A Place to Store the Water
pretty much diverted the river to Los Angeles. Because it was only
a diversion, the aqueduct followed the pattern of the river. If the
river was not that large, the aqueduct was not that large. While
Mulholland did not believe in aboveground water storage-he thought
that too much water would evaporate-he was eventually forced to
build a large reservoir to hold the water from the Owens River.
Fred Eaton owned the only dam site in the Owens Valley. He was
demanding one million dollars for the land. It would have made a
wonderful site for a dam. It was off in a side canyon of the valley
where it would not disturb the residents of the valley and would
allow the city to share the water with the town. But a million
dollars was too much for Mulholland. He attempted to bargain with
Eaton, but got nowhere. The two longtime friends began to fall
began looking for another site to store water. He eventually chose
to enlarge a dam the city was constructing in San Francisquito
Canyon, just outside the city. Despite the fact that his engineers
thought it would be a really bad idea, Mulholland went ahead with
Just as the
reservoir reached its full capacity in March of 1928, it began to
leak. Most dams leak when they are full for the first time. They
leak clear water. The fact that the water is clear shows that it is
from the reservoir. But the dam was leaking brown water. That could
only mean one thing-the water was breaking apart the canyon walls.
Mulholland inspected the dam, but pronounced that everything was
all right. He decided that the brown water was run-off from the wet
mud near the construction site. How could his dam be structurally
one of the worst disasters in peacetime United States history
occurred. It is guessed that somewhere around 450 people died. The
reservoir tore the dam apart. A 200-foot high wall of water began
gushing down the canyon, destroying and then carrying away
everything in its path. Blocks of concrete rode the waves of water.
After killing virtually all the inhabitants of the area just below
the dam, the waves turned to a semi-solid form. When they crashed
into towns further down stream they would throw houses and concrete
blocks from upstream into anything they found. There was no warning
system-no one knew of the coming flood.
discovered that the two other dams in which Mulholland was involved
also collapsed. Mulholland's career was completely destroyed. The
savior of Los Angles was shattered. When he resigned in November of
1928 his reputation was ruined beyond repair.