The Plot to Drown Alaska

Author of ROADLESS AREA, this year’s winner of the .John Burroughs Medal. Paul Brooks is a frequent contributor to the ATLANTIC, in addition lo his regular duties as editor in chief of Houghton Mifflin Company, In his article “Alaska: Last frontier(ATLANTIC,September, 196%) he pointed out (hat to the conservationist, liAlaska today offers us something that history seldom affordsa second chance/is the present paper makes clear, ill-conceived projects like Rampart Dam could destroy (hat chance forever.

THE ATLANTIC

BY PAUL BROOKS

AS ANY small boy knows, the presence of running water is a compelling reason to build a dam. Most boys when they grow up turn to other things, but a select few go on to join the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Here, under the heading of flood control, navigation, or power production, they build dams beyond the wildest dreams of youth. Some ol these darns are necessary and some are not; ail ol them provide jobs for the Engineers. Most of them involve huge expenditures of federal money. The biggest, most expensive of all is now on the drawing board. Damming the mighty Yukon River at the Ramparts in east central Alaska would create the largest artificial lake in the world.

1 o the layman, the name Army Engineers, as the Corps is usually known, suggests activities concerned with the military. This is logical but inaccurate. The Army Engineers, consisting of the elite ol West Point (originally established as an engineering school), have a superb military record, but most of their work has nothing to do with war.

I hey are the most independent executive division ol our government. Engaged largely with “improvement” of navigable rivers and harbors, they have access to the biggest chunks of pork in the barrel, and they are beloved by Congress. They have, on occasion, successfully defied the President.

Yet in all their glorious history they have never had a chance quite like this to show what they can do.

Here, in brief, is the plan. A glance at the map will show its magnitude. The Yukon River, which rises in the Yukon Territory of northwest Canada, crosses 1300 miles of Alaska from east to west, flowing northwest from the Canadian border to touch the Arctic Circle at the town of Fort Yukon, thence west and south to empty at last into the Bering Sea.

Best known as the gold-miners’ route to the Klondike, its place in Alaskan history suggests that of the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri river systems in the opening of the West. Now, alas, the great stern-wheelers, reminiscent of Mark Twain’s days on the Mississippi, lie rotting on the riverbank at Whitehorse, wood-hungry engine stilled, proud pilothouse a nest for swallows. But in a changing world, where leisure gives more time for recreation, where a burgeoning population needs room to breathe, the Yukon has taken on a new importance. To conservationists, the most valuable part of the entire river is the area known as the Yukon Flats, which extend approximately from the town of Circle, now reached by an extension of the Alaska Highway, downstream 300 miles to Rampart Canyon, northwest of Fairbanks. Over 100 miles wide, this vast network of sloughs and marshes and potholes provides, in addition to its fur-bearing population, one of the finest wildfowl breeding grounds in North America.

To the Corps of Engineers, this presents a golden opportunity. By building a single great dam at the narrows, they could put the entire Yukon Flats under several hundred feet of water. They would thus create a lake with a surface area greater than Lake Erie or the state of New Jersey. The lake would take approximately twenty years to fill. The dam, 530 feet high and 4700 feet long, would cost, at lowest estimates, one and a third billion dollars. The money would come from the federal government. Though over a million dollars has been spent in preliminary engineering surveys, the principal flow ol money will start when and if the dam is voted by Congress.

INDUSTRIAL PARADISE

The sales campaign behind Rampart is a promoter’s dream. Starting out with a $100,000 budget, which will probably soon be doubled, an organization called Yukon Power for America has been formed for the sole purpose of pushing Rampart through Congress. YPA includes businessmen, newspaper publishers, chambers of commerce, the mayors of the principal cities in the state. There is even a junior membership lor schoolchildren at twenty-five cents a head.

YPA’s first publication is a colorful brochure entitled “The Rampart Story.” The claims are not modest. The basic one is, of course, cheap electrical power. By providing electricity at three mills per kilowatt hour, the dam will, according to Y PA, attract industry — notably the aluminum industry — to Alaska.

Furthermore, “once lured to Alaska by Rampart’s mass of low cost energy, several industries would find new uses for the state’s coal and gas reserves.” ‘The reservoir itself “will open vast areas to mineral and timber development,” and provide unlimited recreational potential. Sixty million dollars a year would be spent on construction alone, and “new workers with their families would more than double the population.” In planning this paradise YPA has widespread support beyond that of the Engineers, who first launched the project. 1 he Golden Valley Electrical Association is solidly behind it. An organization called North of the Range terms Rampart “Alaska’s future. . . . We have to come forward with both guns blazing.”

