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."
The Chairman. Now, Mr. Lehane, the committee will hear from you.
Mr. Lehane. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I hope you will excuse me if I do not make as connected a statement as you might wish. I left home sick, and I have been in poor shape ever since. It is almost impossible for me to present even an outline of my view of this matter in the time allotted to me. However, I will try and skeletonize it as well as I can. There are some things in connection with this matter of which you will have to ask me afterwards, because it will be impossible for me to more than merely touch upon all the points that are involved.
I have here telegrams that have been sent to Senator Myers, chairman of
the Senate Committee on Public Lands, and I will read them. The first is
Henry L. Myers,
We, the undersigned committee, representing the water users of the Modesto irrigation district, 475 of whom have signed a petition to the effect that the lands tributary to the Tuolumne River are able and willing to store the Hetch Hetchy waters, and asking and urging that the Senate postpone action on the Raker bill and appoint a commission to investigate and report on our claims. Paid petition was signed by 99 per cent of the water users to whom presented. W. C. Lehane, of this committee, will represent us in person before your committee.
Mr. Winklebleck is head of the Dunkard settlement 5 miles east of Modesto, and when you get a Dunkard out rustling with public sentiment you may know that he has something at stake.
The next telegram I wish to read is from Mr. Thomas Caswell, and is as
Henry L. Myers,
The undersigned, representing the water users of the Turlock irrigation district, 100 of whom have this day signed a petition setting forth that lands contiguous to the Tuolumne River are ready and able to store the waters of the Hetch Hetchy, and request that the Senate postpone action on the Raker bill and appoint a committee to investigate and report on our claims. Said petition was signed by 98 per cent of the water users to whom it was presented.
Now, here is a telegram from the west side of the river, from the chamber
of commerce at Crows Landing, which is as
Henry L. Myers,
The chamber of commerce of Crows Landing urge delay in the passage of the Raker bill until you investigate the claims of the land on the west side of the San Joaquin River to water or power. W.C. Lehane will appear before you in our behalf.
W.P. Witten, Secretary.I will say, gentlemen, that the Modesto irrigation district lies north and west of the Tuolumne River. The Turlock irrigation district lies south and east, and the Turlock irrigation district is twice as large as our district. We have 81,000 acres; they have 176,000 acres. On the west side of the Tuolumne River is a strip of country, probably 8 or 10 miles wide, which runs down the San Joaquin River, down beyond Tracy. They are organized there now into what is known as the Tracy district.
I notice that district has been referred to in the House hearings as a
Five years ago, when I first purchased land near Modesto, I was solicited to buy land in the Waterford district, but at that time I could not figure out where they could get water, unless they took it out of the Tuolumne River, and I was not aware at that time that they would attempt to get water for the Waterford district; and if the Hetch Hetchy is granted to San Francisco they can not get water.
Our position is this: First, that if you give this water to San Francisco we
farmers down there will not have water enough to irrigate our lands. I say
"we farmers" because I am a farmer. Every year I have gone out with a
shovel to help distribute the water and to help in checking it, and I own
land in a good many States. We homesteaded in northwestern Iowa when I
was a boy. I have always owned land and taken an active interest in land
matters. Therefore what I have to say to you to-
Senator Norris. Now, Judge, would you rather not be interrupted, or would it bother you to have me ask you a question or two?
Mr. Lehane. I believe I would rather you would let me finish my
statement, for the reason that I can only just give a little outline of our
condition. I will be glad then to answer any questions I can. The first
question that would naturally arise to a person's mind is this: You say "you
have not got water enough that your rights will be affected." I want to say
in that connection that year I paid taxes on property in the city of Modesto
which the city assessor said was worth between forty-
The question is whether they will need all this water. I want to answer that
in the light of experience and actual experiments and practice. I have a
booklet with me here that shows Stanislaus County, the most beautiful
county in the State. If we had water for the full season there is not a word
or a statement in that booklet that wold not be verified. What is the actual
condition? We have water for only half the season. We begin irrigating in
Senator Norris. You are speaking of alfalfa?
