Project Focused Oral Histories

Brock Rservoir

Brock Reservoir

Water can be a contentious topic in the West and especially the Colorado River. But at a time when many were gearing up to fight over the Colorado River, a group water managers came together and showed that collaboration is a powerful strategy to achieve a solution that works for everyone. In this case, it was the collaboration of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and Central Arizona Project (CAP) who came together to build Brock Reservoir. The team funded and constructed the first Colorado River infrastructure project designed solely to conserved water in the Lower Basin.

Individual Focused Oral Histories

Cecil Andrus CAP Oral HistoryCecil Andrus was Secretary of the Interior from 1977-1981 and an important figure in the enactment of Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act. Then-Governor Bruce Babbitt privately urged Andrus to threaten to block funding for the Central Arizona Project if Arizona did not enact tough groundwater laws. The Legislature then approved the proposed law without amendment during a seven-hour session. Babbitt signed it into law on June 12, 1980.

Read Cecil Andrus’ Oral History Transcript
Listen to Cecil Andrus’ Interview

Cecil Andrus: A “political accident” that shaped Arizona’s water history

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As a young father, Cecil Andrus became concerned about an incumbent state senator’s stance on education, so he took action and ran against him…and won.  He was re-elected twice and a new path of his life was set.

“I had no (political) intentions whatsoever, but I enjoyed it. I worked at it,” Andrus said. “We did make some corrections in the distribution formula for the funding of elementary schools in rural areas within the state.”

But his political career didn’t end there. Ten years later, he had the opportunity to become the first Democrat elected as Governor of Idaho in 24 years, where future President Jimmy Carter was also a newly elected governor.

“I got to know President Carter, then Governor Carter. He asked me to serve as his Secretary of the Department of the Interior, be a member of his cabinet. I did that,” said Andrus.

As Secretary, Andrus served a critical role in the passage of Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act, serving as the “foil” for then-Governor Bruce Babbitt.

“He’d write up some of the statements that I should make about if we’re going to do the Central Arizona Project, we’ve got to have some control over the groundwater, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,” said Andrus. “Every time that somebody would say, ‘Well, we don’t need to pass this,’ he’d say, ‘But that damn Andrus…he’s going to come right at you,’” he said.

And it worked. The Groundwater Management Act passed in Arizona, proving to be an incredibly innovative water management law in the United States.

Bruce Babbitt CAP Oral HistoryBruce Babbitt was Arizona’s Governor from 1978-1987 and Secretary of the Interior from 1993-2001. He signed Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act on June 12, 1980, which mandated that central and southern Arizona pump no more water from aquifers than they put back in.

Read Bruce Babbitt’s Oral History Transcript
Listen to Bruce Babbitt’s Interview

Bruce Babbitt: Tackling Arizona’s groundwater issues

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

In 1978, Bruce Babbitt was finishing up his first term as Arizona’s Attorney General and putting together a re-election campaign when he got a call that would change the course of his life.

“I learned of that (the death of then-governor Wes Bolin) with a phone call from Bill Riley at 6 o’clock in the morning. In effect, I don’t remember the precise words but, ‘You’re the Governor, what’s next?’”

What came next became history. Not only did Babbitt finish Bolin’s term, but he ran and was elected for two more terms, leaving office in 1987. During that time, he tackled one of Arizona’s biggest water issues: groundwater.

“It’s all lore now, but it’s correct. I called the leaders of the water establishment together on the day after Thanksgiving in 1979,” Babbitt said. “I personally sat them down and met with them once or twice a week for nine months and just kind of shut the door and said we’re going to reform our way out of this problem and we’re going to draft a meaningful water management system for the State of Arizona.”

The result was the creation of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Groundwater Management Act of 1980, forward thinking water legislation that hasn’t been duplicated since.

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

Read Ed Barbour’s Oral History Transcript
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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.”

Frank Barrios CAP Oral HistoryArizona native Frank Barrios worked in hydrology most of his career, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Arizona Department of Water Resources. He was appointed to the CAWCD Board of Directors in January 2003 and served until December 31, 2006.

Read Frank Barrios’ Oral History Transcript

Frank Barrios: A career linked to CAP and Arizona water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Frank Barrios’ career was always closely linked to CAP and Arizona water issues. It started in 1966, when the young engineer was looking for work and found an open job with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR).

“I grew up with the whole issue of the Central Arizona Project,” said Barrios. “It just appealed to me, the idea of working, although at the time none of it had been authorized.”

So after graduation and a brief road trip, Barrios started work at the BOR Phoenix Development Office, which focused on planning for CAP. He was part of a training program that exposed him to a little bit of everything, and upon completion of the program, he chose hydrology, which ended up being his life’s work. In fact, he was still with BOR when the Colorado River Basin Project Act was signed in 1968.

He left BOR in 1975 and moved across the street…literally…to the newly created state office called the Arizona Water Commission, later renamed the Arizona Department of Water Resources, where he worked for Wes Steiner on a project to help save money so the taxpayers of CAP wouldn’t have to pay as much. He spent time as a Director for both the Pinal and Phoenix Active Management areas, focused on groundwater management. Then he worked in Colorado River Planning where he stayed until he retired in 1998.

But his career linked to CAP wasn’t over. In 2003, Governor Janet Napolitano appointed him to the CAWCD Board of Directors, where he served for three years.

When he reflects back, the importance of much of his work is clear: Plan 6, Arizona Water Settlements Act, groundwater management.

So what surprises this third-generation Arizonan? The exceptional growth that has occurred.

“If you’d have told me Phoenix would have been the fifth largest city in the United States, no way I would ever have believed that,” said Barrios.

But the state’s sustainable growth has only been possible because of the tireless work of Barrios and others in the water community.

Briggs CAP Oral HistoryPhillip Briggs was an engineer for the Arizona Interstate Stream Commission (now known as the Arizona Department of Water Resources), helping develop allocations for CAP water.

Read Phillip Giles Briggs’ Oral History Transcript
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Phil Briggs: Allocating the water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Phil Briggs started with the Arizona Interstate Stream Commission in 1968, the Colorado River Basin Project Act had just been signed, authorizing construction of Central Arizona Project. One of the first tasks at hand was to develop a system to allocate water among stakeholders.

“The agency’s charge was to develop a system to allocate CAP water amongst competing interests,” said Briggs. “It was like about 1970 before we really kicked off a system, it was a system of models that we used to analyze future Arizona economy as well as hydrology in the basins.”

It was a state-of-the-art approach, taking into account the economy and population projections, and breaking those down to yield a demand for water; some of which was surface, some groundwater and some CAP water. From there, contracts were developed and offered. It took years before all offers were made and signed, which was good in hindsight as the population projections were far smaller than they turned out to be.

“We never saw this kind of growth when we were projecting, but oddly enough, the systems that were created were malleable enough and had enough opportunities to adjust them,” said Briggs.

Briggs is proud of the impact his work has had related to  Arizona’s water, starting from scratch, and making a significant impact to what Arizona is today, and where it’s going to go and the quality of life we have.

“I think CAP had the potential to shape Arizona and it was moldable in what started out being an agricultural project and it eventually worked its way into being a municipal water supply,” said Briggs.

Carlile CAP Oral HistoryMary Beth Carlile served eight years on the Arizona Water Commission, was a founding member of the Southern Arizona Water Resources Association and was twice elected to the CAWCD Board of Directors.

Read Mary Beth Carlile’s Oral History Transcript
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Mary Beth Carlile: A first woman in water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Governor Bruce Babbitt was looking for someone to appoint to the Arizona Water Commission, he was looking for a female Republican from Tucson. Mary Beth Carlile was all three and in 1978, became the first woman appointed to the Commission.

“The Arizona Water Commission at that time was all men. It had always been all men and he appointed me,” Carlile said. “It was very interesting, because all the men were very suspicious of a woman and somebody from Tucson, and was I in favor of the CAP and all of those things.”