A sense of now or never hangs over the battlefield. “We are going to have to do a tremendous selling job,” said the mayor of Fairbanks. The mayor of Anchorage agreed: “The political climate is favorable now for the project. I feel that if it is not built now, it probably will not be built.” Congress, as one YPA official put it, feels “an obligation to the new state.”

Senator Ernest Gruening was equally frank in addressing the state legislature at Juneau. “Alaska is confronted with the task of catching up after years of federal neglect. We were excluded from the federal aid highway program, and virtually excluded from federal aid power projects.” It is also a matter of catching up with Russia, where he had seen “hydroelectric power dams larger than the largest in America.”

’The senator’s administrative assistant, George Sundborg, author of a book on Grand Coulee Dam entitled Hail Columbia, not only reflects tins urgency but glories in the speed with which things are moving. “The sun shines bright on it.” Grand Coulee, he recalled, required years of study. “And here we are practically ready to start the dirt flying on Rampart.”

Simultaneously he castigated the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service for speaking against Rampart “without waiting for the evidence to come in.” “To be realistic,” Sundborg said, “what can we expect of a Department whose Secretary seems to conceive of his mission as dealing primarily, if not exclusively, with parks and recreation” — and who was off climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when he should have been pushing lor Rampart in the McKinley Park Hotel? Representative Ralph Rivers went further. The time has come to have “a heart to heart talk ‘ with EMail. “I should think that Stewart has a few punches coming, and I can see that we have adequate talent on the [Alaska] delegation to administer those punches.”

When an army takes the field under such dynamic leadership, questions ol fact are roadblocks to be swept aside. It is good for morale to simplify the issue: “Are you for ducks or for people?” and to sneer at the opposition: “Do we,” said Mr. Sundborg, “ — please excuse the metaphor —■ have all our ducks in a row. . . ? Far from it. Rampart has its enemies — waiting with a loaded shotgun and a red-hot mimeograph machine.”

Employing a novel criterion for assessment of land values, Mr. Sundborg dismissed the entire area to be drowned by the dam as worthless: it contains “not more than ten flush toilets.” After exploring the region for over a week by small boat and by plane, I challenge this estimate; the figures are grossly exaggerated. 1 he Yukon Flats are wholly without plumbing. This is wild country, and its values are wilderness values. To get a lair impression of it, one must visit not only the Flats themselves but the river from the Canadian border down to Tanana, since the Army Engineers’ longrange plan includes two dams in addition to Rampart, one of which would back up the water as far as Dawson in the Klondike.

A small group of us made this trip in the summer of 1964. launching our two flat-bottomed, scowlike “Yukon River boats” — twenty feet long with outboard motors — at Eagle and finishing ten days and 650 miles later at banana, the first town below the Rampart Dam site. At Fort Yukon, halfway on our journey, we hired a small plane and for five hours flew low over the Flats and surrounding territory, north to Arctic Village and west as far as Rampart Canyon.

Eagle, where our trip started, was the first incorporated town on the Yukon.

The Army base, with a garrison of 2000 at the turn of the century, had the responsibility of keeping law and order along the river.

Still standing are the huge stables for the Army mules.

Nearby, lining the riverbank, is an Indian village; the native people are Athabaskan Indian, not Eskimo. The river here is already broad, swift, and brown with silt, bordered by alluvial flats or steep cliffs of limestone and shale. Camping the first night opposite a dramatically beautiful bluff, we could hear the current swishing past its base with the rush of a brook in spate.

Next morning, as the early mist began to burn away, we let the motors sleep and drifted. The only sound was the hiss of silt against the boat, like the finest rain on an attic roof. Near the mouth of a tributary, whose clear blue waters met the muddy Yukon in a sharp line, a cow moose stood placidly with a yearling bull at her side. Flocks of mallards congregated near the shore, and somewhere from a slough echoed the cries of red-throated loons. Though in August we were too late for the nesting season, we saw more and more waterfowl as we approached the Flats: pairs of widgeon, small flocks of white-fronted geese, and two sandhill cranes, long necks outstretched and wings beating slowly as they flew directly overhead.

