California Part Two Panama and Los Angeles By: Errol Farley
Cadillac Desert 1 William Mulholland started out in America as a penniless immigrant digging ditches in San Pedro. Shortly after that he received a job at the newly founded Los Angeles Water Company. He oversaw the first steel pipes laid for Los Angeles water and in the next decade he would be the head of Los Angeles Water. This self taught engineer would lay the foundation for the flourishing Los Angeles area that we know today. If it weren’t for Mulholland, Los Angeles would never have thrived like it did.
Cadillac Desert 2 Mulholland covertly bought out 95% of the Owens River between 1911 and 1923. With a huge water resource now in his pocket he began construction of a 233 mile aqueduct reaching across the Mojave Desert straight to downtown L.A. After the Owens Valley dried up from all its water being re-routed to L.A. the Owens Valley farmers were outraged and had no choice but to fight for their livelihood. They proceeded to blow up the pipelines multiple times and tried to take control of the aqueduct gates but L.A.’s legal rights to these farmers water prevailed and were enforced with a ‘massive show of armed force’. The Colorado River has been the most litigated and dammed up river in the history of the world and the once prosperous current now only barely reaches back to the sea in the wettest years. Because of this now California’s central valley has been turned from an arid dusty landscape to one of the most productive and environmentally altered agricultural region in the history of the world.
Cadillac Desert 3 Mulholland's career ended abruptly with the collapse of the St. Francis Dam in 1928. The town of Santa Paula was destroyed and buried under 20 feet of mud after the 100 foot high torrent of water swept right through it and out to the Pacific Ocean at 18mph. Although he assumed full responsibility for the 450 dead (including 42 school children) he was officially dismissed of this burden due to the site being built on unstable rock formations that he could not have foreseen.
A man, A Plan, A Canal 1 The Panama Canal was, at one point, America’s crowning achievement. Linking the Pacific with the Atlantic ocean it served as a gateway ‘between worlds’. During WWII America has 65,000 troops stationed at the canal to protect it against foreign invasion. At the peak of production 44,000 men were working on the canal. Altogether almost 6,000 lives were lost, most of them were from Barbados. Built at a cost of $387 billion dollars, the Panama Canal was America’s coming of age in the start of the 20th century. By the end of the 20th century America no longer had use for the canal as its oil tankers and air craft carriers could no longer fit through the locks.
A man, A Plan, A Canal 2 The French government struggled to dig through Panama for the last two decades of the 19th century before it finally gave up and sold their rights to the U.S. In 1904 the U.S. began what would be the largest civil engineering project in history. It took 9 years of nearly nonstop labor to dig out the 9 miles of dirt that stood in the way of todays largest manmade waterway. Along with this canal being built, the whole area was cleaned up and made suitable to live. John Stevens took over this operation after several years into it and ordered that the quality of the workers lives must improve before the canal could be completed to insure its success. Not only did Stevens value the lives of his workers but he also knew that building a sea-level canal would be impossible. He instead build a series of steps going up and down from and to the lake. Using gravity each step would fill up with water and let the ship pass onto the next step.
A man, A Plan, A Canal 3 Americans dug faster in a day than the French could dig in a month. More explosive energy was spent blasting through Panama than all the wars that America had fought until then. The canal was finished ahead of schedule and cost less than estimated. The construction of the Panama Canal was a clean production with no recorded corruption, kickbacks, thievery or bribery. Overall, American forces had an incredibly easier time building the canal than the French because they had first set up a proper infrastructure to start the operation. Clean living and high morale were the foundation for this amazing achievement of man as they have been for the more amazing achievements of man throughout time. Proper planning always prevails.