Carlile served for eight years, but that was just the beginning of her work in water. In the early 1980s, Tucson had a forum about the future of the city and water was a main concern. So in 1982, Carlile was part of a group of 30 who formed the Southern Arizona Water Resources Association (SAWARA). She raised more than $1,000,000 in in-kind contributions and became the executive director, a position she held for 13 years.

“During that time, of course, water policy was a major part of what I did and celebrating the CAP as it came toward Tucson,” said Carlile. “There were so many people that really, really took to heart the importance of the Central Arizona Project to Arizona.”

 Carlile was interested and involved in water and knew how essential CAP was for Arizona and Tucson. So, in 1990 she ran and was elected to the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors for Pima County.

“On the CAP Board that there is no ‘us against them.’ There is no competition,” said Carlile. “It is a board in which everybody is focused on all the issues that have to do with CAP and working with the staff and making good things happen.”

Carlile said that one of the Board accomplishments she is most proud of during her 12 years on the Board is the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD). She served as the chair of the CAGRD committee, getting its finances in order and establishing rules for sound planning.

The evolution of water in Arizona is remarkable, and Carlile was proud to have devoted her time and talents to the work.

“I always loved the outdoors and I always loved the environment, but I never imagined that water would be one of the major issues that I would spend my life thinking about, and working on, and worrying about,” said Carlile.

Chappelear CAP Oral HistoryDess Chappelear was assistant project manager during construction of Central Arizona Project.

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Des Chappelear: The importance of water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As a young boy in southwestern Oklahoma, Des Chappelear couldn’t tell a rain cloud from a dust cloud, but he knew the importance of water. In fact, one of the things that helped his family through the Great Depression was water.

His father had experience drilling oil wells as a young man, so during the Depression, he bought a set of cables and used that knowledge to drill water wells.

“He could go out and drill water wells for a dollar a foot for the first hundred feet and a dollar and a half for the next hundred,” said Chappelear. “That helped tide us over during the Depression days.”

And his dry environment also made him realize he needed to find a career that wasn’t dependent on abundant rainfall, so he got his degree in civil engineering. And after a few years in the U.S. Air Force, he was looking for a job.

“With my Air Force experience, Boeing made me several offers, but I looked at them and said gee, they’re dependent upon these military contracts and things of that nature, and I didn’t think I wanted the ups and downs of that,” said Chappelear. “So then I decided gee, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is good solid work, and so I went to work for them.”

His work with BOR sent him to Oklahoma, Texas and finally to Washington, D.C., where he worked in the Division of Water and Land and met Dick Shunick, the project manager for Central Arizona Project. So when Shunick was looking for an assistant project manager, Chappelear got the job.

“It was just a great challenging job and I certainly enjoyed it,” Chappelear said.

Clark CAP Oral HistoryTom Clark worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources before becoming Central Arizona Project’s first General Manager in 1981. He retired from this position in 1995.

Read Tom Clark’s Oral History Transcript
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Tom Clark: The First CAP General Manager

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When he graduated from the University of Arizona with his Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics, Tom Clark saw a posting that the Bureau of Land Management was looking for an agricultural economist, so he headed to Phoenix to apply. However, the address he went to turned out to be the Bureau of Reclamation.

“I said, well I might as well interview with these people and I went in and they hired me,” Clark said. “So, so much for career planning. I don’t know it just sort of happened that way.”

He immediately started working on repayment studies related to the Central Arizona Project, part of the team that was working toward getting Congressional approval for construction.

“I was lucky enough to be in there with some of the first,” Clark said. “There had been things that went on before that, but that was I think the really start of serious number crunching.”

He met many influential Arizona water leaders, and when Central Arizona Project Association president Hank Raymond approached him about helping the association, so he moved to Arizona. He then worked under Wes Steiner as the Assistant Director at the Interstate Stream Commission, which ultimately became the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

And, in 1981 when the Central Arizona Water Conservation District started to hire staff, Clark was the first paid position…as General Manager.

“I was the whole organization there for a few days,” Clark said. “But I took a couple of people from the Department of Water Resources with me and we began to hire and when I left I think we had about 400 people, so we built an organization.”

Clark said the job was a challenge, but one he liked.

“I’ve never really been as interested in why the water goes through a pump as to why the people are willing to put it through the pump,” Clark said.

He focused on people, even signing payroll checks occasionally just to keep in touch with, and know, the employees.

“I’d get a report that said somebody did a real good job on something and I’d call them at home and say, ‘Hey I’m sitting here and saw what you did and it was great and thanks a lot,’” Clark said. “I tried to relate to the individuals and I enjoyed that.

Clark retired as CAP’s first General Manager in 1995.

Cohen CAP Oral HistoryMarvin Cohen was a lawyer who helped negotiate one of the first water rights settlements among municipalities and Indian tribes in Arizona. He also worked with the City of Tucson to help ensure that CAP was constructed all the way to Tucson.

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Marvin Cohen: Pioneering Indian rights settlements

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As a high school student, Marvin Cohen went to the Key Club National Convention in Washington, DC. While he was there, he met an Arizonan who was working on getting funding to build a canal to bring water into the central part of Arizona. The idea sounded great to young Cohen and was the first exposure he had to Central Arizona Project and water issues in Arizona, but it was not his last.

Water again entered his world when he went to work for Morris and Stewart Udall after graduating from law school. When Stewart became Secretary of the Interior, Cohen was asked to be a special assistant to the Solicitor of the Interior.

“I learned more about water and the whole Reclamation ethos and the whole history of Reclamation from the 1902 Act forward,” Cohen said. “We got into a lot of issues relating to the settlement of the West really back in Interior with public lands, public waters, and how the mining law and all of that that gave birth to the west—all of importance to the state of Arizona.”

After leaving the Department of the Interior and heading back to Tucson, Cohen volunteered to help the City of Tucson address conservation problems in the early 1970s. His work was impactful, reducing Tucson water use to about 160 gallons per capita per day.

“There’s a different conservation ethic with water in Tucson and this was part of the beginning of it,” said Cohen. “My involvement with water as a lawyer grew out of that.”

Cohen didn’t stay in Tucson, however, and once back in Washington, worked with the City of Tucson to work out a settlement with the Tohono O’odham Indian water claim. It was the first settlement of its kind and paved the way for more to come.

His water work continued. Cohen continued to represent the City of Tucson on specific Central Arizona Project issues, including efforts to ensure the CAP system stretched all the way to Tucson. And he also worked with CAP, including efforts to get affordable power and struggles with the federal government over issues with pre-stressed concrete pipes.

All his experience drove home the importance of water, and specifically the long-reaching impact of Central Arizona Project, to the state.

“(Without it) we wouldn’t have been able to do the Groundwater Management Act and we would be pumping our reservoirs dry,” said Cohen. “I think eventually the state would’ve had to do it and pay for it itself instead of having the federal government do it. It would’ve had to be done.”

Cole CAP Pral HistoryDalton Cole was a Pinal County farmer who was active in the Central Arizona Project Association (CAPA), a co-founder and Director of the Hohokam Irrigation District and was appointed to serve on the CAWCD Board of Directors from 1996-2000.

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Dalton Cole: Water on his Mind

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As a farmer in Pinal County, Dalton Cole had water on his mind. A lot. In fact, in the early 1960s, he knew that pumping groundwater was already negatively impacting groundwater levels.

“We were all on pumps down there. We knew that probably our salvation was the Central Arizona Project,” Dalton said. “So I became involved early on.”

Governor Bruce Babbitt appointed him to the Groundwater Management Committee and he joined the Central Arizona Project Association, an association that was working toward securing funding and passing legislation to build the Central Arizona Project system.

“I can remember in 1968 when they passed the bill authorizing the CAP how excited we were,” Cole said. “As you know, there were a lot of bumps in the road between the actual authorization and when we started construction.”

