What lies at the heart of California’s prosperity, and the history of the state is largely the history of water development. Northern California is wet, Southern California is dry, and getting the water to where it is needed is the fulcrom on which power is poised. This detailed letter concerns the federal...
What lies at the heart of California’s prosperity, and the history of the state is largely the history of water development. Northern California is wet, Southern California is dry, and getting the water to where it is needed is the fulcrom on which power is poised. This detailed letter concerns the federal interest in California’s need for sufficient water to serve the widest range of human, agricultural, and industrial purposes in the area by the American River. At issue is the Auburn-Folsom South Unit Authorization Act, which was to result in the Auburn Dam and Power Plant, Sugar Pine Reservoir, Folsom-South Canal, and in recreation and fish wildlife enhancement facilities. Kennedy was keenly interested in water resources, and in his March 1 Special Message to Congress on Conservation, mentioned the Auburn-Folsom South Unit project specifically. In this letter, he quotes from the message: “The leadtime is long in the development of water resources. Years are required to plan and build sound projects. Time should not be lost…”
Typed letter signed, as President, on green White House letterhead, Washington, March 15, 1962. “Thank you for your apprising us of the need for multiple-purpose water resource development of the American River…. The Secretary of the Interior, in his report…, on the Auburn-Folsom South Unit Central Valley Project, also pointed out the urgency of early authorization and construction of this Unit. Accordingly, his report has been submitted to Congress for consideration. The Secretary has also submitted his report on legislation to authorize construction of the proposed development. In addition, the House and Senate Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs have held hearings… A solid front of support for the enactment of that legislation was presented by representatives of the Executive Branch, by congressional sponsors of the legislation, by state and local representatives, and by an impressive array of other witnesses representing the affected counties, cities, and water users’ organizations. The Auburn-Folsom South Unit is precisely the type of water resource department I advocated in my recent message to the Congress on Conservation. In fact, this was one of the five projects specifically mentioned when I said, ‘The lead time is long in the development of water resources. Years are required to plan and build sound projects. Time should not be lost on those projects which have already been transmitted to the Congress for authorization.’… We are fully in sympathy with the desire of the state of California for the early realization of the many of the benefits which will result from construction and operation of the Auburn-Folsom South Unit. To the maximum practical extent we will continue to encourage and support legislation to this end.” We do not recall seeing another letter of JFK quoting one of his messages to Congress.
The Auburn-Folsom South Unit was not authorized until 1965, but was ultimately successful. Its primary agricultural uses are for irrigated pasture and forage crops. Grapes, orchard crops, rice, sugar beets, and tomatos share the remaining irrigated acreage. Auburn dam provides water for flood control, irrigation, recreation, municipal and industrial uses, water quality improvement, power generation, and fisheries enhancement. There are also the recreational opportunities that Kennedy so loved.
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