Later on. when we had reluctantly started the motor, we drew alongside another cow moose swimming the river, and marveled at her power and speed as she fought her way across the current, the water parting at her straining neck and shoulders and bubbling whitely over her barely exposed withers. This is prime moose country. We counted ten the first day on the river, including several old bulls with that great spread of antlers which makes the Alaska moose one of the most impressive creatures in the world. America’s largest land animal, it is the chief source of meat for the native peoples in many parts of the state. This is wolf country, too. These much maligned animals, so necessary to the balance of nature in the Arctic, have not yet been exterminated along the Yukon, as they have over so much of their former range. In the mud at the water’s edge their round tracks, like those of huge dogs, mingled with the print of the moose’s sharp hooves — though only once did we get a glimpse of this living symbol of the wilderness.

Above the Flats, signs of human habitation were few. An occasional trapper’s cabin, a channel marker from the steamboat days, an Indian family’s summer encampment, where salmon were being caught in fish wheels, dried on racks in the sun, and smoked in rough frame shelters like tobacco sheds as winter food for men and dogs. If every river has its voice, the voice of the Yukon is the rhythmic groan and plosh of these giant wheels turning slowly in the current, their webbed baskets now and then scooping a silvery fish from the thousands pouring upstream. Nowhere in the world do salmon ascend rivers for such distances as they do in the Yukon system. Now in August, over a thousand miles from the sea, the king salmon had already gone by, but the silver-salmon run was at its height, and dog salmon were yet to come. V isiting with an Indian family, we sampled the “squaw candy” made from choice, delicately smoked strips of king salmon, which fetch a high price at Fairbanks and points south.

At the town of Circle the character of the river changes. Here the Flats begin. The main stream becomes diffused in a maze of secondary channels, sloughs, eddies, shallows, and dead ends, which once or twice baffled even our native Indian boatman. It moves as swiftly as elsewhere, but is broken by ripples and torn by snags and sawyers (one always thinks of Mark Twain) rhythmically rising and falling in the current. The hills have been left behind; the tablelike bog stretches to the horizon (not very distant when your eye is just above the water), relieved occasionally by an isolated bluff, such as the one where we met an archaeologist and his staff from the University of Alaska, who were unearthing traces of an ancient Indian settlement. They shared the site with a pair of peregrine falcons, aristocrats of hawks from the days of chivalry. As we climbed up to watch and photograph one of the two young — still tufted with white down but learning to fly — the falcon circled and shrieked overhead, while her mate, the tiercel, perched restlessly nearby. The peregrine falcon has virtually ceased to breed in the Eastern states, owing in part to the sterilizing effect of pesticides. The few birds we see in the East are raised, like these, in the Arctic. For how long?

From the peregrines’ eyrie we could look far out over the Flats, as the early men who lived there must have done to spot their game. But to read this vast landscape, one must, like the peregrine, fly over it. Our opportunity came at Fort Yukon, whose airstrip, since the decline of river traffic, is its connection with the outside world. All day we flew in a single-engine plane, adding a third dimension to our surface view of the past few days. The first impression was that of a giant abstract painting with muted colors and swirling shapes. Actually it is a picture in imperceptibly slow motion. Wherever there is a current, teardrop sandbars arc growing into islands, tinted here and there with green as the willows take hold. Bends cut off by the ever-shifting river are left as oxbows of still water. The key to the more distant past —to earlier and long-abandoned riverbeds — is the pattern of vegetation. Since spruce grows best on the higher, better-drained ground of the natural levees built along its edge by the river itself, one can trace the course of successive channels by the concentric curves of spruce forest. There are ponds of every size and shape, deep blue in contrast to the coffeecolored river, bordered with bright green sedge. So clear was their water that, flying low, we could make out moose tracks crisscrossing the mud of the bottom.

There are an estimated 36,000 lakes and ponds on the Yukon Flats, the area which, if Rampart Dam is built, will become one huge windswept lake, ‘l’his abundance of shallow water, of grasses and cattails and aquatic vegetation, makes ideal breeding ground for waterfowl. Such country is vanishing fast, both in the United States and Canada. Despite agricultural surpluses, we continue to drain our marshes to make more farmland. Wheat farms and settlements are relentlessly encroaching on the famous pothole country of Canada’s Prairie Provinces, where the great bulk of our waterfowl now breed. In the light of these facts, are the Yukon Flats, which contribute as many ducks as the entire “lower forty-eight" states, worth saving? Shift the camera back to Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Washington, D.C.