Mr. Lehane. Yes; I am speaking of alfalfa. Alfalfa is our chief
crop. We are the leading dairy county because we have the best alfalfa in
the State. There is one creamery there in Modesto which makes four or
five thousand pounds of butter a day. We are a town which has grown
from 2,000 to 7,000 people in 10 years. We have just built a six-
Our water users are going on trying to perfect their system. You may say,"Didn't you know that all the time when you went in there; didn't you expect anybody else to go in there, too"? I answer, No, sir; we did not."
A big volume of water comes down and we expect to store that water. We have already put down a little storage reservoir in the foothills. It has seeped out and evaporated so badly that it is a question whether it will be of any value at all or not. We hope it will. We have spent $8.50 a foot in getting ready to store water. So far we have not been able to store that water.
Where are we going to get water? Apparently I now come into conflict
with the nature lover, but here is the point where perhaps we might fight.
Mr. Whitman, in his testimony before the House committee, said if the
irrigators below the Hetch Hetchy prove affirmatively that there was no
other site wherein they could store water to irrigate their lands that he
would give us the right to use the Hetch Hetchy Valley. I presume if
Congress would do what our board of trade has asked the Senate committee
to do, and appoint a committee and give it power and authority to
investigate our conditions out there-
This I do know: That in the report here Mr. O'Shaunessy, in testifying
before the House committee, said that 60 per cent of the flow of the
Tuolumne River over the La Grange Dam would be back of their dam in
Cherry Creek in the Hetch Hetchy, and in Lake Eleanor. Will you size up
what that means to a fellow down there who has been figuring on that
water all these years-
I will tell you how you can get water. If you are giving away Government
lands and Government dam sites, give it to us. Everybody around here to-
I said to him "Mr. Wagner, how expensive will it be to build that dam," and he figured around for a couple of hours and this is what he told me when he got done figuring, and this is just as good an estimate as any other engineer's report. He said, "I can build that for less than $1,500,000." "Well," I said, "Wadsworth says $3,000,000." "Well," he said, "you know when you build up there in San Francisco $2 does not buy you $1 worth of service. You know that." I said to him, "Well, now then, what else do you suppose we will have to buy; we will have to build roads." He said , "Yes; you will have to build roads," but he said, "I have built lots of roads in the Feather River country and the matter of road building is not a very expensive thing. There is not much of that that you need figure on as the heavy expense."
Then I turned over to the book here and found that it is estimated that it
would cost San Francisco for the Hetch Hetchy Dam, about $1,700,000.
You will read it here in the House report. They will talk it to you-
When I got down to business I found out all about it back here in the
testimony before the House committee. Here is what I read: Mr. Long
testified that they paid $81,000 for 720 acres in the valley, and they paid
$92,000 for what was needed from the Government and was to be used for
camp sites, etc. Their total investment for Hetch Hetchy purposes up to
date is $172,000, but for bluffers they are the best in the world. They talk
$1,750,000, which is just 10 times as much as it really is. I understand
some of them are charging up to the Hetch Hetchy everything they have to
spend for high-
Why can not we store the cheapest water there in the Sierras. The Turlock irrigation board is bonded right now for less than $15 per acre; the Modesto irrigation board is bonded for about $20 per acre; right across the river on the San Joaquin they are bonded for $56 per acre, and the right above us, between us and the La Grange Dam, is the Waterford irrigation district, organized with 20,000 acres, lying ahead. They would be tickled to death to be bonded to get water. We would use the districts right around in there, as shown by these telegrams, and the farmers are anxious and willing to get in and bond their lands to take from the Hetch Hetchy a water supply for that dry land.
I was very much pleased to hear the gentlemen express his tender solicitude
for the land close up to the Tuolumne River and his statement that it ought
to be protected. I feel that I have friends on this committee; I feel that I
am at home here; I feel that I am at the right place. Whenever I would go
to San Francisco, they would talk to me very much like you would talk to a
hayseed and a farmer. At least I have come to the place where the farmer
is the party at interest; where a bunch of farmers trying to make homes can
have their claims considered. We want to show you, and we can show you,
that we need all this water for our lands. It seems to me that it is not their
to us to have San Francisco take the water which the man on the little 40-
Well, next year we are going to get our reservoir." We are trying to do what we can, but it takes five years to do what a business man would do in a year.
