California that was a lure to migration west?

Both the railroad and the highways that have been the lifeblood for the city are here because Kingman is on the natural route between the two oceans where most Americans still live.

Now, Kingman is beginning to benefit from the north and south travel from Mexico through Phoenix and Las Vegas to Canada.

Take away the Bureau of Reclamation and dam building over the past 100 years and Kingman would be supported by water from Beale's Spring.

We might not need any more water than that without all those people in Southern California, Maricopa County, Clark County and points east of the Mississippi who stop here.

Fifty years ago Kingman celebrated the Bureau and the dams.

Today, many look for a way to tear out dams all over the western portion of the country.

I do not need to defend all the decisions of the Bureau to appreciate the good things.

I lived without water and electricity in my younger days.

I do not like the thought of going back.

The West is full of people today influenced by a culture much different than other sections of this country.

The kinds of issues have changed and the role of government has changed.

Certainly, the role of the Bureau of Reclamation will make major changes in the next century.


11 changed our attitudes about security on our soil, showing that we are capable of change.

I celebrate the accomplishments of agencies, like the Bureau of Reclamation, that contributed to the West I love.

I want to find ways to build on what we have, not destroy the entire infrastructure.

Going back is seldom either possible or helpful.

We have "reclaimed" the West by imagination and building.

We can find ways to enjoy it and make it better for future generations.

But, tearing down and destroying the good things of the past 100 years will not be progress, helpful or sensible.

I would rather look ahead through my window than peer in the rear view mirror.