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 fo
this amazing achievement of man as they have been for the more amazing
achievements of man throughout time.
• Proper planning always prevails.