Hearing before the Senate Committee on Public Lands (Sixty-third Congress, First Session) on H.R. 7207, a bill "granting to the city and county of San Francisco certain rights of way in, over, and through certain public lands, the Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest, and certain lands in the Yosemite National Park, the Stanislaus National Forest, and the public lands in the state of California, and for other purposes."
Senator Norris. What would be a reasonable construction of that?
Mr. Johnson. I say you are paying a collossal price for San Francisco's water.
Senator Norris. What I object to, Mr. Johnson,is the assumption that any man who happens to think this bill is conservation-
Mr. Johnson. Undoubtedly.
Senator Norris (continuing). That any accusation should be made that the people who may perhaps believe that this is conservation are in any way objectionable. This is water power, is it not?
Mr. Johnson. Yes, sir.
Senator Norris. I have wondered many times since you were talking-
Mr. Johnson. Are you familiar with what the press has been saying about this?
Senator Norris. Yes; I have written to one or two of the papers asking where they got their information. They tell about the great influence brought to bear to get this measure through, and so on. As a Member of Congress, I want to say that I do not know of any influence anybody has attempted on me to favor this bill that would compare in volume to that which has come from the opponents of this bill. I have had hundreds of letters and circulars and documents, received from all over the United States from people who are opposed to it. I will confess that I became suspicious and I started in with a different mind from what I have now. I became suspicious from the fact that I got so many hundreds of these letters from all over the country, all of them protesting against this bill and saying, "For God's sake save Hetch Hetchy."
Senator Chamberlain. I have also received many of the same nature.
Senator Norris. I do not doubt their honesty. I think they are sincere in what they believe; but I wondered what the source of all that agitation was.
Mr. Johnson. The force is that the public has discovered for the first time the danger of what they are losing. If you were opposed to this measure, what would you do?
Senator Norris. I would oppose this bill and do what I thought was right in my opposition to it; but, Mr. Johnson, there has been some organized propaganda carried on from some central point manufacturing this sentiment, because when I wrote to these men they replied: "Well, I don't know anything about it; I heard that they are going to destroy something there and give it to a Water Power Trust." I do not know that that term has been used.
Before I went into the effect of it I thought there was some great big Water Power Trust, but it seems to me that if we are giving to San Francisco this immense water power we are doing what everybody concedes is in the true interest of the country and the true interest of conservation. I am not willing to have anybody accuse me of being an anti-
Mr. Johnson. And all that time I have taken at my own expense and from my own view of what is for the interest of the people of the country.
Senator Norris. I have no doubt as to your sincerity. But I have wondered if you have not become overenthusiastic.
Mr. Johnson. What do you mean by overenthusiastic?
Senator Norris. I mean that you have become so enthusiastic that you only see one side of the proposition.
Mr. Johnson. My dear Senator, I have been engaged in this thing from the start. I can not claim to know everything about it, but I have followed this thing for 10 or 12 years and I feel that I have some knowledge about it.
Senator Norris. There is one of your letters, Mr. Johnson, and I want to call your attention to it, and that is one of the things which I think shows your enthusiasm.
Mr. Johnson. Why should we not be enthusiastic?
Senator Norris. I think sometimes a man gets enthusiastic until he becomes unreasonable on the subject. It may be that you are not one of those men.
Mr. Johnson. Oh, I submit my document or argument to the appeal of reason.
Senator Norris. I am going to submit this to the same course right now and ask you what you think about it. This is from your letter. You say:
I do not believe this legislation is being railroaded through Congress; but you say:
If the legislation is not railroaded through Congress, and even fuller reportof the Mokelumne resources than that of the Engineer Bartel will be presented,along with an offer of rights and sites by the Sierra Blue LakesWater Power Co.
The advantages claimed for this source over that of Hetch Hetchy are:
(1) It would obviate the invasion of your national park.
(2) It would save 70 miles of tunneling, much of it through solid rock.
(3) It would be a shorter route by 65 miles.
(4) It could be completed in 4 years as against the 10 needed to make Hetch Hetchy available.
(5) Its owners will offer it to the city at a price to be arbitrated.
(6) Its watershed is virtually in a forest reserve, not a national park, and thus is more fully protected than a scenic resort like Hetch Hetchy.Those are the six reasons you give why this Mokelumne supply would be better than the Hetch Hetchy supply.
Mr. Johnson. I so claimed; yes.
Senator Norris. Did you write this letter before you knew that all these things were false? Did you not know that Mr. Sullivan, who represents this company, came before the House committee, and his testimony is in the record, and that it was clearly shown from his own cross-
Mr. Johnson. I have not read his testimony.
Senator Norris. Well, then, that relieves you from any criticism, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson. I have not read his testimony.
