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The Pima did not desire groundwater, believing it caused bowel and kidney problems and killed cattle and horses.489 In a letter to Hitchcock and Leupp, Antonio Azul requested stored water from the Salt River project. This water could be transported by canal to Pima lands, the chief informed the two men, through a highline canal.490 Code 486 Hearings before the Committee on Expenditures in the Interior Department of the House of Representatives on House Resolution No. 103, Part 5, p. 127. Valentine addressed the issue of water rights, noting “the taking out of water by the settlers … very seriously threatened the water of the Pima Indians, and I am not sure now … whether the Pima Indians lost substantially all of their water rights except to the flood waters or not, but I am under the impression that they did … by the beneficial use of the water [by non-Indians] above them.” 487 The Winters decision applied to the Fort Belknap Reservation and was interpreted as applying to treaty reservations only. It would not be until 1963 in the Arizona vs. California decision that the Winter’s Doctrine was recognized as applying to all tribes, whether or not created or recognized by treaty. The Pima Reservation was created by an Act of Congress in 1859 and was enlarged by Presidential Executive Order. For the 1916 decision, see United States vs. Wightman, 230 Federal Reporter 277 (1916).
488 Hearings before the Committee on Expenditures in the Interior Department of the House of Representatives on House Resolution No. 103, part 16, pp. 654-656.
489 Book A, Dr. Cook’s First Record Book, (hereafter Cook’s First Record Book) Record Group 1, File 13, Charles Cook Collection, Cook College and Theological School, Tempe, Arizona, p. 103.
490 “Letter from Antonio Azul and Pima Headmen to Secretary Hitchcock and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis E. Leupp,” dated March 1, 1906, in ibid, pp. 79-80. See also “A Storage Reservoir,” The Arizona Republican, July 15, 1902 and July 25, 1902.
The Republican expressed its opinion that the Highland and Consolidated canals running south from the Salt River to the northern boundary of the reservation could be extended to convey Salt River project water for “at least 15,000 acres of land on the reservation.” 211 did not share Azul’s view and he did not wish to include Pima land in the SRVWUA, seeking instead to have the government construct a power plant on the Salt River and transport electrical power to the reservation. As a backup energy supply, Code solicited approval to build an auxiliary 500-kilowatt steam plant on the reservation to generate power.
substantial portion of the hydroelectric power plant below Roosevelt Dam. Code was more than “willing to pay the [Pima’s] proportionate part” of the Salt River project using Pima funds.491 Leupp agreed since he believed any water rights the Pima had would be permanently lost if the water were not quickly put to beneficial use under local law.
potential doom for the Pima. Signed by Interior Secretary James Garfield on behalf of the Pima and Benjamin Fowler and Frank Parker on behalf of the SRVWUA, the contract provided the Association with a significant customer for its surplus electrical power. The success of the Pima—and the protection of their water—was now dependent on the completion of Roosevelt Dam and the generation of electrical power in the Salt River Valley. The contract itself provided for the sale of 1,000 horsepower of electricity to the Pima for $300,000. But this was simply the right to use electrical power; it still had to be purchased. And this power was only available “out of the excess power over and above
that which may be needed by the members of the Association.”492 The Indian Service immediately transferred $100,000 to the Reclamation Service.
Under the Sacaton Contract, 10,000 acres of reservation land was to be part of the Salt River project for determining costs (and the Pima paid their proportionate share), but the Indians were not made members of the SRVWUA, although the contract included the caveat that once the Indians became owners severally in fee simple—and at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior—their lands could be made part of the Association. Under no circumstances was water to be furnished to the reservation. Former Territorial Governor and Judge Joseph Kibbey, who drafted the document, admitted non-Indians would not have entered into such a contract. Nonetheless, Code approved it.493 By so doing, the Indian Service—knowingly or not—committed itself to a policy that complemented the scheme laid out by Code. Once the groundwater project was initiated, the Pima would be unable to pay the costs associated with repaying the construction and operation and maintenance charges of the project, thereby forcing them to sell a large portion of their reservation.
