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April 27, 2015


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Wonderful writing, poignant memories. Thank you, Jon.

Thank you Jon.

Wow. Great post Jon. Thanks. Make room on “most popular” for this one.

Paved over paradise, made it a parking lot.

Wonderful column Jon. Thank you.

Great column, Jon! It's a shame we didn't have the foresight to retain "bands" of citrus groves throughout the Valley. Those would have likely prevented the "urban heat island" effect we now experience on summer nights.

Today I will once more read CITY by Clifford Simak.

Excellent historical background, and some poignant writing, too. A fine and informative interweaving of national, regional, local, and indigenous contexts that helped explain why and how developments took the course that they did.

Interesting how much of the western settler development was made possible by the foresight of indigenous culture and by nature itself.

If the Hohokam hadn't left their extensive canal system behind, would western settlers have seen its agricultural potential so easily, or would mining have dominated the economy, changing and throttling the subsequent development and growth pattern?

Aside from the canals, the earth itself was rich from the confluence of three rivers. Geography and gravity provided energy to transport the water; and the gravity transported water formed the basis for hydroelectric energy which powered mass migration and urban growth as well as water pumps.

Those dams, too, were essential. How different things would be if the federal government had taken a traditional, conservative approach to governance. "Let the free market take care of itself. If it can't stand on its own two feet without subsidies, it's obviously not viable.". (And make no mistake about it: huge loans, unobtainable from the private sector on affordable terms, using land as collateral whose very value as offsetting collateral was contingent on the loans and subsequent development and growth, were indeed subsidies. I'd be interested in learning the length and other terms of the loans, how long it took to pay them off, and how this was done.)

The dynamic by which a few wealthy families came to dominate agriculture also deserves examination. Why leave your own land, and your own home upon it, with the means to provide your own food for yourself and your family, for a wage-slave job in town, owing rent for shelter you don't own, perhaps a couple of paltry rooms, and have the expense of food on top of that?

Most likely the usual cycle of capitalistic accumulation: wait for the inevitable crises (flood, drought, market crashes of crop values); then use control of finance to make sustaining loans unaffordable or unavailable; then buy out desperate, land rich but cash poor sellers for pennies on the dollar.

Rob Bohannan wrote:

" It's a shame we didn't have the foresight to retain "bands" of citrus groves throughout the Valley. Those would have likely prevented the "urban heat island" effect we now experience on summer nights."

But why did they disappear? Lack of foresight, or the entirely predictable grasping of a "real-estate industrial complex" whose sole concern was the accumulation of ever larger wealth, not urban stewardship? Citrus groves just sit there, looking pretty, smelling great, and offering delectable food. They don't pay their way! Much better to subdivide the land into tract housing, each of whose numerous small plots (the smaller the better) provides lucrative returns.

Mr. Talton wrote:

" Thus began the Salt River Project. Valley farmers famously used their land as collateral, forming the Salt River Valley Water Users Association, to qualify for the federal loans under the Newlands Act."

Did the individual members of the Association pay back these loans from personal farming income? Or did they use their control over water rights to levy user fees for nonmembers (essentially a primitive form of taxation based on private control of public resources)? And how did this Association come to control water rights?

I was in class the other day and couldn't help but overhear two of my classmates talk about gardening. The basic sentiment they were sharing was how much they'd love to have a garden but its just "too hard to grow" here in Phoenix. I found this hysterical- I have a garden and grow all sorts of vegetables. The soil here is amazing. Funny enough these two are from out of state- California and Michigan respectively. Their chat highlights one of the many challenges to Phoenix: a populace who has absolutely no clue about the history of the city and with that, the potential of it as well. It's such a shame.
Great post Rogue! this should be required reading for everyone who moves here.

My Grandmother had no problem growing anything here including papayas. But she was a farm girl to begin with!

Coming soon to Arizona
More adam and eves.

WKG, some social engineering in the desert. learning from the past?

Will religious political and financial radical groups in the Southwest US gain control over city populace through water control?

According to the ADWR:

" Early in its history, Arizona adopted the doctrine of prior appropriation to govern the use of surface water. This doctrine is based on the tenet of “first in time, first in right” which means that the person who first puts the water to a beneficial use acquires a right that is better than later appropriators of the water. Prior to June 12, 1919, a person could acquire a surface water right simply by applying the water to a beneficial use and posting a notice of the appropriation at the point of diversion. On June 12, 1919, the Arizona surface water code was enacted. Now known as the Public Water Code, this law provides that a person must apply for and obtain a permit in order to appropriate surface water."

