Ed Barbour was an accountant for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and he worked on the economics for Central Arizona Project.

The bottom line is the economics

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Ed Barbour graduated with his Master’s, he had multiple job offers. In the end, he chose a job with the Bureau of Reclamation because it paid $300 a month ($100 more than others were offering him) and he loved the outdoors.

And it turned out to be a wise choice. At the time, the Bureau had about 4,000 engineers, but very few economists.

“I found out nobody really cared too much about the engineering aspects, not when you went for authorization,” Barbour said. “They wanted to know something about the economics.”

So he learned about coal plants, energy and how all of the projects fit together, and developed quite a reputation. Ultimately, Barbour ended up in the Denver office in charge of the technical side of economics, encompassing the environmental, social welfare and soils and resources groups. And in 1961, he was sent to Phoenix to unravel the economics for the Central Arizona Project.

He worked under Project Manager Cliff Pugh and asked for a bright young man named Tom Clark to be assigned to assist him. Ultimately, the answer for CAP was a coal-fired generating plant, Navajo Generating Station.

“I think the breakthrough was the Navajo Power Plant. We got the Indians behind it. We got the Sierra Club to accept it,” Barbour said. “Once they got that agreement, they were able to go on with the project.”

Read Ed Barbour's Oral History Transcript
Listen to Ed Barbour's Interview