Before water deliveries began in 1985, Cole joined with other Pinal County farmers and formed the Hohokam Irrigation District to get ready to receive CAP water. And as all water experts know, water doesn’t come without serious amounts of power. Cole stepped up and also served on the Board of Directors of the Electrical District Number Two, which supplied electrical power to all the pumps in his area.

“It’s just hard to separate water and power, they just sort of work together,” said Cole. “And that’s why I became involved in it; to gain knowledge of the power operation, but also to help ensure that we could have a reasonably good source of long-term power to run our irrigation wells.”

So in 1996, when Governor Fife Symington needed to appoint someone from Pinal County to the CAWCD Board of Directors, he went to Cole. And there were pressing issues at that time, including California’s water use, repayment and Indian water rights.

“All in all, I think the project has worked out quite well, and it’s certainly the reason that we have a future here in Arizona,” said Cole. “I think all of us during these drought periods are glad that we have that CAP water flowing through the valley.”

Dolyniuk CAP Oral HistoryAndy Dolyniuk worked for the U.S. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as Project Construction Engineer for Central Arizona Project, leading the team that supervised construction.

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Andy Dolyniuk: Behind the scenes of CAP construction

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As the Project Construction Engineer for CAP, engineer Andy Dolyniuk had seen it all. Exploration work to determine what types of soils they would encounter. Groundbreaking in Parker in 1973. The boring of seven-mile Buckskin Mountain Tunnel. The result was the CAP system. An engineering marvel. And a project that Dolyniuk said he never doubted would be masterfully constructed.

“That goes back to the fact that our skills and people that can match those skills and get the job done,” said Dolyniuk. “So if you look at the surveying, it’s kind of amazing that you start at one point and through the network of tunnels, canals, pumping plants, siphons, and everything three hundred miles downstream, everything worked out fine.”

But construction wasn’t always easy or simple. He said selecting locations for the pumping plants was a challenging study of topography. Determining when and how to change the size of the canal, taking into consideration how wide you want it, the friction factors and consistent slope, was complicated. Planning for wildlife and safety for people was another consideration.

“There is more to it than meets the eye. You see a canal and you go, ‘well the canal is flowing,’ but there was definitely quite a bit of work that went in to it  to determine where it came from, what size it is, and where it’s going,” said Dolyniuk. “Personally, I’m just glad that I was part of it. It was just one heck of a good ball game.”

Dozier CAP Oral HistoryLarry Dozier was an engineer who worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation before being recruited by General Manager Tom Clark to join Central Arizona Project in 1985. He was CAP’s Deputy General Manager before retiring in 2011.

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Larry Dozier: A big picture man

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Illinois farm boy, Larry Dozier, graduated from college, he had an engineering degree and plans to work in the design and manufacture of farm equipment. But after touring several manufacturers, his plans changed.

“I realized that there is no way I could sit in a room and be a designer or engineer,” Dozier said. ”I didn’t have the interest or the personality to do that. It was too sedentary and too detailed for me.”

So he decided to head west and was interviewing for jobs when he ran into the Bureau of Reclamation, an organization that was new to him. He quickly discovered that the Bureau did water projects, dams, irrigation and hydroelectric, which matched well with his knowledge of irrigation and drainage. He accepted a job with the Bureau of Reclamation in Grey Falls, Montana in February 1969 and has been in the West…and in the water business…ever since.

He spent the next several years working throughout the West, doing a lot of field engineering associated with operating projects and irrigation districts. And although he didn’t know it, he was already starting to overlap with CAP. In fact, in 1982, he was asked to develop a plan for early turnover of the system and present it to the CAWCD Board of Directors and by July 1, 1983, a contract was in place.

When CAP’s first General Manager, Tom Clark, was looking for an operations chief, he turned to Dozier.

“I thought this job down here getting the project started would be great,” said Dozier. “I knew the contracts. I knew the water allocation. I knew the O&M plan.”

So Dozier joined CAP in the summer of 1985, less than a month after the first water delivery to Harquahala Valley Irrigation District. He spent the next 26 years there in various leadership capacities, serving under three different general managers, helping guide the organization through numerous issues, including the repayment lawsuit, Indian water rights settlements, development of recharge and more. He retired as Deputy General Manager in 2011.

Ferris CAP Oral HistoryKathy Ferris has been involved with Arizona water issues for nearly 40 years, including being instrumental in the passing of the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act. She was director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.

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Kathy Ferris: The fourth time is a charm

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Kathy Ferris became the Executive Director of the Groundwater Management Study Commission in 1977, it was the fourth time Arizona had created a group to draft legislation to manage the state’s groundwater use. But this time it was different. Rather than include mostly groundwater users, this commission included state legislators including seven Senators, seven Representatives and 11 members who were appointed by the Governor to represent the major water using interests. And there was one other big difference.

“There was a clause that was added onto the enabling legislation that created this commission that if the commission failed to enact, if the Legislature failed to enact the recommendations of the commission by certain date, then the recommendations of the commission would automatically become law,” said Ferris. “We called it the ‘Kicker Clause.’”

So the fourth time was a charm and Arizona passed the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, which Ferris views as her most notable career accomplishment.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of things since then including serving as the Director of the Department of Water Resources, but never in developing and getting enacted anything quite so monumental,” Ferris said. “It’s amazing, a piece of history.”

Grady Gammage CAP Oral HistoryGrady Gammage, Jr., is an Arizona native and lawyer who served on the CAWCD Board from 1992-2005. He served as President from, 1995-1997, leading the board during the repayment lawsuit against the federal government, which was settled in 2004.

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Grady Gammage, Jr.: Leading negotiations with the Federal Government

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When lawyer Grady Gammage, Jr. was first elected to the CAP Board of Directors, he was an expert on real estate and urban development, but was pretty new to Arizona water.

“I got recruited to run for the CAP Board by the City of Phoenix for two reasons:  one was they thought there needed to be somebody on there that knew more about urban development kinds of things, and two was I had the same name as the “big pink building” so I could probably get elected, “said Gammage.  “So that’s how I got on the CAP Board.”

And from his election to the Board in 1992 until he left in 2005, he not only learned about Arizona water, but became an expert. He was elected Board President and lead negotiations with the Federal Government over the amount CAP was obligated to repay for construction costs, the accomplishment of which he is most proud.

But it was only one of his many accomplishments in his years working in water, and proudly calling himself a water buffalo. Gammage knows not only the importance of water, but what a complicated topic it is.  

“From the earliest civilization in Central Arizona, it’s been complicated to deal with water.  It continues to be sort of the most broadly held social consensus we have is, we need more water than we have, we’ll use all we can get and we’re going to keep it away from the enemy,” said Gammage. It’s a tribal commodity.  We define our tribe as the people with whom we share our water and that means the people of Arizona in this case.  There is some inter-tribe squabbling of course.  But Arizona is our tribe and that’s who we share water with.”

Gookin CAP Oral HistoryWilliam Gookin was an Arizona engineer, working with irrigation districts and the Gila River Indian Community.

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William Gookin: Water education at home

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When William Gookin was born, his father was a civil engineer for the US Bureau of Reclamation, focused primarily on drafting documents to justify construction of Central Arizona Project. In fact, Gookin spent some summers in his teens in San Francisco listening to testimony in Arizona v California, where his dad was an expert witness.

But it didn’t immediately influence his career choice.

“I didn’t think I was going to be an engineer,” said Gookin. “My first degree was in Economics in Business, and I was partly through an MBA because that was supposed to be the road to easy riches, and then I noticed that the guys that were getting the good job offers had a technical undergraduate degree and decided maybe my dad wasn’t as crazy as I thought he was.”

So he returned to school and got a degree in engineering and in 1965, went to work with his dad’s company, Gookin Engineers. It was there that he worked with numerous irrigation districts that wanted to get CAP water allocations.

