Hundred or a
Austin’s protest to Theodore Roosevelt in August prompted
the appointment of a special investigator to examine the role of the
Reclamation Service, and specifically Lippincott.
The special investigator found fault with both Lippincott
and the City. He blamed the
City for “not at once present(ing) their claims to the Secretary of
the Interior so that the situation might have been determined on its
merits in the beginning.” Lippincott’s
failure was his inability to recognize his primary obligation to the
Reclamation Service. Lippincott’s
defense echoed the sentiments of his president, “I firmly believe that
I have acted for the greatest benefit of the greatest number, and for
the best building up of this section of the country.”
Lippincott was absolved of any blame that he assisted Eaton
in securing options; however, the investigator’s evaluation of
Lippincott’s behavior ranged from “peculiarly unfortunate (the
camping trip to the Sierras)” to “Ill advised…improper…farcical
(Eaton’s research for Lippincott).”
Mulholland’s preliminary estimate for the cost of the
project, including water rights and land, was $25 million.
Upon his recommendation, the Board of Water Commissioners chose
to undertake the project, using its own resources to purchase Fred
In order to finance the project though, they needed
community support. They
began by enlisting the help of the community’s leaders.
Among the first people the Board took into their confidence were
the President of the Chamber of Commerce, J.O. Koepfli, and Los Angeles
Times publisher, Harrison Gray Otis.
Through publicity generated both by the Times’ editorial
position and investigations conducted by the Chamber of Commerce, the
community rallied to support the initial bond issue to purchase land and
begin preliminary construction.
The $1.5 million bond issue was approved by more than 10 to
The City hired a prestigious team of engineers to examine
the feasibility of the project. Their
report states, “We find the project admirable in conception and
outline and full of promise for the continued prosperity of Los
Angeles.” The Board of
Water Commissioners appointed William Mulholland, Chief Engineer, Bureau
of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
That same year, 1906, the final verdict on the Los Angeles
aqueduct was rendered by the highest authority.
On May 13th, the City submitted an application
for rights of way across federal lands for the purpose of constructing
In June, California Senator Frank Flint proposed a bill to
grant these rights of way. It
easily passed the Senate but ran into trouble in the House of
Representatives where Congressman Sylvester Smith of Inyo County had
organized an opposition to the bill.
His argument was that Los Angeles did not require the water now,
but was seeking to acquire it for future needs.
City planned to include power plants in the project.
These power plants would require a constant flow of water.
This water would be transmitted by the City but was not required
for domestic use. The
City’s plan was to sell the water for irrigation.
Smith argued that irrigation in Southern California should
not take place at the expense of irrigation in the Owens Valley.
While Smith negotiated a “no irrigation” compromise, Flint
went directly to a higher authority.
His appeal to Theodore Roosevelt met with a sympathetic
hearing. Roosevelt, on June
25th, called a meeting of Flint, Secretary of the Interior
Ethan A. Hitchcock, Bureau of Forests Commissioner Gifford Pinchot, and
Director of the Geological Survey Charles D. Walcott.
At the end of that meeting Roosevelt dictated the letter which
would end the debate,”…yet it is a hundred or a thousand fold more
important to the state and more valuable to the people as a whole if
used by the city than if used by the people of the Owens Valley.”
On June 30, 1906 Los Angeles had the law which would permit
the dream to become a reality.
In 1907, the voters of Los Angeles again gave their
overwhelming endorsement to this project, approving a $23 million bond
issue for aqueduct construction. The
only task that remained was to build it.