A Hundred or a
Thousand Fold More Important

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 Eaton’s options.

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 1.

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 the Aqueduct.

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.

The 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.

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