“One of the requirements in the legislation was that there be certain water saving requirements had to be in place before you could take CAP water,” said Gookin. “So we were involved in the, initially in doing some feasibility studies for these irrigation districts.”

Throughout the years, Gookin’s work continued to intersect with CAP, working on water negotiations, irrigation district construction projects and more, which drives home the importance of CAP to Arizona.

“Quite frankly, when I was child if you told me what Phoenix was going to look like, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” said Gookin. “I think the biggest accomplishment (of CAP) long term is going to be to allow for Phoenix to survive and probably Tucson.”

CAP Oral History HallenbeckEd Hallenbeck was an engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, working as the project manager during construction of Central Arizona Project.

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Ed Hallenbeck: Build it and they will come

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As the project manager of Central Arizona Project from 1980-85, electrical engineer Ed Hallenbeck was around for a bulk of the construction. Siphons. Tunnels. Reach 11. Pumping plants. Canal.

And one even bigger thing that was accomplished that Hallenbeck viewed as critical was the Orme Dam situation.

“When I came here in 1980, I inherited a hornet’s nest of problems over the Orme Dam construction, its alternatives, and what should we do about flood control in Phoenix, and that whole arena was up in the air,” said Hallenbeck.

Environmentalists were upset. Native American tribes were upset. Even the politicians weren’t supporting Orme Dam. But Phoenix was flooding for the second consecutive year, so flood control was on everyone’s mind. It came to the point where an alternative had to be developed.  

The answer? Plan 6, which would build New Waddell Dam, enlarge Lake Pleasant and raise Roosevelt Dam.

“We started looking at enlarging Waddell, and suddenly enlarging Waddell became the most obvious thing in the world,” said Hallenbeck. “Why have we not we seen this before?”

One of the reasons it was a sensible choice was because the elevation of the lake is above the elevation of the canal, so summer releases actually generate electricity.

Creative and collaborative water management continues today, and it has put Arizona in a good situation for the future.

“I’ve been to California and Nevada and Arizona, and I think of the three states, Arizona probably has the best handle on its future with water of anybody, and probably is the most secure,” Hallenbeck said.

Henness CAP Oral HistoryJim Henness was a farmer in the Casa Grande Valley for more than 60 years and served on the Arizona Power Authority.

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Jim Henness: Sixty years of farming in Pinal County

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Jim Henness grew up on a farm in Casa Grande, and always wanted to farm. So after graduating from the University of Arizona, he headed back to do just that.

“Always wanted a farm, always wanted to farm,” said Henness. “Just enjoyed the thought of it, enjoyed the idea of putting seed into the ground and watching it grow.”

And he knew the challenges that came with farming in a drier valley, including the need to augment the water supply.

“I can remember my dad and another neighbor, Tom Carlton, riding the train to Washington, DC in the late 40’s to testify for the CAP,” said Henness. “So it was always a part of our lives the idea of augmenting the water supply in the state.”

In the early 1960s, Henness became involved, pushing at the grass roots level for CAP, even heading to Washington, DC to testify, primarily from a power perspective.

“In Arizona we think in terms of water as power, power being electricity, and the electricity as water,” Henness said. “And most of my time was spent from a testifying stand point on the electrical side because it was the dams on the Colorado River, in this case Hoover Dam, which would assume a very substantial role of paying for this thing through power sales revenues.”

The payoff was immense for Henness and other farmers.

“It (CAP) allowed us earlier on to farm our farms instead of having to lay out large blocks of it. That was pretty neat, frankly,” said Henness. “The CAP water, when it started to flow into the valley, it made quite a difference.”

Hunsaker CAP Oral HistoryRalph Hunsaker was an Arizona water lawyer who worked for the Interstate Stream Commission, now known as the Arizona Department of Water Resources, working toward federal legislation to authorize construction of Central Arizona Project.

Read Ralph Hunsaker’s Oral History Transcript
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Ralph Hunsaker: The legal side of water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Ralph Hunsaker started his legal career practicing general law. But it wasn’t long before he found himself knee-deep in water issues through his work with the Arizona Interstate Stream Commission. The Commission, which later became the Arizona Department of Water Resources, was primarily charged with dealing with the Colorado River issues, so his involvement started before the Central Arizona Project was authorized.

“When I first became involved, we were going back to Washington repeatedly and I assisted in whatever I could in helping to put together legal aspects of or any aspects actually of helping out the Congressional people and doing whatever I could back there,” Hunsaker said.

The hard work paid off. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Colorado River Basin Project Act, authorizing construction of the project.

“Everybody was ecstatic to say the least. It was a great day for Arizona,” said Hunsaker. “There was a long, long effort of work–blood, sweat, and tears, so to speak–compromise, political maneuvering if you want to call it that, and everybody was very, very happy and pleased.”

His water work didn’t end there. He continued to work for the Commission, his role expanding to include Arizona-wide water jurisdiction, such as dam safety, wells and groundwater. He would research new law, how it is applied, how the court is likely to interpret this aspect, what wells are exempt, etc.

Eventually, the agency took its legal work in-house. But Hunsaker had made his mark.

“The passage of CAP is something that I think all people who worked on it were proud of, and I think rightly so. I probably was one of the minor players in it, but I still felt pride in the fact that it did pass and that it gave this state a much brighter, in my opinion, future then otherwise it would’ve had,” Hunsaker said.

Kyl CAP Oral HistoryJon Kyl is a lawyer and former Arizona Senator, serving from 1995-2013. Senator Kyl was the driving force behind the Arizona Water Settlements Act.

Read Jon Kyl’s Oral History Transcript

Senator Jon Kyl: Fascinated by water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Arizona Senator Jon Kyl graduated from law school, he joined Jennings Strouss & Salmon, a Phoenix law firm that historically represented Salt River Project, so he was quickly exposed to water issues.

“It (water issues) was fascinating to me and once you get into it and know something about it, then you realize its significance,” said Kyl.

So when Kyl was elected to the US House of Representatives and then the US Senate, people naturally turned to him because of his experience and interest in water.

“The thing that has always struck me is that throughout Arizona history, starting when we were a territory, there were people who foresaw the need to do something about a water problem, worked together to get something done about it,” said Senator Kyl.

And Senator Kyl continued that tradition, leading the efforts to pass the Arizona Water Settlements Act. The Act marked a major milestone for Arizona, finalizing CAP allocations, authorizing the Gila River Indian Community settlement and finalizing the repayment agreement for CAP construction.

“Each moment in our state’s history when we needed to have a group of people come together and work on the next set of water problems, it happened. It was frequently bi-partisan; it was almost all bi-partisan in terms of politics. The water interests all fought each other but they fought each other with a set of rules that resulted in good water policy for the state,” said Kyl. “I think that is something the state can be enormously proud of.”

Lynch CAP Oral HistoryBob Lynch is a lawyer who moved to Arizona in 1972 to work on environmental impact statements for Central Arizona Project.

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Bob Lynch: The Environmental Perspective

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

For Bob Lynch, environmental law was an accident.

“I needed a job and I was young and single,” Lynch said. “I didn’t want to go back to Tucson in that condition.”

So Mo Udall made a phone call that landed Lynch in the Justice Department. At the time, the Department handled all of the natural resource and environmental law done in terms of litigation, because it was before the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. In fact, Lynch said he got to do the first NEPA case, about a month after the President signed it into law.

“These people are all standing around, they’re all from Harvard and Columbia and NYU and places like that and they think out west is Pittsburgh, and so they’re figuring out where is the Gila River and what is all of this,” Lynch said. “They thought Arizona was next to Texas.”

When Lynch said he knew where the Gila River and Safford were, they quickly handed him the case. He was so well regarded that in 1972, he was tapped to return to Arizona to work on Environmental Impact Statements for Central Arizona Project. It was a massive task.