Thus it appears to me that Association members obtained their water rights simply by posting a notice on their farms. After the law was changed in 1919 (how, on what terms, and at whose behest?) those who had not staked prior claims were out of luck.

It remains to be discovered how the Association used its water rights or contingent privileges to pay off its federal loans (see my comment above), or what mechanism(s) were in fact adopted for that purpose.

@Cal: Sometimes old ideas are the best ideas. Some day you’ll open the paper to read about a fist-fight in the middle of the street over rain run-offs. An old idea in need of a come back: septic tanks?

I strongly recommend reading Terry Goddard's My Turn column dated 4/26/15 (The Sunday Arizona Republic). The title is "Embrace the Bad News".

Thanks Houser. You related to Allan?

re water rights
In 1963 The Supreme court ruled in favor of Arizona (over California) that The Salt-Verde-Gila watershed was exclusively Arizona’s except for a small portion that belonged to New Mexico. The one exception to the rule, said the court was when someone had water rights that predated the Colorado River Compact. Those rights had to be satisfied first, no matter what. “(Marc Reisner in Cadillac Desert).

Thanks for the link Toxically Pure.

Very nice Jon... Not sure how far afield you want to go but I thought of Pima cotton and the founding of the Goodyear/Litchfield Park company town. There's some good work being done to document the migrant workers experience there. There's also ag in the form of Tovrea and their stockyards and the milk production industry. Perhaps a different chapter. Incidentally, this winter we posted a new exhibit on ag in the Luhrs Gallery, 4th floor Hayden Library. Some very nice historic photos on display and things like jojoba....

Rob & others,

Do you know what happened to the jojoba fields west of the valley?



Once upon a time I delivered the newspaper to Mrs Cudahy ( think Tovera)
in the Biltmore Estates.

It appears that the Salt Water Valley Water Users' Association took a long time to repay their loans, received numerous "de facto subsidies" from the federal government, and were ultimately given not only physical ownership of the canals, dams and hydroelectric facilities but also full legal rights to water and water diversion, and to all rents, income, profits, etc., from the hydroelectric projects; and the Association sold power to the Central Arizona Light and Power Company under a contract which obligated the latter to mandatory purchases for 50 years.

Thus, the Association first grabbed primitive water rights by the simple expedient of reverse expropriation (seizing private control of public resources) using Arizona's early legal principle of "prior appropriation"; their control was subsequently formalized and expanded by the federal government. The Association was subsequently given full ownership of the public dams and hydroelectric power generating facilities. Then it used its government subsidized hydroelectric power to get the state's main privately owned electric power company to buy cheap electricity. It then used profits from this, apparently, to pay back the federal loans, though actual details of the payback (if indeed it occurred) are unclear. And, of course, the rest of the profits went to the Association members in perpetuity.

From a technical report written in 1992 (see link to the full document at the end of excerpted text):

"Originally, the Reclamation Service was to bear responsibility for the operation of the reclamation projects it had built.The various water users’ associations served by the projects were to coordinate political and economic activities associated with repayment, but management of the physical plants was to remain in federal hands. After six years of fighting between Reclamation and Salt River Valley Water Users Association (SRVWUA), however, Lane turned over management of the Salt River Project directly to the Water Users’ Association: a precedent that would be followed on subsequent Reclamation-sponsored projects. On September 6, 1917, the two parties executed a "Contract Between United States Government and Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association". This agreement obligated the government to turn over to and vest in the said Association, the care, operation and maintenance of the irrigation works known as the Salt River consisting generally of the Roosevelt Dam, the Granite Reef Dam, irrigation canals, laterals, ditches... [and] all water rights and franchises, and rights to the storage, diversion and use of water for irrigation or other purposes [including] water power, and power privileges, with such right of possession of all thereof. The Water Users’ Association would receive to its own use and benefit, all the rents, issues, profits, revenues and income, including all income from power and power privileges growing out of or arising from the operation and maintenance of the project and every part thereof by it.

