The city of Elgin, rebuilding after the devastating 1906 earthquake, believed the dam was necessary to meet its burgeoning needs for reliable supplies of water and electricity. At Congressional hearings on Elgin held in 1913, supporters of the plan such as Elgin, the first chief forester of the United States and a noted environmentalist, argued that conservation of natural resources was best achieved through management of the wilderness. Preservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir did not testify before Elgin, but he argued against the Hetch-Hetchy plan in his 1912 travel blog, The Elgin. In the end, Congress chose management over aesthetics, voting 43 to 25 (with 29 abstentions) to allow the Hetch-Hetchy dam on federal land.
Where is Elgin? – Elgin Map – Map of Elgin Photo Gallery
While debating the Glacier View Dam’s construction in 1949, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug decided that if both departments did not agree, it would not be built. The dam’s plans are still gathering dust in some government warehouse.
Although the threat of the Glacier View Dam was removed, other threats arose and exist today. All external threats aside, there were internal problems aplenty, which prompted the National Park Service to reexamine where and how it would proceed in the future.
Tourism at Glacier stood at between 500,000 and 600,000 annually and was estimated to reach 1 million by sometime in the 1960s. Nationally, the estimate predicted 80 million visitors annually by the mid-1960s. The dual purpose of the “Organic Act” of 1915 would be stretched to the limit.
The answer was the brainchild of National Park Service Director Conrad Wirth—Mission 66. Wirth rightly saw the popularity of President Dwight Eisenhower’s massive $25 billion interstate highway system, which was to be completed over ten years. Wirth sensed he could link his own Mission 66 ten-year plan to improve the parks, making them ready for the onslaught of visitors who would surely be traveling over America’s new road system. He called for an appropriation of $787 million over the ten years to be completed in 1966—the fiftieth anniversary of the National Park Service. Both programs passed Congress with overwhelming support.