“We started with the environment as we found it and the purpose of the analysis was to look at what the impacts would be of the project as it was proposed and what the law calls reasonable alternatives. So it was a going-forward analysis,” Lynch said. “It created a lot of science and very helpful science I think. It changed some basic assumptions about archeology in the desert and collected a lot of information about Native American history in the state.”

He said there were a lot of fights throughout the public process. But it was his job to ensure that the laws were satisfied and everyone had an opportunity to express their view and that the final product could withstand litigation as satisfying the NEPA requirements.

Which he did…and got the project built.

CAP Oral History Tom McCannTom McCann is a lawyer who joined CAP in 1994 and represented CAP on Indian water rights, interstate water banking, Colorado River, Navajo Generating Station and other matters.  He served as Senior Attorney, Resource Planning Manager and Assistant General Manager before being named Deputy General Manager, responsible for operations, maintenance, power, technology and employee services.  He retired in 2019.

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Tom McCann: Adding Value in Arizona’s Water Community

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

After working in private practice for five years, lawyer Tom McCann was disillusioned.  Wondering if his work really made a difference. So he quit his job. Did some patent work and played a lot of golf. When he saw the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District advertising for a water lawyer, he paid attention.

“I thought well, I took a water law class in law school and water, that’s gotta be important in Arizona, and I knew nothing other than that about it, but I put in my application,” said McCann.

In October 1994, he started his career at Central Arizona Project in its Legal Department, and spent the next 25 years learning the ins-and-outs of water. When he retired as Deputy General Manager in 2019, he was an expert on Arizona water, the Law of the River and CAP maintenance.

His career took him to various departments at CAP. He spent the first 12 years in the Legal Department, working on repayment of the Federal Government, Tribal water settlements, endangered species and more. In 2006, became the Manager of the newly formed Resource Planning and Analysis Department, working closely on Colorado River issues and eventually becoming the Assistant General Manager.

His career experienced a significant change when, in 2014, he became the leader of CAP’s Maintenance Group, a complete departure from his education and experience. But he embraced it.

“I had a lot of learning to do,” he said. “But it was a good experience for me, and they were also very good about bringing me along, educating me in the maintenance.”

Following that position, McCann tackled asset management, with the goal of increasing collaboration across the organization. In 2016, he was named Deputy General Manager, where he spent the last three years of his career.

During his career, he worked under all four General Managers, was responsible for the majority of departments at one time or another, and became a recognized leader who truly added value to CAP and Arizona’s water community.

“I wanted this to be a job that I could feel good about, and a mission, an organization that I could feel good about and I have,” said McCann. “It’s not just a job that you go to, it’s a mission. It’s a calling.”

Pfister CAP Oral HistoryJack Pfister was a fourth generation Arizonan who graduated from University of Arizona law school. He joined Salt River Project in 1970 and served as its General Manager from 1976 until he retired in 1991.

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Jack Pfister: The power of collaboration

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Jack Pfister was an engineer, a lawyer and an executive, but above all, he was one of Arizona’s true water leaders.

After graduating from law school, the Arizona native went to work for Jennings, Strauss, Salmon and Trask, the law firm representing Salt River Project (SRP), which thrust him full-force into Arizona water issues. In the 1960s, he had a front row seat to the efforts to obtain federal authorization for construction of Central Arizona Project.

“Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service Company were aware that in order for Arizona to continue to grow, particularly the greater metropolitan Phoenix area, it needed a stable water supply,” Pfister said. “We knew it was a vital component to support the future of Arizona and it’s proved to be the case.”

Pfister joined SRP in 1970 and his involvement in Arizona water issues intensified, including work on the Navajo Generating Station, the Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980, Orme Dam, environmental impact of CAP, and more. In 1976 he was named General Manager of SRP, a position he held until his retirement in 1991.

When reflecting back on his collaborative work between SRP and CAP, Pfister cites the approval of the CAP-SRP Interconnect as being the accomplishment of which he is most proud.

“It took a lot of cajoling and a lot of hand holding to finally get the SRP Board to agree to interconnect the two water systems,” said Pfister. “As it turns out, that’s been a very important decision and very helpful to Salt River Project. During the drought, SRP took lots of CAP water into its system.”

Plummer CAP Oral HistoryBill Plummer is an engineer who worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, was the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and General Manager of the Yuma Irrigation and Drainage District.

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Bill Plummer: Working in water since 1960

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As a newly graduated civil engineer, Bill Plummer accepted a job with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), so he left his home in Vermont and headed to Boulder City, Nevada.

“I knew if there was a hell, I was in it, because it was late June and it was hot,” said Plummer.

But after a few days working outside and helping people, he said he became a desert rat and never looked back. And it’s a good thing, because his next stop was Yuma, where he worked on potential pipelines from Yuma Valley to north of the river, started work on Senator Wash, put in tile drains in the Wellton-Mohawk and built levees.

His career took him east to Washington, D.C., where he worked in the Office of Management and Budget and for the Department of the Interior.

“There were a lot of different issues that came up and a lot of them dealt with Central Arizona Project,” said Plummer. “For example, I personally hand carried and staffed the Master Repayment Contract that was signed in 1972.”

By 1974, Plummer rejoined BOR and headed west, spending time in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska,Kansas and Utah. From 1978-81 he was responsible for all BOR activities in the Upper Basin and from 1981-85 he was responsible for all BOR activities in the Lower Basin.

Plummer was selected by Rose Mofford in 1988 to head the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Following that, he worked as the General Manager of the Yuma Irrigation and Drainage District.

So after more than 50 years working in water, Plummer’s impact in Arizona water is undeniable. In fact, a colleague of Plummer said, “His managerial skills were recognized as instrumental in re-establishing and maintaining the construction schedule of the entire Central Arizona Project.”

Renner CAP Oral History

George Renner is an Arizona native and former Mayor of Glendale. He was appointed to the CAWCD Board of Directors in 1992 and was then twice elected, serving through 2006, serving both as secretary and president.

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Listen to George Renner’s Interview – Part 1Part 2

George Renner: A life of service

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Arizona native George Renner joined his father in real estate and insurance in 1972. He never really thought of himself as a politician, even when he was asked to serve on a Chamber of Commerce Committee in his town, and then later elected to the chamber board.

His roles evolved, and after serving on several boards, he was selected to fill a vacancy on the Glendale City Council, which he discovered he enjoyed. After serving two years, he was re-elected in 1978 and then turned his efforts to running for Mayor. He held that office from 1980 until 1992.

“It was extremely interesting, challenging, rewarding,” said Renner. “It was a wonderful opportunity and I was extremely blessed to be in office at a time with lots of other very dedicated and talented people, both fellow elected officers and staff people, and it was really very enjoyable.”

During his tenure, Glendale was transitioning from a small town into a city, more than quadrupling its population during that time. And with it came many challenges and opportunities. One of the biggest was related to water, namely the Groundwater Management Act and the construction of Central Arizona Project.

“At the local level, Glendale specifically, we had to recognize and deal with the issue of water treatment. CAP is not like well water that comes up. CAP water had to be treated. So we were faced with a decision of timing,” Renner said. “Do you decide to build your treatment facility before all of these issues are solved, funding of the CAP, timing of it and so forth, because part of the Groundwater Management Act required you to deal with renewable supplies.”

The solution was a bond issue to build a water treatment facility for water that was yet to be delivered. Thankfully, it worked out well.

“That’s probably the single most graphic illustration I can recall as how intertwined the water, the authorization of the construction, its continued funding and ultimate completion,” said Renner.

Renner’s involvement in the community…and water…wasn’t over. He served on Governor Fife Symington’s water advisory committee created to respond to the issue of financing and repaying Arizona’s obligation to the federal government. And in 1992, Governor Symington appointed Renner to fill a vacancy on the CAWCD Board of Directors.

“As soon as my term as Mayor had expired, there was a vacancy at the time on the (CAWCD) Board and he appointed me in ’92,” said Renner.