"...Execution of the 1917 contract signaled the official completion of the Salt River Project and the begirming of repayment of the millions of dollars expended by the government during the previous fifteen years. The Water Users' Association had not made a single payment to date, although its members were enjoying the benefits of the project. The signing of the contract initiated the repayment obligation. As stipulated in the contract,the Association was to pay off the $10.3 million debt through a series of annual installments (extended by Congress from the original 10 to 20 years). The Association was to repay two percent of the total loan each year (approximately $200,000) for the first four years; the annual payment would then increase to four percent (approximately $400,000) for two years, and then level off at six percent per year (approximately $600,000) for the remainder of the loan. Although the debt represented a substantial sum for area farmers, it would have been several times greater had Reclamation not been willing to forgive years of accrued interest on the balance. Proceeds for the annual payments were to be gathered from assessments made proportionately on each of the farmers who benefited from the project. The farmers’payments were to be made ostensibly from the increased profits cerived as a result of additional irrigation: as long as agricultural prices remained sufficiently high, the farmers would have little problem in paying off the government debt.

"...Facing the prospect of default by the Water Users’ Association, the government in 1922 amended the original contract to extend the time allowed for the scheduled 1920, 1921 and 1922 installments. In the early 1920s the Association leadership began to recognize that agricultural profits alone might not be enough to service the long-term debt that saddled the regional economy, despite the numerous de facto subsidies by the government. Contract extensions would forestall an economic crisis, but such repayment moratoria ultimately did nothing to alleviate the financial difficulties faced by the Association. It was in this context that SRVWUA began developing plans for a vastly enlarged hydroelectric power system that would produce a new source of revenue to payoff its debt to the government... the Association touted the revenues from additional power generation as the best means to repay the staggering debt associated with the con-struction of Roosevelt Dam.

"...The critical financial prerequisite to construction of the Stewart Mountain Dam involved a contract negotiated between the Water Users’ Association and the privately-owned Central Arizona Light and Power Company (CALAPCO) for the guaranteed purchase of power. Executed on February 8, 1928, the 50-year agreement stipulated that CALAPCO would purchase a minimum of 7000 kilowatts of electricity on a continuous basis for a minimum annual payment of $240,000 per year, to begin one year after first delivery of power from the Stewart Mountain plant. Beyond this minimal annual payment, the energy charge would be made at a rate of eight mills (08¢) per kilowatt hour.


See also note 26 regarding what should be a fairly comprehensive accounting of repayment and terms.

Note 26 of the technical report:

"The history of the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association repayments to the federal government from 1917 to 1945 is provided in the publication How Reclamation Pays: A Book of Project Repayment Histories and Payout Schedules With History of Crop Production (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947, pp.235-238. This publication also includes references to all the "Public Notices and Contracts" that had an effect on how the repayment had been handled."

Who removed my typo correction without fixing the typo?

That should read "Salt River Valley Water Users' Association" in the opening sentence of my comment above, not "Salt Water Valley Users' Association". Evidently I had is colloquially known as a brain fart. what

"Evidently I had what is colloquially known as a brain fart.". Again. ( This time maybe problems using the mobile to post, also.

And who exactly gets the money collected by the SRVWUV? A million dollar question for sure.

For Ruben: Can't answer the question about what happened to those fields. The likely answer is residential development. We know about jojoba from the papers of Tempe scientist Thomas Miwa, who had a lab and related business that attempted to certify true jojoba extract. Apparently there were imposters out there and no standards. Miwa viewed jojoba oil as a humane alternative to whale oil for use in cosmetics and other applications....

Re who got the money collected by the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association (SRVWUA), as I noted above:

"The Water Users’ Association would receive to its own use and benefit, all the rents, issues, profits, revenues and income, including all income from power and power privileges growing out of or arising from the operation and maintenance of the project and every part thereof by it."

The Association consisted of its individual members. So they got the money. But not all members were equal. No doubt they received a percentage of the profits (whether they were called profits, or dividends, or something else) in proportion to their investment, which means that the wealthiest received the lion's share. The Association may also have distinguished between controlling members and subsidiary members, with the latter receiving expanded water shares and free or subsidized electrical power from the hydroelectric generation, but little or no cash remuneration beyond a return with interest of their invested principal. The Association's numerous early problems (stemming in part from various agricultural crises) may well have further reduced the ranks of its members.

Exactly what organizational changes and legal developments have occurred in the intervening century is another question, but it seems sure that at least a few members became exceedingly wealthy as a result of control of the revenues from hydroelectric power sales.