THE PEOPLE, THE SALMON -AND THE DUCKS

“Search the whole world,” continues Mr. Sundborg (following his vain search for flush toilets), “and it would be difficult to find an equivalent area with so little to be lost through flooding.” Rampart’s supporters are impatient with what they call “the old, old arguments of professional conservationists” - as if truth somehow decayed with age. Others brush off “this duck business” with wisecracks such as “Did you ever see a duck drown?” Anyway, if the ducks don’t like it, they are smart enough to go elsewhere. Just where is not specified; other breeding areas are already being used to capacity. (Senator Gruening, who surely knows the geography of the state he represents, makes the remarkable statement that the ducks “can nest all over the other 98% of Alaska.”) Some birds that breed on the Flats migrate to Siberia; arc we, asks an officer of YPA, going “to mollify these feathered defectors?” Officially, YPA takes the matter more seriously, but offers reassurance: “Despite some early fears of wildlife and fish displacement in the reservoir area, available evidence shows no significant effects.” This statement is so outrageously untrue that one must in charity call it a supreme example of the public relations man’s power of wishful thinking.

The official report on the Rampart project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Corps of Engineers states flatly: “Nowhere in the history of water development in North America have the fish and wildlife losses anticipated to result from a single project been so overwhelming.” A nesting habitat which contributes annually about 1,500,000 ducks, 12,500 geese, and 10,000 little brown cranes to the four North American flyways would be completely destroyed. The resultant lake would provide no substitute. “The fluctuating reservoir would have steep, wave-washed shorelines which would preclude formation of marshes suitable for nesting or shallow waters productive of waterfowl foods. The large expanse of open water would provide no nesting habitat.”

What of the salmon run? At least 270,000 Salmon pass the dam site annually on the way to spawn in the upper waters of the main river and its tributaries. II Rampart is built, fisheries upstream will be totally destroyed and, with the loss of the upstream spawning grounds, the product of the entire system drastically reduced. Fish ladders for such dams have been proved impractical, and fantastic schemes for trapping the salmon and transporting them upstream in barges not only would be prohibitively expensive but would not work anyway, since the fry would never find their way downstream through several hundred miles of dead water.

What about other wildlife? The moose range, with an estimated eventual carrying capacity of 12,000 animals, would of course disappear. So would martins, wolverines, weasels, lynx, muskrat, mink, beaver, otter, which taken together represent an annual harvest of some 40,000 pelts, or about 7 percent of the entire Alaska fur production — a sizable item to write off in any state’s economy, which is, nevertheless, far below the future potential. The report concludes: “We strongly oppose authorization of the Rampart Canyon Dam and Reservoir project.”

Last, but certainly not least, what of the people who live along the river? Seven villages in the Flats would be drowned; some 1200 natives would be evacuated; the livelihood of 5000 to 6000 more in Alaska, and an estimated 3500 in the Yukon ‘Icrritory, would be affected by the reduction of die salmon run. After a quick flying trip to the area, Senator Gruening reported that most of the natives he talked to were in favor of the project. My impression was somewhat different. I did find two articulate supporters of Rampart: one, an elderly native resident of Fort Yukon, thought that the building of the dam would provide jobs for his numerous sons; the other, a white trader at Rampart Village, felt sure that lie could get a whopping price from the government for his establishment and retire in luxury. But this did not, I think, represent the majority view. I detected a reluctance on the part of these people to having their homeland obliterated, to being located elsewhere with no means of livelihood, to spending the rest of their lives on relief. To be sure, there was a feeling of fatalism: if the government wants the dam, they will build it—what can we do?

I wonder whether the senator may have confused this resignation with consent. He is certainly aware that at a meeting of village leaders in Fort 3 ukon they expressed themselves against the Rampart project. Did he, I wonder, visit the village of Venetie, an independent self-respecting community north of Fort Yukon which, unlike the latter, has very few people on relief. Here the village council voted unanimously against the project. Perhaps they did not agree with the senator that they live in “an area as worthless from the standpoint of human habitation as any that can be found on earth.” It may be expedient to displace these native people and drown their towns for the greater good of the state as a whole. But let’s not pretend that they like it.