He was re-elected in 1994 and 2000, serving a total of 14 years. Renner said it was a fascinating time, including work on repayment issues, groundwater recharge, Yuma Desalting Plant, and drought to name a few. He said it was extremely rewarding to work on issues that are so impactful to the state.

“The Central Arizona Project has evolved into being one of the most articulate and influential participants in the Colorado River discussions,” said Renner. “And I think it is to Arizona’s benefit, because the CAP advocates not just for CAP’s share, the one and a half million acre feet, but in so doing, we are advocating for Arizona’s share.”

CAP Oral History John Rhodes

John Rhodes was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1953-1983.  He was elected to serve on the CAWCD Board of Directors in 1983, resigning in 1986.

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John J. Rhodes: The driving force behind congressional authorization of CAP

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Legendary Arizona politician John J. Rhodes’ political career started with a loss.

“Barry Goldwater called me and told me that he was running Howard Pyle’s gubernatorial campaign and he was drafting me to run for Attorney General,” Rhodes recalled. “I told him that I didn’t want to be Attorney General and he assured me that I wouldn’t be. He said that Arizona was so Democratic that Republicans didn’t have a chance. Well, that was mainly true. But Howard Pyle did win.”

But that loss wasn’t the end of Rhodes’ political career. Despite Arizona being primarily Democratic, in 1952 he was the first Republican elected to represent Arizona in the House of Representatives and he served in Congress for 30 consecutive years.

One of his memorable achievements was being the driving force behind Congressional authorization of Central Arizona Project, which was not an easy task.

“California’s support was absolutely necessary. When we were turned on by our former friends and allies in the upper basin, there we were standing alone with California on one plank and them on the other,” said Rhodes. “And there we were a very small state with two members of the house and two senators. Thank God we had Carl Hayden who was very important indeed.  And that’s also when Stewart Udall became very important because when he became the Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy Administration, he was able to get California to come over to our side.”

He worked tirelessly to not only pass the legislation that authorized construction, the Colorado River Basin Project Act, but also to finance the project.

“So I told him (chairman of the Public Works Subcommittee) that it was going to be necessary for us to put some money in the Appropriations Bill in 1968,” said Rhodes. “And he said what did you have in mind, and I said a million dollars.  So he said okay.  And so when the bill was marked up I had a million dollars appropriated hard cash money to begin the Central Arizona Project.”

One million in the first year was just a start. After Rhodes and Paul Fannin spoke with the Director of the Office of Management, he gave them the schedule of appropriations for completion of CAP and that was followed.

“It was done,” Rhodes said. “The water is flowing and whenever our children crossed the CAP canal they’d say ‘There’s daddy’s ditch!’”

Shunick CAP Oral History

Dick Shunick was an engineer who worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior, serving as the Project Manager for Central Arizona Project.

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Dick Shunick: Leading construction of CAP

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

As a young engineer, Illinois native Dick Shunick decided to head west. His destination was a job with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in Boulder City, Nevada. He didn’t know it then, but he would spend the next 30 years in civil service, culminating with his final role: Project Manager for Central Arizona Project.

After five years in Boulder City, he headed to Phoenix where he was doing power scheduling and water scheduling. He arrived in 1954, when authorization of Central Arizona Project was frequently talked about, and Shunick did a lot of work to support hearings about CAP in Washington, D.C.

In 1959, he took a position with the BOR in Washington, D.C. where he spent the next 12 years. But he always knew he wanted to go back to Phoenix. In 1971, Shunick became the Project Manager for Central Arizona Project.

“We finally got construction underway in ’73, then the story from there was just a matter of getting annual funding and proceeding,” Shunick said. “The CAP, you know, is the largest water resource project ever authorized by Congress at one time. We spent 20 years building it.”

Construction was complicated. Moving water 336 miles across the state isn’t easy. But Shunick lead a team of construction professionals who made it happen; boring the seven-mile Buckskin Mountain Tunnel and fine-tuned engineering that allowed the water to be lifted 2900 feet and flow by gravity through the system. But the biggest challenge?

“Getting the goodwill of the people, the environmentalists,” said Shunick. “And a lot of people thought it would never work because of the magnitude of it and so on.”

Shunick retired in in 1980, five years before the first water deliveries, but looks back on his career with pride.

“I had a very enjoyable career,” Shunick said. “I enjoyed every moment of it.”

Steiner CAP Oral History

Wes Steiner was an engineer who moved to Arizona to be the state water engineer and Executive Director of the Interstate Stream Commission. In 1980, he became the first Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, serving until 1985.

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Wes Steiner: Arizona’s Water Czar

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

You can’t talk about Arizona’s water history without talking about Wes Steiner, frequently referred to as Arizona’s Water Czar. But the man who drove much of the state’s innovative water management was actually a California native who started his career with the California Department of Water Resources.

He started as a junior civil engineer, quickly rising through the ranks and ultimately becoming the department’s expert on Colorado River water matters. He was there when Arizona sued California to get Central Arizona Project authorized and even sat next to Mike Ely, California’s attorney, when the case when to the US Supreme Court.

“Mark Wilmer was representing Arizona,” said Steiner. “And as I sat there and listened to the questions that the judges asked and the presentations that Ely made and the presentations that Mark Wilmer made, it became pretty obvious to me that California didn’t have a case, that clearly Arizona was right.”

So shortly after the Colorado River Basin Project Act was signed, Rich Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Interstate Stream Commission called to ask Steiner if he knew anyone who would be interested in being the state water engineer. Steiner stepped up, much to the surprise of Johnson. He ultimately became the first Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

“I didn’t realize when I went over there that Arizona, water-wise, was way behind California. And I knew a lot of things that I should try to do to bring them, to bring them up to speed,” said Steiner. “You know, I planned to try and do those things and you don’t do things like that without engendering controversy and certainly I did a lot of that.”

Controversy was due to change that Steiner said had to happen. Groundwater basins were overdrawn. Water was being used twice as fast as it was being replenished. Five times as fast in Tucson. It would only be a matter of time before it would be prohibitively expensive to pump groundwater…if there was still water there.

The two most important items: construction of CAP and the 1980 Groundwater Management Act.

“I’m proud of the fact that I was able to get, convince a lot of people in Arizona that they needed to start making decisions on what, how they wanted to use the water that was available to them, how they wanted to develop their water instead of letting the federal agencies make all their decisions,” said Steiner.

Swan CAP Oral History

Bill Swan was a lawyer for the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was lead negotiator for the federal government in the water rights quantification and settlement for numerous Native American Tribes and instrumental in quantifying water allotments for Arizona.

Read Bill Swan’s Oral History Transcript
Listen to Bill Swan’s Interview – Part 1Part 2

Bill Swan: Seeing the Big Picture

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Water in the west is complicated, and few people have been fortunate enough to have the multi-faceted perspective of Bill Swan. As an attorney with the US Department of the Interior, he saw it all.

“Because I represented the Bureau [U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR)], I had to understand, at the time, the California mess, the Nevada mess, the Arizona mess, the Mexico mess and deal with all of it,“ he said. “I got the big picture.”

His work was fueled by a true love of water, and it’s one that started young, where as a teen in Arizona, he spent many days at a stream with a fishing rod and sack lunch.

“I was always attracted to the water side of Arizona,” said Swan. “I always wanted to go where the streams were, the lakes were, try and do a little fishing. If it had to do with water I was there.”

So after graduating from law school, he started attending meetings about CAP because he found them interesting; fascinated with the fact that they were going to flood an Indian Reservation. In 1977, he joined US Department of the Interior’s Field Solicitor’s Office, beginning his career in natural resources, water and tribal law.

Right off the bat, he stated working on tribal matters, especially related to water, and became an authority. So when the tribal issues started to bump up against SRP, Swan was the point person.

