[env-trinity] NY Times April 29 10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Apr 29 11:44:58 PDT 2010
I've posted two of these obituaries already, but this one from the New York
Times is far superior to the others (as usual). See highlighted portions of
one of the sentences.
Dominy's death reminded me of a statement made to all attendees by Dan
Nelson of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority at a meeting on the
"Future of the Western San Joaquin Valley," sponsored by the U. C. Berkeley
Agricultural and Resource Economics Department at its Agricultural Station
in Parlier, a few years ago. As accurately as I can remember (Dominy's
stated reply I remember very accurately), Nelson said he had run into Floyd
Dominy in the lobby of a hotel in Southern California recently, and among
other things, asked Dominy if he felt that he had ever made a mistake in all
that he had pursued as Commissioner at Reclamation. Nelson said that after
some thought, Dominy replied, "Signing the Westlands Water District water
delivery contract before we had the drainage problem solved."
I also remember clearly the role Dominy and construction of the Trinity
Division of the Central Valley Project played in California politics. A
congressman from Red Bluff who was not widely known in the state, Claire
Engle, was interested in running for the U. S. Senate. Dominy told him that
if he wanted to expand his base financially and in other ways to more of
California, adding a Trinity Division to the Central Valley Project and
exporting Trinity water to Westlands would be extremely helpful to him. As
you know, the dams were built and Engle made it to the Senate.
Well.as Congressman Engle told the Trinity County Board of Supervisors in
promoting construction of the dam(s) as reported in the TRINITY JOURNAL on
February 28, 1952, the Trinity Project "does not contemplate diversion of
one bucketful of water which is necessary in this watershed." He stated
further, "The argument that it (building of the dams) would ruin fishing is
nonsense." We early on learned the facts, the results of that political
career enhancing move.
F. E. Dominy, Who Harnessed Water in the American West, Is Dead at 100
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: April 28, 2010
Floyd E. Dominy, a child of the Dust Bowl who pursued his dream of improving
nature and human society by building vast water projects in the West -
steamrolling over pristine canyons, doubtful politicians and irate
conservationists - died on April 20 in Boyce, Va. He was 100.
bars=no,resizable=yes')> Enlarge This Image
Los Angeles Times
Floyd E. Dominy, in 1966, with a model of one of the projects he fostered as
commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.
His family announced the death.
Even before he became the longest-serving commissioner of the federal
<http://www.usbr.gov/> Bureau of Reclamation (1959 to 1969), Mr. Dominy, as
a rising bureaucrat, showed a knack for persuading senators and
representatives to push ahead with massive dams in the arid West.
Marc Reisner in his 1986 book, "Cadillac Desert: The American West and its
Disappearing Water," said Mr. Dominy cultivated Congress "as if he were
tending prize-winning orchids."
Mr. Reisner quoted an official in the
r_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Interior Department, of which the
Reclamation Bureau is a part, as saying, "Dominy yanked money in and out of
those congressmen's districts like a yo-yo."
Mr. Dominy, who was not an engineer, worked his political and administrative
magic in completing the
<http://www.canyon-country.com/lakepowell/gcdam.htm> Glen Canyon,
Flaming Gorge and
Dams in the upper Colorado River basin, and the Trinity River part of
California's Central Valley Project, among many others. The projects stored
and regulated water flow, generated electric power and created lakes for
recreation. They enabled crops and cities to sprout from the desert.
But they also sometimes drowned thousands of years of Native American
history, and millions of years of natural history - not to mention
destroying fish habitats. David Brower, the founding director of the
<http://www.sierraclub.org/> Sierra Club, called his own acceptance of the
Glen Canyon dam - in return for the bureau's pulling back on another - his
Mr. Dominy took the opposite view in a speech in North Dakota in 1966,
calling a Colorado River without dams "useless to anyone." He added, "I've
seen all the wild rivers I ever want to see."
Michael L. Connor, the current head of the bureau, said in a speech in 2009
that the agency had 472 dams, and was the nation's largest water wholesaler,
serving 31 million people. Sixty percent of the nation's vegetables and a
quarter of its fruit and nuts are grown with "Reclamation water," Mr. Connor
The sheer size of this plumbing empire has long caused friction with
politicians from other regions, as well as sparked concern among White House
budget hawks. Mr. Dominy argued forcefully that fruits and vegetables grown
during the winter months improved the health of all Americans, and that
reservoirs created by the bureau attracted more vacationers than national
He could even ascend to lyricism, as he did in describing Lake Powell, which
the Glen Canyon Dam would create in 1966. In a book distributed by the
Bureau of Reclamation called
"Lake Powell: Jewel of the Colorado," he wrote, "Dear God, did you cast down
two hundred miles of canyon and mark, 'For poets only'? Multitudes hunger
for a lake in the sun."
Mr. Brower countered that the lake's pre-emption of natural habitat could
also ultimately affect multitudes. "A thousand people a year times ten
thousand years will never see what was here," he said.
Floyd Elgin Dominy was born on a farm in Adams County, Neb., on Dec. 24,
1909. His family lacked an indoor toilet. He graduated from the
ity_of_wyoming/index.html?inline=nyt-org> University of Wyoming with a
degree in agricultural economics, briefly taught school and then became an
agricultural extension agent in Wyoming. He hit upon the idea of helping
farmers build small dams to store water for their livestock, and built 300
in the county.
"That was more than in the whole rest of the West," he said in an interview
with Mr. Reisner. "I was a one-man Bureau of Reclamation."
During World War II, Mr. Dominy helped establish instant farms to provide
food for miners and loggers dumped into foreign jungles to harvest critical
materials for the war effort. After the war, he returned to Washington, went
to a phone booth and called the Reclamation Bureau. He had a job in three
hours, Mr. Reisner said.
Mr. Dominy's rise in the bureau was rapid. After starting in 1946, he became
assistant commissioner in 1957, associate commissioner in 1958 and
commissioner in 1959. He did not behave like a cookie-cutter bureaucrat. Mr.
Reisner called him "freewheeling and reckless," while Mr. Connor chose the
phrase "larger than life."
Mr. Dominy's wife of 53 years, the former Alice Criswell, died in 1982. He
is survived by his daughters, Janice DeBolt and Ruth Swart Young; his son,
Charles; eight grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren; and one
Mr. Dominy was proud of his role in lubricating the development of America's
West. One thing he did question in an interview with The Sacramento Bee in
2002 was the government's selling water so cheaply that there was little
incentive to conserve.
"It almost staggers my mind when I fly over Phoenix," he said, "and see all
those swimming pools."
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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