Framework

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March 11, 1934: Members of the Arizona National Guard stand at the Colorado River during the so-called "Parker Dam War." Maj. R.I. Pomeroy is on right. This print was retouched by a staff artist. This photo was published in the March 12, 1934, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

March 1934: Members of the Arizona National Guard fill canteens at the Colorado River near Parker, Ariz.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

March 1934: The "Julia B," a Colorado River ferry, is seen during the so-called Parker Dam War. After several members of the Arizona National Guard used the vessel to scout the river, the ferry was dubbed the flagship of the Arizona Navy. This photo was published in the March 8, 1934, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

March 1934: Arizona National Guard Sgt. Ernest Mendoza transmits a report by radio from a Parker, Ariz., hotel room. A similar photo of Mendoza was published in the March 11, 1934, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

March 1934: A detachment of the Arizona National Guard at Parker, Ariz., had orders to make daily observations of activities at the Parker Dam site and report back to Arizona Gov. Benjamin B. Moeur. At left is Maj. Franklin I. Pomeroy and Sgt. Sergeant Ernest Mendoza; the others are not identified.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

March 1934: Members of the Arizona National Guard set up camp near Parker, Ariz.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

March 1934: The "Nellie Jo" was one of two Colorado River ferry boats used by the Arizona National Guard during the so-called Parker Dam War.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Nov. 12, 1934: Members of the Arizona National Guard board trucks in Phoenix to deploy to the Arizona side of the Colorado River.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wide World Photos

Nov. 13, 1934: Arizona National Guard troops are stationed in the town of Parker, Ariz. This photo was published in the Nov. 14, 1934, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wide World Photos

Nov. 14, 1934: Members of the Arizona National Guard wait with machine guns at Parker, Ariz., to stop construction of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Duke Ledford / Los Angeles Times

This 1939 photo shows the newly completed Parker Dam and Lake Havasu on the Colorado River. The dam was finished in 1938.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: U.S. Department of the Interior

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The Parker Dam War

In 1934, the Metropolitan Water District began construction on Parker Dam, which was opposed by Arizona. The resulting Lake Havasu would feed the new Colorado Aqueduct.

Before, in 1922, six of seven states signed the Colorado River Compact. Upset with its allotment, Arizona refused to sign.

So when Parker Dam construction began, Arizona sought to block the project.

In March 1934, Arizona Gov. Benjamin Moeur called up the Arizona National Guard. Six soldiers arrived in Parker, Ariz., to observe the construction.

National media, including the Los Angeles Times, ridiculed the deployment.

When this Associated Press photo appeared in the March 10, 1934, Los Angeles Times, the accompanying caption reported:

ARIZONA TROOPS LEAVE FOR (WATER) FRONT

Without any flare of trumpets or a band playing martial airs, this squad of Arizona National Guardsmen left Phoenix and arrived at Parker yesterday preparatory to patrolling the dam site to prevent “encroachment” on Arizona’s rights by the Metropolitan Water District. Maj. Pomeroy, commanding the detail, is shown on the extreme right.

For the next several months, the troops patrolled the Arizona side of the dam site.

In November, the construction of a trestle bridge from the California side prompted action. On Nov. 10, Gov. Moeur declared martial law. He dispatched over 100 National Guard troops to block construction on Arizona’s shore.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes intervened and halted construction. The troops were recalled.

The resulting legal action led to an April 29, 1935, Supreme Court decision. The April 30, 1935, Los Angeles Times reported:

Without a dissenting voice, the United States Supreme Court yesterday forced an indefinite suspension of work on Parker Dam by upholding Arizona’s right to object and interfere with construction. …

Arizona officials, a dispatch from Phoenix said, hailed the decision as a victory in their battle over the Colorado River, which has been waged for twelve years.

Gov. Moeur, who last November ordered out the Militia to stop construction, was quoted as saying he was pleased; and he and other State authorities indicated they now intend to let other sides in the controversy make the first move.

By its far-reaching decision, the Supreme Court virtually justified Gov. Moeur’s action in ordering out the troops.

The decision, written by Justice (Pierce) Butler, assert the dam project never has been authorized by law. ….

Political compromises were made. Congress passed legislation allowing construction to proceed. Parker Dam was finished in 1938.

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scott.harrison@latimes.com

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1 Comment

  1. August 21, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Recent purchases by the MWD of farmland near Blythe illustrates the on-going struggle over water.

    By: Donald

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