“As their main lawyer, from sort of a water or water management perspective, I had to learn the Law of the Colorado River,” Swan said. “So that’s how I got into this whole thing and started learning piece by piece, not only all the players…but how do they do it, how do they get along, sort of the structure of the California system, Arizona and the building of the CAP, and all of that, rights along the river and also issues with Mexico.”

Swan spent nearly 20 years working for the US Department of the Interior before moving into private practice, staying close to water through his work focusing primarily on issues related to the seven Colorado River Basin States.

Towles CAP Oral History

Bob Towles spent 49 years with the U.S. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, retiring as the director of the Lower Colorado Region.

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Bob Towles: A Life with the Bureau

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Bob Towles knew from an early age that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) was a great place to work. After his mother passed away when he was about seven, a family friend stepped in to raise him, and she happened to work for BOR on the All American Canal, a canal carrying Colorado River water to agricultural areas of Southern California.

So when he hit high school, Towles started working at BOR as a gardener, followed by time as a janitor in the dormitories and a worker in the vehicle service department. He attended the University of Arizona and even worked summers as a lab technician. So after he got his degree in civil engineering, he stayed at the Bureau, working his way through many different positions over the next 49 years.

 In 1986, Towles was transferred to Phoenix as the Project Manager in the Arizona project office.

“We were in charge of all the construction, the design work and construction, and when we would finish it, we would turn it over to CAWCD and they would operate it. And so that was the way it was,” said Towles.

It was cutting edge engineering and it was not always easy. There were vibration problems at Havasu Pumping Plant (later renamed Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant), concerns about exploding pipes in the inverted siphons and issues surrounding water quality in Tucson. But the problems were ironed out and the project was turned over to CAP to maintain and operate.

Towles finished his long and distinguished career as the Director of the Lower Colorado River Region of the U.S Bureau of Reclamation.

Turley CAP Oral History

Stan Turley served in the Arizona Legislature for more than two decades. During his tenure, he was involved in the creation of the groundwater management code.

Read Stan Turley’s Oral History Transcript
Listen to Stan Turley’s Interview – Part 1Part 2

Stan Turley: The importance of water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Stan Turley always knew that water in Arizona was important and precious. He grew up on Sundown Ranch, a dry farm and cattle ranch 25 miles from Snowflake, Arizona. He remembers his family didn’t even throw out the dishwater; they poured it into the barrel in the pig pen.

“Water was precious. We had no running water, but we had surface wells,” he said. “We were just brought up on the idea of how important water is and also like for your cattle or any kind of life, you got to have water.”

So it’s not surprising that after serving in the Arizona Legislature for more than 20 years, he is quick to name his top accomplishment as the Groundwater Management Act of 1980, which satisfied federal requirements for CAP construction to continue.

“The art of politics is to satisfy the irritated without irritating the satisfied. If you can do that, you’re doing pretty good,” said Turley. “I think we did it in that, in that Groundwater Act.”

But it wasn’t easy. Turley recalls traveling around the state as a member of the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission, discussing water issues. But they never seemed to reach consensus. Eventually, a smaller group called a Rump Committee met behind closed doors and they emerged with a plan.

“We took that thing in to the legislature and passed it without changing a comma in about twenty minutes,” Turley said. “No debate to speak of and the reason we could do that was because everybody that was concerned had enough confidence in the people that represented them in that group to say well that’s the best we can do, we can live with that. And we came out with a deal.”

The deal has long been viewed as extremely innovative water management and one that was critical for Arizona.

“It satisfied the U.S. Secretary of the Interior,” said Turley. “It did what it had to do to keep the CAP going and it did.”

Udall CAP Oral History

Stewart Udall was a three-term congressman before serving as Secretary of the Interior from 1961-1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Stewart Udall: Facing the opposition

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Stewart Udall wasn’t new to Washington D.C. He was a three-term Congressman before serving as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. So the challenge was obvious. Getting Congressional approval for construction of Central Arizona Project had to overcome the opposition of California and that of the newly developing environmental movement.

“We had to get some of the leaders, top leaders of California viewing Arizona and its desire for a water project as something that was rational and historically right and so on,” Udall said. “I had to work on it. I worked on it every day one way or another; it was always on my mind.”

As Secretary of the Interior, he knew he was going to break down the unity of California, making friends with the Northern California people. And he encouraged everyone working on getting the project authorized to collaborate with environmentalists. Getting authorization for CAP took a lot of work and collaboration.

“I had to make compromises to make it easy for Arizona to get its project,” he said. “I was almost kind of on a tightrope between being a national Secretary of Interior and being perceived as somebody whose main mission in life was to get an Arizona water project.”

But Udall knew it was best for Arizona. He remember conversations about securing Arizona’s Colorado River supply from his childhood and was aware that a stable and secure water supply was key for Arizona’s future.

“I spent my time with a team of horses as a teenager plowing fields, irrigating fields, that was part of your education, so you lived close to the land. Water was important, gardens were important, animals were important,” said Udall. “That was the way I lived. I think that served me well when I become a Congressman, Secretary of Interior, because I knew how important resources were to people.”

CAP Oral History

Carol West worked at the Southern Arizona Water Resources Association and the Tucson Regional Water Council before being elected to Tucson City Council.

Read Carol West’s Oral History Transcript

Wheeler CAP Oral History

Bill Wheeler was an engineer who served on the Central Arizona Project Association (CAPA) board, working to ensure Arizona received its share of Colorado River water.

Read William H. Wheeler’s Oral History Transcript
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Bill Wheeler: The Face of CAPA

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When California native Bill Wheeler moved to Tucson and got involved in the Chamber of Commerce, he quickly saw the importance of water and knew that being dependent on groundwater was a losing proposition.

So the prospect of bringing Colorado River water to Tucson didn’t seem far-fetched. In fact, as a civil engineer, it seemed like a necessity, so he got involved in the Central Arizona Project Association (CAPA), at that time, an organization with a diverse membership and a 50-person board that was working to get CAP authorized by Congress.

His service to the water industry spanned nearly 40 years, and included many water battles, not only with California, but also within the state of Arizona.

“We had serious problems, political problems with the Tucson people. Many of them saying that water is poison and it’s really a terrible thing and we can’t have that in Tucson, we have wonderful beautiful groundwater and we were saying yes, but is going to run out. We couldn’t convince many of the politicians,” Wheeler said.

But Wheeler was steadfast, and his work helped change Arizona’s water future. He retired in 2003 as the Executive Director of CAPA.

Wilson CAP Oral History

Sid Wilson began his water management career at Salt River Project as a watershed specialist and was promoted various times, eventually becoming the Associate General Manager for Water and for Planning and Resources. In 1995, he became the second General Manager of CAP, serving until his retirement in 2009.

Read David S. Wilson’s Oral History Transcript
Listen to David S. Wilson’s Interview – Part 1Part 2

Sid Wilson: Doing what he loves

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Sid Wilson didn’t set specific goals in his career. In fact, he believed in finding a job that he enjoyed doing and doing it well. And for him, it was a magical combination.

He started his water career at Salt River Project in 1967 as a watershed specialist. He relished his time in the field, away from offices, shirts and ties and politics. But when he was approached with a request to take on more responsibility and lead a team, he stepped up.

“My dad modeled taking responsibility, do it as well as you could. Do more than your share and help others,” said Wilson. “Every time that I was asked to take a job, it was one where I was asked to do more. I was asked to be responsible for others, and I felt obligated to do it as well as I could, but I enjoyed each of them.”

For the next 24 years, Wilson sharpened his skills at SRP. He was part of some monumental work…floods in the late 1970s and early 1980s, development of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, groundwater recharge legislation and more.

He was SRP’s Associate General Manager when he left in the early 1990s and was recruited to be Vice President for Bookman-Edmonston, a small water resources consulting firm. He wasn’t looking to make a move when his administrative assistant told him CAP was advertising for a new General Manager and she thought he’d be perfect…and he didn’t have anything to lose.