Below the dam the effects could also be disastrous. At present, the seasonal flooding of the river replenishes the marshy shores and pothole lakes, which in turn support the furbearers, the moose, the waterfowl, and the fish on which the Indians depend. Their whole way of life may be destroyed if the dam is built. Rampart’s backers speak confidently of the jobs that will be created by this vast construction project. But no technical training program has been established for the native people. Who will get the jobs, untrained Indians or construction workers brought in from the “lower forty-eight”?

CAN THE POWER BE SOLD?

The sun may be “shining bright on Rampart,” but many areas are still in shadow. There has not been time for adequate study; all one can say for sure is that the losses, tangible and intangible, will be immense. Will the gains justify the cost? What in fact is the true source of support for this glorious new project of the Army Engineers?

The ostensible purpose is hydroelectric power: power in huge quantity at low rates. Not, in this case, to meet a demand that already exists. Alaska needs power, but it neither needs nor can use it on any such scale as Rampart would provide. The approach has been from the opposite direction. L’nlike Crand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, where contracts for the use of the electricity preceded construction, Rampart is a speculative venture. If the dam is built, can the power be sold?

A number of economic studies have been commissioned to provide tlie answer. I hrcc of them are particularly illuminating. In 1961, the Battclle Memorial Institute made a twenty-year projection of Alaska’s development. It found that “tourism offers the most promise for immediate and continuing returns to Alaska.” Major mineral developments are conjectural. As lor power production, “future energy-use in Alaska will be characterized by increasingly keen competition among hydro, coal, gas, and oil, and possibly nuclear in the farther future.”

In January, 1962, Arthur I). Little, Incorporated, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, delivered its report to the state of Alaska. It examined the industrial possibilities of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and electric power. I o Rampart s boosters the report came as a shock. “Regarding the larger hydroelectric projects, it should be noted that it is not correct to speak without qualification of low-cost hydroelectric power. Low-cost lor any particular project must be accompanied by high-volume use. The larger hydroelectric projects proposed for Alaska as capable of providing 2 or 3 mill power would . . . produce a quantity of power many times the ability of present Alaskan industry, commerce and population to absorb.'5

Rampart is a 5 million kilowatt project. “At its present stage of development even a tie-in with all smaller industrial, commercial and domestic power markets would not fully utilize a hydroelectric project with an excess ol 1 million kilowatt capacity unless several electric-intensive industries appeared on the scene within a short period of time. This is, of course, a possibility but not a very realistic expectation.”

This was not the sort of talk that the politicians and the Army Engineers wanted to hear. What to do? As quietly as possible the report was filed away, though news of it did leak out. Meanwhile, the Army Engineers had proved equal to the crisis. Realizing in advance that the A.D.L. study was not going the wav they wanted, the Engineers, in consultation with Rampart’s promoters, commissioned another report, from the Development and Resources Corporation ol Xew York, to deal specifically with the market for Rampart power. No time was wasted: the new report was issued within a year — only three months after the other and printed by the U.S. Government Printing Oflicc. Its conclusions were much more satisfactory. “Based upon the marketability of Rampart power and the benefits resulting from its use, as indicated by our analysis, our study affirmatively suggests; A decision to move ahead soon with the Rampart project will prove nationally prudent, wise and desirable.” This was more like it. The D. and R. report was given the widest possible distribution and instantly became the Bible of the Let’s Build Rampart Now movement — though critics have suggested that it reads more like the prospectus for a bond issue.

Both studies were, of course, preliminaries. In February, 1965, the “field report” of the Department of the Interior, which has jurisdiction over the project, was released. Though it avoids final judgments, the facts set forth must be cold comfort to the promoters and the Army Engineers. Clearly the importance of mineral deposits in Alaska has been seriously exaggerated. The thesis that lowcost power will necessarily lead to resources development is not valid. The timber industry will not benefit; on the contrary, over one billion board feet

three years of Alaska’s current timber production will be destroyed.

Several alternative sources of waterpower would cause far less damage than Rampart: Wood Canyon on the Copper River, the YukonI aiva project near Skagway, and, most immediately practical of all, Devil’s Canyon on the upper Susitna River between Fairbanks and Anchorage. The latter project was officially approved by the Department of the Interior in 1961. It would provide more than adequate power for Alaska’s immediate needs, while causing virtually no damage to its wildlife or other natural resources. As an alternative to Rampart, Devil’s Canyon has the strong support of Alaska’s conservationists.

