Panama & Los Angeles: The Waterworks That Made the American West Robert Wesley Bridger Jr History 141, 71154
American Waterworks Los Angeles Los Angeles, unlike most all other cities, had no real reason to exist. There were no minerals, forest, or port to give it reason. In 1878, the population of Los Angeles was 9,000 and water was supported mostly thru the small Los Angeles River. By 1886 the population had jumped to 100,000. The Los Angeles River had been all used up by 1903 and the population had been still increasing. The need for an alternate water supply or the death of the city was at hand. On November 5, 1913 Mulholland's aqueduct was finished, bringing with it the Owens River, and began to give Los Angeles four times more water than they were able to use. With this new water source, Los Angeles began to go through a golden age of building that lasted through the 1920s and 1930s.
American Waterworks The Unjust Fix Once the Los Angeles River had went dry, the city mayor and William Mulholland went to visit Owens Valley to see what they later said would feed Los Angeles for a century to come. They disguised themselves and began to buy up river rights from the unknowing farmers. They kept this a secret for as long as possible so not to spoil their plan. During this time, the wealthy of Los Angeles who knew of the plan began to buy up the San Fernando Valley. This land without the river was considered cheap and useless but with the river coming they plotted to make a fortune off of it. During a drought, the people of Los Angeles voted 10 to 1 to pay for the aqueduct to bring them Owens River that they had just purchased. Owens Valley was made off limits to further development by President Theodore Roosevelt .
American Waterworks Owens Valley Owens Valley was a little over 200 miles Northeast of Los Angeles. It was a fertile valley of flourishing farmlands containing both the Owens River and Owens Lake. Its water sources were fed by the mountain ranges on both its east and west. The Serra Nevada and its large snow-capped mountains were just a couple miles away, and many of them reached over 14,000 feet. The flourishing farmlands of Owens Valley began to die once its water source had been funneled down to Los Angeles, and the land made into a National Park, making the residents unable to shift their land.
American Waterworks William Mulholland William Mulholland was an Irish immigrant to Los Angeles in 1878. He began work as a ditch digger and within 8 years worked his way up to become Superintendent of Water and Power. Saved Los Angeles by drastically changing the flow of the Owens River, over two hundred miles, to the city. This was the longest and largest water project of its time. His methods of retrieving water for the ever growing city of Los Angeles led to what is known as the California Water Wars, a period of time with countless lawsuits and arguments over rights to water sources. His career ended on March 12, 1928 when the St. Francis Dam, which he had designed and supervised the build of, had failed just hours after he performed a safety inspection.
The Panama Canal The Idea, The Dream For hundreds of years, various nations have journeyed in search for a water passage connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. In 1881 a French company began to dig what would become the Panama Canal, yet after two decades of disease and lack of financial support they abandoned their quest and sold all rights and equipment to the United States. The United States purchased the French company’s equipment and digging rights for $40 million in 1904. In 1905, after yellow fever and malaria were under control, the push for the United States to complete the task of the Panama Canal began. This would put their engineering skills to the test, and nine years and nine miles later they succeeded. The Panama Canal opened on August 15, 1914. Approximately 20,000 workers died during both the French and American construction periods.
The Panama Canal Why Panama The California Gold Rush spurred the need for the United States to have a water route from Atlantic to Pacific. The two primary choices for a canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific were Panama and Nicaragua. For the United States there was a bigger push to start new in Nicaragua after the French had failed in Panama. Those wanting to continue a route in Panama emphasized the concern of active volcanoes and earthquakes that were more commonplace in Nicaragua.
The Panama Canal Where is it The Panama Canal was built between Gatun Lake and the Pedro Miguel Locks. Panama is the southernmost country of North America, located completely on a isthmus. To its southeast is Columbia, and the northwest is Costa Rica.
The Panama Canal Famous People Ferdinand de Lesseps was a Frenchmen who is considered mastermind behind the Suez Canal. His work and success on the Suez Canal made the dreams of a canal passing from Atlantic to Pacific very real, yet he failed to recognize the impact of yellow fever and was ruined on his attempts in Panama. William Gorgas , a tropical disease expert, was the man behind ridding the isthmus of its yellow fever in 18 months, thus allowing the American workers to continue their project in 1805. President Theodore Roosevelt was the driving force behind continuing the build in Panama rather than starting over in someplace new.