Floyd Dominy, a man obsessed with damming the West, is dead at 100.
The head of the Bureau of Reclamation from 1959 to 1969, Dominy oversaw the building of some of the largest dam and public-works projects in the American West, most importantly, Glen Canyon Dam
(and the creation of Lake Powell
behind it. As Dominy put it, "The unregulated Colorado was a son of a bitch. It was either in flood or in trickle. It wasn't any good." He was a fierce advocate for developing public lands to benefit farmers, industry and other interests.
Dominy and the BLM became major targets for the flourishing environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s, who characterized the agency as the "Wreck-The-Nation" Bureau. Battles over Western dams brought the Sierra Club into the national spotlight, particularly its executive director, David Brower
. Brower and the Sierra Club successfully kept Dominy's BLM from building a dam across the Colorado River in Echo Park in Colorado; this fight, though, led to the eventual construction of Glen Canyon Dam, something Brower later referred to as "America's most regretted environmental mistake." To persuade Americans that Glen Canyon was worth saving, the Sierra Club published The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado
, a collaboration between Brower and photographer Eliot Porter.
The Dominy-Brower conflict was so well known that John McPhee used it as the part of the basis for his book Encounters With the Archdruid
, in which Dominy and Brower debate the construction of Glen Canyon and its environmental effects while floating down the river together. (The two ended up drinking a lot of beer together, despite their intense disagreements.)
Despite the long (and continuing) controversy over the BLM's policies, Dominy has always defended his work. "I have no apologies. I was a crusader for the development of water. I was the Messiah. I was the evangelist who went out and argued persuasively for the harness of water for the benefit of people."
One of the better interviews with Dominy can be found here
. Russell Martin's A Story That Stands Like a Dam: Glen Canyon and the Struggle for the Soul of the American West
is one of the best histories of Dominy's work with the BLM and the Glen Canyon controversy.