Senator Norris. That testimony showed, and I think it is conceded by everybody, that this was in plain words nothing but a humbug; that he had nothing; that he had nothing to give in the first place; that it was simply an attempt on his part to try to get something out of the city of San Francisco. To show you the fairness of the House committee, they adjourned their hearings in June clear over to July on a request by this man Sullivan by telegram to hear him.
Mr. Johnson. I have no brief for Mr. Sullivan in the matter.
Senator Norris. It seems that, coming from a man of your reputation, things of that kind would have an impression that you would not want to give to the country. Your other sources of information are good, I have no doubt; but it is certain that this statement by Mr. Sullivan amounts to nothing.
Mr. Johnson. Mr. Taggart Aston, of San Francisco, is my authority for those statements.
Senator Norris. I want to ask you about those reports you spoke of as being suppressed-
Mr. Johnson. The Army report shows that with the exception of the Sacramento no other source except the Hetch Hetchy has been thoroughly and completely investigated. It shows, as I recall it, that it has had facilities to make these investigations.
I think Col. Biddle said in so many words that whether there was any suppression of the report by somebody or not, that he did not; that it would not have made any difference in his report, but that he made his report on his own investigation.
Mr. Dunnigan. I wish to correct an error there. The Army board had Mr. Bartel before them at the hearing in San Francisco and they had frequent conferences with him.
Senator Norris. Mr. Johnson, as tending to show that this matter has been heard a good while ago, and that you have been heard on it yourself, you appeared before Mr. Fisher, did you not?
Mr. Johnson. Yes.
Senator Norris. And as tending to show your enthusiasm now, I want to ask you, as I have the quotation here before me, in order that you may have an opportunity to deny it if you desire to, because I would not like to frame as being true if it is not true-
Now, that is obviously true. Would you say that that ought to settle this question?
Mr. Johnson. If, after you have exhausted the other sources of supply fromthe Sierras, you find that no one of those sources would be adequate, and youdo know that by distilling water from the ocean you could supply that, I shouldsay that undoubtedly it was the duty of the authorities to do that.
Mr. Fisher. Rather than take the Hetch Hetchy waters?
Mr. Johnson. Certainly.
Mr. Fisher. Even though it might cost-
Mr. Johnson. It would be well invested.
Mr. Johnson. That latter part about that $100,000,000 between myself and the Secretary was mere pleasantry; but the time is perhaps come when the distillation of sea water for domestic purposes will be possible.
Senator Norris. Mr. Johnson, the question is whether it is possible now. It is possible now, as I understand it. Do you think we ought to compel San Francisco to go to that length before we give her the Hetch Hetchy Valley?
Mr. Johnson. Not at all. Now, gentlemen, I do not wish to be driven into a corner on a pleasantry of that sort. That is a hypothetical question. I was leaving at that moment to go to a funeral of a friend who had just died that morning, and in this manner of pleasantry I replied in that way to Mr. Fisher. In all seriousness, if you ask me whether San Francisco should pay that amount for its water I should say no. Take the Hetch Hetchy.
Senator Norris. Then the other part of it was a pleasantry, too, that you thought they ought to distill the water?
Mr. Johnson. No; not at all.
Senator Norris. I want to say, Mr. Johnson, that I got this out of the Congressional Record and I brought it to your attention as much for your own sake as for anybody else's.
Mr. Johnson. I thank you. But the facts can not be in any way altered that it was a pleasantry that I had with Secretary Fisher.
Senator Norris. No.
Mr. Johnson. And if you ask me in all seriousness whether we ought to give the Hetch Hetchy to San Francisco rather than have San Francisco pay $100,000,000 a year. I say give them the valley at once.
Senator Norris. I ask you in all seriousness if you think that we ought to compell San Francisco to take the water from the ocean and distill it rater than give them the Hetch Hetchy?
Mr. Johnson. No; it is not necessary, because there are many other sources.
Senator Norris. But you have not answered my question yet, Mr. Johnson. I have asked you whether, assuming all the other sources are gone, that they are all used and that the Hetch Hetchy is the only one left, would you compel San Francisco to distill the waters of the Pacific Ocean rather than give them the Hetch Hetchy Valley?
Mr. Johnson. No.
Senator Norris. That is what I want to know, and I am glad to hear that.
Senator Thomas. Mr. Johnson, I would like to ask you one or two questions and I would like also to preface my questions by a short statement. I suppose the Assouan Dam on the Nile is one of the most expensive if not the most expensive irrigating projects in the world. It has drawn a good many thousand acres of otherwise barren land into fertility and productivity and has practically transformed the face of Egypt. In the building of that dam it was necessary to submerge one of the greatest ruins of antiquity.