With the contract in hand, the well project continued and provided Code with a legal means of detaching the western half of the reservation and throwing it open to nonIndian speculators. With the completion of the Salt River project, this land would become valuable as it was susceptible to irrigation from the Salt River. Since the Sacaton Project (as the reservation project became known) obligated the Indians to repay $540,000, Code
now recommended the sale of 180,000 acres of the reservation at $3 per acre, even though land with water was selling at more than $100 per acre.
In January 1905, the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs met to discuss the Sacaton Project. Testifying before the subcommittee, Newell explained that a power plant along the Salt River was essential to the project, as it would produce electricity to “pump water for the Pima Indians from beneath the surface of their own land.” Newell underscored the fact the funds by law would have to be repaid. This could be done only by opening to sale a portion of the reservation “not now utilized or occupied by the Indians, [but] which may have some value in the future.” Newell assured the Senators that groundwater was “the only feasible proposition for supplying these Indians with water.”494 Davis concurred with Newell’s position that the project would have to be repaid through the sale of unallotted lands. When Leupp was informed, he referred the matter to Code, who having devised the plan believed the whole matter “extremely favorable to the Indians.” Code did make two exemptions to the land to be sold. He excluded 1,500 acres at Maricopa Colony (with Salt River Haggard Decree water rights) and 5,000 acres near Gila Crossing (with seepage water).495 Code sought to irrigate 10,000 acres on the north side of the river at Santan. Even with exemptions at Maricopa Colony and Gila Crossing, 10,000 acres at Santan was too few to meet the needs of the Pima. Newell admitted this in 1905 but opined that Pima
farmers only needed an “average of 4 or 5 acres of good irrigated land” to support their families. This was clearly discriminatory, as non-Indians could acquire 160 acres of land under the Homestead Act or 320 acres under the Desert Land Act. The Indian Service, however, opposed larger allotments, fearing it would have to provide water to all allottees. With nearly 5,000 Pima eligible to receive an allotment, 800,000 acres would have to be allotted with some portion of each allotment provided with water if each Pima were to receive a 160 acre homestead. This was twice the size of the reservation and would require all the water of the Gila River, a plan government officials rejected as impractical and limiting efficient use of the water by non-Indians. Newell, not surprisingly, sought small Indian allotments that would keep irrigation costs to a minimum and at the same time free up water for off-reservation use.496 A year earlier, Newell submitted to Charles Walcott, Director of the USGS, a report on potential groundwater development on the reservation. With groundwater pumping in its infancy, many of the wetlands along the Gila River supported an abundance of wildlife in the many swamps and sloughs along the river. A constant discharge of water from these wetlands fed the river and kept Pima canals on the west end of the reservation flowing. Large springs near Gila Crossing, for instance, “boil[ed] up from the sand below” the river and supplied water in even the driest years.497 The perpetual water supply survived not from the surface flow of the river but from the subflow. By 1903, the river rarely flowed across the eastern half of the reservation except during flood season. With local precipitation insufficient to supply the
underflow, the water came from the subsurface flow of the river and its tributary washes.498 Hill estimated the subsurface flow of the Gila River to be “of an indefinite” quantity.499 The quantity of water that could be pumped each year was somewhere between 35,830 and 278,256 acre-feet. “There is enough water,” USGS engineer Willis Lee concluded, “if the computations be correct, at present within pumping distance of the surface to supply the Indians for twenty-eight to forty-nine years.”500 Lee did not favor seepage ditches as the means of securing water for the Pima, preferring pumping plants. Ten such plants could furnish 64,350 acre-feet of water annually, more than the 40,000 acre-feet the Indian Service deemed necessary for the Pima. Based on these calculations, it was probable that water could “be drawn from the underflow of the Gila River Valley, not only to supply the needs of the Indians but to materially extend the cultivated area [of non-Indians] without exhausting the available supply.” The Pima dismissed the report, claiming Lee “made assertions that cannot be verified.”501 Lee did correctly observe the east end of the reservation was not “situated in the most promising locality for obtaining water by pumping.” The best location was on the west end of the reservation, where “the most promising conditions are to be expected.” These conditions—water near the surface, a large return flow of water into the underflow 498 The flow of water above the reservation, in 1899, was measured at 237 second feet; forty miles downstream the flow was calculated at 430 second-feet, clearly indicating that other sources of water were added to the underflow. This underflow was significant to Pima wetlands, in addition to providing irrigation water. The loss of this water supply created a huge ecological and environmental impact on the reservation, one the Community is still seeking to overcome.