Most significant in the long view is the prospect of cheap nuclear power, which may make Rampart obsolete before it is built. Progress here has been very rapid during the past two years. General Electric estimates that orders for atomic power plants will be 60 percent higher in 1 965 than in 1964. representing 10 percent of all new generating capacity ordered this year. The president of the Aluminum Company of America recently announced that the aluminum industry lias eliminated its dependence on hydroelectric power, that he favored steam power for new plants, and that the next Alcoa plant would be built in the Ohio Valley.

With labor rates among the highest in the world, with the heavy costs of transportation over such great distances, with a lack of local mineral resources to be exploited, central Alaska does not in fact offer an irresistible lure to the aluminum or any other industry. What if the dam is built and the lure fails to work? In that event, say Rampart’s rooters with a certain note of desperation, we ll ship the power south to where it’s wanted, ignoring the fact that this would require the passage of high-power lines across Canadian territory. Since British Columbia takes the view that it has enormous power potential in its own province, much closer to American markets, the chances of any such arrangement are dim indeed. Canada’s Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Arthur Laing, has made clear his country’s opposition to such power lines. “We do not think that undertaking is desirable on all the known facts,” he says of the Rampart plan.

Alaska would in any case lose most of the longterm benefits. And at the present time, as the Bonneville Power Authority points out, there is already a surplus of power in the Pacific Northwest.

A BILLION-DOLLAR HANDOUT

Rampart will provide hydropower in abundance. What else? Water storage and irrigation are the last things this area needs. “Primitive values” would of course be wholly destroyed. This leaves only recreation among what they call the multiple uses. “The Rampart Story” makes a big thing of the recreational potential of the 280-mile-long lake that will be created: “Fresh water boating and sailing . . . hunting lodges and fish camps on scenic shorelines . . . marinas, dock and float plane facilities — all accessible by rail, highway and air.”

Let’s see. The lake will be on the Arctic Circle, at the same latitude as Great Bear Lake. At a guess the ice will break up in early July. High winds and waves on a body of water this size require seagoing vessels. The lake will be filled with dislodged timber, the shores strewn with debris. Since the country is almost flat, the drawdown at the dam site could create a mile of mud flat between the “marina” and your boat. Hardly the perfect recreation area.

So, finally, we come to the immediate motive behind Rampart Dam. The achievement of statehood has brought problems to Alaska. I axes have gone up, and there are relatively few sources to tap. For tlic past twenty years, the building and manning of military installations, including the famous DLW Line, have channeled vast amounts of federal money into the area. Now the defense boom has tapered off. Gold mining and the salmon fishery have both been on the downgrade. Though large sums have been spent seeking oil, not enough production has been obtained to take up the slack. Thus, at the very moment of transition between territory and state, Alaska is facing a downsliding economy. Employment needs a shot in the arm. If the dam is built, the amount of federal money spent on construction in the five years preceding initial power production will, according to the I). and R. report, exceed the total amount spent for military construction in Alaska from 1950 to 1955. The whole job will pour a minimum of one and a third billion dollars into Alaska, and probably a great deal more. As one legislator is said to have remarked privately, Rampart Dam will have served its purpose if it is blown up the day it is finished.

Recognition of Rampart as a sort of colossal make-work project — a federal subsidy for the state economy -explains a great deal, but it puts the conservationist in a curious position. He becomes the enemy of prosperity. To question a billion-dollar handout is almost immoral. Virtually every national conservation organization has gone on record against the project. But to think of it as a contest between cash and conservation is unreal. This is not an either-or choice, least of all in Alaska. As both biologists and economists have pointed out, Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources are, by the very nature of the country, the backbone of its economy, the principal source of its cash income. Closely related is the growing tourist trade: visitors who come not just for the hunting and fishing but for the refreshment of space and true wilderness in an overcrowded world. In terms of the needs of the nation as a whole, Alaska’s wilderness is a priceless resource. Orderly development of its waterpower will not necessarily destroy it. Spectacular but speculative ventures like Rampart Dam will surely do so.

Prominent citizens are to be found on both sides of the controversy; beneath all the shouting lie honest differences of opinion. I he very magnitude of the project brings home the terrible responsibility that goes with the possession of limitless technical means for controlling nature. If the dam is built and turns out to be a colossal blunder, ten million cubic feet of concrete cannot conveniently be blown up and swept under the rug. Before the dirt begins to Hy, we have to face the unavoidable question: how far docs a financial speculation like’ Rampart Dam justify us in permanently changing the face of the earth?