“I thought about that and my theory about finding something you enjoy doing, doing it as well as you can; and consider new opportunities as they may present themselves,” Wilson said. “So I said, ‘okay.’”

His first day as CAP’s second General Manager was January 1, 1995. During his time, he saw the organization finish the transition from primarily a construction project to a maintenance organization and was involved in the CAP’s lawsuit against the federal government over repayment, the Yuma Desalting Plant, the Multi-Species Conservation Program, drought planning and recharge, just to name a few.

But his proudest accomplishment, he says, is bigger than that. It’s his work to make sure Arizona has water for years to come.

“CAP makes sure that the water is not only here today, but it’ll be here tomorrow,” said Wilson. “Everything that I’ve been involved in at CAP all goes into that. The biggest accomplishment for me is that CAP exists in the desert, brings water 336 miles across that desert in a manmade river that’s larger than any river in the state, uphill, to meet the expectations of people. That is what it’s really about.”

Wilson retired in 2009.

“I’ve concluded over the years is that it’s more important to have a direction than a vision, because it’s kind of like developing a photograph. You start with a general idea, but it’s not very clear, and as you work on it and as you approach it, it’s like watching that film come to life.”

Wuertz CAP Oral History

Howard Wuertz is a farmer who served on the CAWCD Board of Directors as the lone Pinal County representative from 1971-1983, including three terms as President of the Board. eventually becoming the Associate General Manager for Water and for Planning and Resources. In 1995, he became the second General Manager of CAP, serving until his retirement in 2009.

Read Howard Wuertz’s Oral History Transcript
Listen to Howard Wuertz’s Interview

Howard Wuertz: An agricultural perspective

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When Pinal County farmer Howard Wuertz was appointed to the first Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors in 1971, he knew the CAP system was important to Arizona, even though many people thought it sounded like a crazy idea.

“There’s a certain inertia about certain things,” Wuertz said. “In the fifties and sixties, there was a twenty-year period that nobody hardly ever drew a breath that didn’t say something about getting the Colorado River water into the central part of the state of Arizona.”

He’d also been a farmer long enough to know that by the mid-1950s, the water table was declining and the drilling of new wells was not allowed. So constructing a system to bring Colorado River water to the central part of the state was necessary. Even the Federal Government got involved, threatening to shut down construction of CAP unless Arizona passed a meaningful groundwater management act.

When Governor Bruce Babbitt assembled a group of leaders from the water community to address Arizona’s water issues, Wuertz, as both President of the CAWCD Board and President of the Cotton Growers, was asked to be part of the group.

“I’m getting my snoot full of water issues because every time you turn around, the pumps pump less water, the state is on your back, the federal government is on your back,” said Wuertz.

Those efforts resulted in many things. The group assembled by Babbitt worked tirelessly to enact Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act, which satisfied the Federal Government’s desire for Arizona to have a meaningful groundwater management act. Construction continued on the CAP system. And Wuertz learned about drip irrigation, implementing it on his farm, resulting in decreased water usage and increased yields.

Wuertz served a total of 12 years on the CAWCD Board of Directors, including three terms as President. He left in 1983 before deliveries began, but worked through many difficult issues such as Orme Dam and Plan 6. He is proud of his work and support of CAP.

“I think that growing up with the idea of bringing the Colorado River water into the central part of the state was a sound plan, and it was constructed properly, utilized properly, and I think it’s just exactly what it should be,” said Wuertz.

Wilbur Wuertz CAP Oral History

Wilbur Wuertz was a farmer in Coolidge, AZ and helped create the Hohokam Irrigation District.

Read Wilbur Wuertz’s Oral History Transcript
Listen to Wilbur Wuertz’s Interview

Wilbur Wuertz: Building an irrigation district

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Wlbur Wuertz wasn’t always a farmer. In fact, after high school, he started at the University of Arizona before World War II changed his plans. He joined the Air Force where he was a pilot and expert on instruments, ultimately becoming an instructor.

Upon returning home, Wuertz headed back to school, graduated in 1949 with a degree in animal husbandry and became a County Agent in Yuma County and then Maricopa County. But ultimately, he decided farming was what he really wanted to do, and it was definitely something he knew. Since his family had arrived in Coolidge in 1929, he’d been part of a farming family.

So when the Central Arizona Project system became a reality, Wuertz knew it was important that the farmers in the area could access CAP water, so he joined with others and founded the Hohokam Irrigation District.

“We didn’t just go draw a big circle and say all of you that are in here are part of the district,” said Wuertz. “We just advertised and told people who – anybody that wanted to get into the district come and sign up.”

The result was about members who farmed about 25,000 acres; they formed the district, got contracts to get the water, built canals and hired staff to operate the district.

“Thank God for CAP, you know since we farmers quit pumping so much and started putting on CAP water, why that water table has, oh it’s even come up a little,” said Wuertz.

Today the boundaries of the District encompass approximately 29,000 acres in Pinal County between the cities of Coolidge and Casa Grande and is the fourth largest District in Pinal County.

Earl Zarbin CAP Oral History

Earl Zarbin, a retired newspaper reporter and editor, began his career at The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson and later worked for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. Zarbin has written six Arizona history books, four about water: Roosevelt Dam: A History to 1911 (1984); The Salt River Project: Four Steps Forward, 1902-1910 (1986); Two Sides of the River: Salt River Valley Canals, 1867-1902 (1997); and Let the Record Show…Gila River Indian Reservation Rights and the Central Arizona Project (2004). Following retirement from the newspaper business, he worked for Central Arizona Project as a writer, tour guide, and presenter.

Read Earl Zarbin’s Oral History Transcript

Earl Zarbin: Author & Water Enthusiast

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. When Earl Zarbin was 19 years old and in the U.S. Army, he decided he was going to be a fiction writer. Later, at age 22, he departed his Chicago birthplace to move to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, arriving in January 1951.        

“And, of course I’m a total failure as a fiction writer,” he laughs.

But Zarbin didn’t give up his dream of fiction or writing. While attending the university, he went to work for The Arizona Daily Star in its library. A few months later, he became a reporter. He wrote mostly obituaries, but it was a start. Several months later he became the night police reporter, which included producing a daily weather story, and it was heavy rains that changed his direction in life.

“When it rained in Tucson, people went nuts,” Zarbin recalls. “In July and August 1954, not only did it rain, but we had such an excess of water that we had, for the first time since I’d been to Tucson, water running in the Santa Cruz River.”

Zarbin contacted the U.S. Weather Bureau to find out how much water was flowing in the river. He was given the amount in cubic feet per second (CFS).

“I had no idea how much water is in a cubic foot and unless you can put it in terms that people are going to understand, why even write it. So, I took whatever the number was and converted it to gallons.  And that is what started me on water,” Zarbin says.

He arrived in Phoenix in 1958 and through the years wrote many weather stories for The Arizona Republic. But he didn’t entirely abandon his dreams of writing fiction. He started writing a satire, but says, “My fiction was just terrible.” In an effort to improve, he started researching the history of the Salt River Valley in old newspapers. He typed notes as he read, resulting in 4,600 single-spaced pages.

 “Well, despite my research, my fiction didn’t improve, and that’s the way it was,” Zarbin says. 

But he thought that what he had learned about Salt River Valley water history, albeit nonfiction, should be shared, and started writing his first book.

“My first book, about Roosevelt Dam, wasn’t published until I was age fifty-five.”

Zarbin ultimately authored six books; four are about Arizona water. After retiring from The Arizona Republic at the end of 1988, his interest in water didn’t wane. He spent 15 years as a year-around, part-time contract worker for Central Arizona Project, first as a writer, then leading tours and giving presentations sharing his knowledge about water in Arizona.

“Without (water) you can’t live. That’s number one. But it’s just, for a newspaper person, when you understand that without water, you just don’t have the civilization. It’s gotta be of interest to you,” he says. 

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