Mr. Johnson. You refer to the ruins of Phyle?
Senator Thomas. I refer to the ruins of Phyle. They are practically at the bottom of that enormous reservoir. The ruins of Phyle I think were regarded by everybody as among the most spacious and most beautiful of all the ruins of ancient antiquity.
Mr. Johnson. I will not go that far with you, but I think they were beautiful.
Senator Thomas. I said one of the most beautiful of all antiquity. Now, would you say that the submersion of the ruins of Phyle was too great a price to pay for the reclamation of 100,000 acres of Egyptian desert which now blooms with fertile crops for the benefit of humanity?
Mr. Johnson. No, sir.
Senator Thomas. You think that is justified
Mr. Johnson. I could not say that, because in that instance there was no other alternative. In this instance there are many alternatives.
Senator Thomas. There is a difference of opinion about that.
Mr. Johnson. You must permit me, Senator, to have my opinion. I am trying to answer you practically in this matter.
Senator Chamberlain Would you say that San Francisco, if she could get the water supply somewhere else that cost a very much larger sum than this will cost, ought to exhaust that resource first before she goes to Hetch Hetchy?
Mr. Johnson. I think so.
Senator Chamberlain. No matter what the cost might be?
Mr. Johnson. I can not say that, because if it were to cost $100,000,000 a year I should say take the Hetch Hetchy.
Senator Chamberlain. I have been reading over some of the criticisms in this pamphlet you handed about the committee room a while ago. I notice that some of them come from cities that have gotten their water supply in exactly the same way as San Francisco is now petitioning for her water supply. Take the Bull Run reservoir, of Portland, Oreg., where 20,000 acres was created into a reserve for the purpose of giving them an adequate water supply. You have some in Colorado, too.
Mr. Johnson. I do not quite see the force of your argument as to that.
Senator Chamberlain. Some of these criticisms of Congress for granting San Francisco the right to Hetch Hetchy, for which the city has applied, come from cities that have done the same thing.
Mr. Johnson. They come from cities; they do not come from city organizations, they come from the locality.
Senator Pittman. The papers that clamored for the water supply for their own cities are now criticizing California for making the same request of Congress. You do not mean, Mr. Johnson, that this dam would entirely destroy the beauty of this valley?
Mr. Johnson. That this dam would entirely destroy it?
Senator Pittman. Yes.
Mr. Johnson. I think there is some beauty in the cliffs that are left. I think it destroys the individuality in which consists the attractiveness of that valley, and it is a great, phenomenal, wonderful valley.
Senator Pittman. We have some pictures on the wall of the committee room. The middle picture and the one on the extreme right are both pictures of the Hetch Hetchy Valley as it appears to-
Mr. Johnson I would rather have a photograph from nature, rather than some one's imagination of it. I think that is assuming the whole question. It is begging the whole question.
Senator Pittman. But it gives you the idea of how the valley would look. The water is undoubtedly at the level at which it would be. You can judge that without even measurement by looking at this other picture. By looking at this water fall in the center of the picture you can see that the elevation of that water in that valley is approximately correct. I call attention to the timber line around he right bank. It does not take in any of the timber line around that valley; it does not make it unapproachable, as is shown by that photograph. It seems to me that is a very beautiful valley.
Mr. Whitman. The timber in the front and on this side [indicating] is on top of the cliff.
Mr. Johnson. It is not in the valley there; it is not on the valley level.
Senator Pittman. But it goes show that that will be a most beautiful spot, with that lake there, and that it will no interfere with any amount of timber there.
Mr. Johnson. Well, Mr. Chairman, I am reminded by that of a statement of Dr. Channing when some one spoke to him of mere morality. He said, when some one spoke to him of mere morality,it was like saying, "Poor God, with nobody to help Him."
This is scenery made by the hands of the Creator. It is phenomenal scenery. If it were any ordinary scenery, we should not be here to discuss the question with you. There could be no objection whatever; there is not a man opposed to this bill to-
Senator Norris. I like to see them enthusiastic.
Mr. Johnson. When I cease to be enthusiastic then I say "Bassanio is dead."
Senator Norris. Still we ought sometimes to take the other fellow's viewpoint and sometimes we get so enthusiastic that we only see our own viewpoint.
Mr. Johnson. My dear sir, the trouble about this country is that it is losing its standards. One viewpoint is about as good as another. I say to you that the time has come to stand by our standards. That is what I have done for forty-
Senator Norris. I agree with you that we ought to stand by them.
Mr. Johnson. Gentlemen, I wish to thank you very much for the kind attention you have given me. I feel very grateful to you for the way you have listened to my statement.