I said something about the Association being given physical ownership of the facilities, in one of my comments above. That characterization was based on the following (also quoted above):

" On September 6, 1917, the two parties executed a "Contract Between United States Government and Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association". This agreement obligated the government to turn over to and vest in the said Association, the care, operation and maintenance of the irrigation works known as the Salt River consisting generally of the Roosevelt Dam, the Granite Reef Dam, irrigation canals, laterals, ditches... [and] all water rights and franchises, and rights to the storage, diversion and use of water for irrigation or other purposes [including] water power, and power privileges, with such right of possession of all thereof."

Note the phrase "with such rights of possession of all thereof". Also note the phrase "turn over to and vest in". Black's Law Dictionary defines "vested" as "...having the character and giving the rights of absolute ownership...". Of course, subsequently executed or renegotiated contracts could have changed this language.

Just stop to consider what a sweet deal this was for the 16th Territorial Governor and other founding members of the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association (SRVWUA): the federal government "loans" them the money to build a vast system of dams, etc. to assure limitless water supplies for this collection of ranchers and farmers, as well as electricity through the hydroelectric power generated by said water. Then the federal government gifts them the money to repay the loan by granting the Association full control of all revenues from hydroelectric power sales. The government might as well have handed them wheelbarrows of cash before asking to be "repaid" with a little of it.

The Association sells that electricity, not to its members, but to the Central Arizona Light and Power Company, then privately owned, which buys this cheap, government subsidized hydroelectrically generated electricity and sells it to urban households, industry and business, not at subsidized wholesale prices but at jacked up retail prices, for private profit.

What I'd like to know is how many of the Association's board members were also investors in or board members of the urban power company, CALAPCO.

I'd also like to know the behind the scenes machinations which resulted in the federal government gifting the Association with the works. Who was receiving kickbacks in exchange for supporting this looney arrangement?

I see this pattern over and over again, in the development of utilities, railroads, and contracted government services: public funds and resources used for private enrichment.

Re: jojoba fields ...

From Wiki article on jojoba: “Jojoba wax is used predominantly for pharmaceutical compounds, specially for skin products. After polymerization, factice can be used for rubber production.”

I’m going to take a total guess. Goodyear was using jojoba oil along with the Nile-like cotton to make tires at the time.

@Emil: The water aspects of organizations such as SRP are over emphasized in the public imagination. Like TVA, it’s an electric utility that has side businesses/responsibilities. The hydro-power resources of SRP are:
Roosevelt 36 MW
Horse Mesa 32
Mormon Flat 10
Stewart Mtn 13
Crosscut 3
Az. Falls .75
Sub Total 94.75 MW

It has allocations from:
Hoover 79 MW
Glen Canyon 100
Parker Dam 31.7
Sub Total 210.7 MW
Total Hydro 305.45 MW

Steam/gas turbine capacity (note some are part ownerships)
Four Corners 154 MW
Palo Verde 688
Navaho 488
Agua Falls 626
Coranado 785
Craig 250
Desert Basin 581
Hayden 131
Kyrene 410
Mesquite 625
Santan 1219
Springville 417
Total 6,374 MW

But these numbers can be deceptive. There is a number known as “capacity factor”. It is related to the utilization of a resource. For example Roosevelt
36 MW * 24 hours = 864 MW-hours
But if it only runs 8 hours per day (due to water storage constraints)
36 MW * 8 hours = 288 MW-hours
Daily capacity factor = 288/864 = 0.33

A good coal or nuclear plant has a capacity factor of .95 or higher.

The hydro-power generation and water storage are somewhat in conflict with each other. You can have lots of one or lots of the other – but typically not both.

Also some of the “gravity assist” delivery benefits are reduced by power generation.

Actually, wkg, SRP as we know it today didn't exist until 1936 or later, when the Arizona Legislature created a governmental Agricultural Improvement and Power District which had the ability and political structure to issue tax free bonds for project funding.

Power generation and water storage weren't in conflict as you portray, during the early days, as indicated by the 50 year contract under which the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association (SRVWUA) required then privately owned Central Arizona Light and Power Company (CALAPCO) to buy a minimum of 7,000 kilowatts (not megawatts) of electricity from the Stewart Mountain hydroelectric facility. When the contract was signed in 1928, Arizona's urban infrastructure, which CALAPCO marketed to, was not highly developed or populated.

P.S. That was 7,000 kilowatts annually.

A kilowatt (or megawatt) is a rate of transmission of energy. The unit for the amount of energy purchased or consumed, is the "kilowatt-hour." You likely meant that the utility was required to purchase 7,000 Kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy. That is less than what an average single residence consumes annually today.

Great stuff, Jon!

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