"The Owens Valley
Is the Only Source"

Upon his return to Los Angeles, Eaton began to act quickly.  Aware that Mulholland was searching for a new source of supply for Los Angeles, Eaton persuaded Mulholland to return to the valley with him.

Mulholland and Eaton also had much in common.  Both started their careers with the Los Angeles City Water Company, they had both served as superintendent, and both had gone on to careers with the City.

J.B. Lippincott, Fred Eaton and William Mulholland. This photograph appeared in the Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1906.

Eaton was confident.  He was sure the Owens River was the source Los Angeles needed for the future.  Draining the eastern slope of the great mountains for more than 150 miles, the river followed a natural course south toward Los Angeles.  Below the small lava flow at the southern end of the basin, Eaton pointed out the old river course, left over from the last ice age.  Mulholland saw that the course of the old river was a direct route to the mountains north of Los Angeles and that these mountains were the last barrier to delivering a new supply to the thirsty city.

Mulholland began to plot an alignment, devising a system of aqueducts and reservoirs to transport the water entirely by gravity flow.

Eatonís proposal to Mulholland was a joint venture.  Eaton would undertake to purchase the land and water rights and the City of Los Angeles would build the aqueduct.  Once constructed, the aqueduct would supply the city with the water it required, but surplus water would also be exported from the valley.  Eaton proposed that he export this water, paying the City a toll for its transportation, and selling it for irrigation purposes at the other end.

Mulholland agreed with Eaton, the project was viable.  He strongly disagreed, however, about the joint venture.

Mulholland, like Eaton, knew that the U.S. Reclamation Service was evaluating the potential for a reclamation project in the Owens Valley.  Mulholland realized that lands withdrawn from settlement for this purpose by the federal government could never be used for a venture that was not 100% public.

Eaton remained unconvinced.  In the 1800s and early 1900s, the American entrepreneur was a hero.  Men of great vision pursued great ventures, transcontinental railways, canals, and steamship lines among them.  Eaton clung to his ambitions for the project, but by November 1904 Mulholland had convinced him that there could be no joint venture.

Mulholland contacted Lippincott.  He requested that Lippincott provide him with a copy of the Reclamation Service report so that he could evaluate stream flows and the potential of the Owens River as a source of water.

Lippincott deferred to Newell in this matter.  Newell gave the report to Mulholland as a courtesy, but it only served to confirm Mulhollandís conviction that the Owens River was the only viable option for Los Angeles.

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