499 Hearings before the Committee on Expenditures in the Interior Department of the House of Representatives on House Resolution 103, Part 15, p. 630. When asked, “How long would [the water supply] last? Would it be of indefinite duration?” Hill responded, “Yes.” 500 “The Underground Waters of Gila Valley, Arizona,” page 48. The low calculation was based on a pressure gradient of 10 feet per mile or 1,360 feet per year. If the movement were 10,560 feet per year, the maximum flow would have been 278,256 acre-feet. If the maximum flow were available there would be some 238,000 acre-feet unappropriated for non-Indian uses. The emphasis is added.
501 Cook’s First Record Book, p. 102.
216 and the freedom of movement in the underflow—suggested that wells would be more likely to succeed here than any other location on the reservation. But wells on the west end of the reservation were not acceptable to Code. Here a large expanse of exceptionally fertile land—with easy access to well and Salt River water—was located. Wells at Santan and the consolidation of the Pima there were the only means of opening up the lands on the west end of the reservation and getting at the water west of Chandler Ranch.
Assured that there was an adequate source of water for the Pima, Congress appropriated the first funds for the Sacaton Project on March 3, 1905.502 In January of 1906, John Granville arrived on the reservation to begin a preliminary survey in advance of allotment. With the Sacaton Contract in place, work began on constructing an electrical line to the north boundary of the reservation. In April 1908, Congress gave the secretary of the interior the
The Sacaton Project included water from the ten irrigation wells and any floodwater that might come down the Gila River. The project included the construction of three irrigation canals. The first would carry floodwater from the Gila River beginning at a point 3 ½ miles east of Sacaton. The head of this floodwater canal was at the future site of the Sacaton Diversion Dam (and Olberg Bridge), authorized in 1916. A second, smaller canal was to branch off the first canal and carry well water only. A third canal was to be constructed on the south bank and supply a limited amount of water near Casa Blanca.504 The Pima questioned the new floodwater canal. In their view, its “intake on the Gila River was at a higher level than necessary for the Indian lands to be irrigated.” This appeared to the Pima to be what was necessary to convey water to the reservation lands west of Chandler Ranch, land that Code proposed to sell. The canal itself ran along a high ridge in the north central part of the reservation before dropping through a series of grades. But then it mysteriously forked, with a smaller branch heading toward Santan and the larger fork continuing west in the direction of Chandler Ranch.505 Before the Reclamation Service began construction of the floodwater canal, the flood of 1905 shifted the channel of the Gila River, necessitating the construction of the canal head through a heavier cutting of rock than originally planned.506 Without a 504 Annual Report of the United States Reclamation Service, 1911, p. 66. Ibid, 1912, pp. 66-67 and ibid, 1913, p. 49. Surveying the floodwater canal began in May 1909 and actual construction began in October. Well construction was completed on January 15, 1909.
505 Report in the Matter of the Investigation of the Salt and Gila Rivers—Reservations and Reclamation Service, p. 8. See also the Report of Samuel M. Brosius in Conserving the Rights of the Pima Indians Arizona, Letters and Petitions with Reference to Conserving the Rights of the Pima Indians of Arizona to the Lands of their Reservation and the Necessary Water Supply for Irrigation, House Document 521, 62nd Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, DC; 1912), p. 32.