Yet in spite of all the obstacles, in spite of all the opposition, we have made
progress, we have made development in the last 10 years which is
something phenomenal, and I think as great, if not greater, than that which
has gone on all over the State of California, and, if you will just give us
this water, I know that we will make my section the most prosperous part
of the United States. The question is, How can you do this thing? It is the
easiest thing in the world. The district will issue bonds. We built the dam,
the La Grange Dam, in common with the Turlock side. We are making
progress there. We have come to a time when we must consolidate lots of
our interest in the work of the irrigation districts. We are going to work
pretty soon. We are beginning by employing an expert engineer. The
cooperative plan is coming stronger and stronger up there every day. In
our irrigation deals we have to have high-
Now, I want to say one word about the west side. The west side does not expect to get water out of this river, because it would have to pipe it across the river.
Senator Norris. What do you mean by the west side?
Mr. Lehane. I mean, the west side of Stanislaus County and San Joaquin County, which lies on the west side of the San Joaquin River. It is a strip of land usually 10 or 12 miles wide, extending clear down the river.
Senator Thompson. Have you a map?
Mr. Lehane. I have a map, but it only covers a portion of the west side. You will notice there a little fringe [indicating]. That represents the strip to which I am referring. The soil is most beautiful black loam, the finest soil that ever lay outside of doors. Right in here is 50,000 acres of land, of which 25,000 acres would be glad to come in.
Now, I will tell you just what you people could do if you wanted to do it,
and what you people could do if you would let us do it. We could store
Somebody intimated that they were buncoed. As a matter of fact, if they would go ahead and develop the water power in there in Cherry Creek and Lake Eleanor they were not buncoed, and that water power would be worth many times what the investment was. But they not only want Lake Eleanor and Cherry Creek, but they want to take the last available site away, take away our water and our power, and you tell about giving things to the people. I want to know what is the matter with the people of our country down here. We have miles and miles of country. What is the matter with giving the water to the people to put on that land? It belongs to us just as much as it does to the people of San Francisco. In fact, it is all we have. The people of San Francisco have the whole Sacramento Valley to go into and get power. The people of San Francisco have the whole Sacramento Valley to go to and get water; and I tell you it was an unfortunate day for us when they turned their covetous eyes upon our country. It was an unfortunate day for us when they determined they would make a depredation upon us.
Senator Thompson. What is the population of your district?
Mr. Lehane. I think it is something like thirty-
Senator Norris. Where do you get your water now?
Mr. Lehane. We get our water out of the Tuolumne River, about 2 miles east of Modesto.
Senator Norris. Of course, we can not deprive you in this bill of anything to which you are entitled under the law. You have your vested rights under the California statutes.
Mr. Lehane. We are getting all that we are entitled to under the agreement we have. Of course, we did not know in the beginning of this inquiry that we were not to be allowed to introduce any evidence. We had no means of knowing of the agreement which was entered into by you gentlemen this morning. I would like, and I would be glad, to submit to you an annual report on irrigation and drainage by the Department of Agriculture.
Senator Chamberlain. Were not you people before the House committee?
Mr. Lehane. I was not before the House committee.
Senator Chamberlain. Those who represented you were before the House committee, were they not? Were you not represented?
Senator Thompson. I think that is fact.
Senator Thomas. Yes; they were all there. We can read their statements in the hearings.
Mr. Lehane. You can all get those things, but in candor, gentlemen, how many of you are going to look for them. As a matter of fact, a United States Senator, with all the press of business on him that comes here, will not look unless the explosion sounds like a giant firecracker. Unless that happens it is never heard.
Senator Thomas. That report of Elwood Meade refers to a great industry out in the arid West, and a number of us on this committee are from that section of the country. I am familiar with Mr. Elwood Meade's work on that subject.
Congressman Raker. In addition to that the gentlemen who
represented these irrigation districts before the committee had the report of
the Conservation Board of California, which contains about 1,500 pages,
clear up to date.