Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics (McGurk)65

The attached memoranda66 regarding the oil seeds projects illustrate some of the difficult aspects of the United States-Mexican water treaty negotiations. Attention is directed to the following points:

It is noted that although the Department has been engaged for several years in building up a situation that, it was hoped, eventually would end in a favorable water treaty, other agencies of the Government have carried on negotiations with the Mexican Government with results that might unfortunately have a very adverse effect upon the negotiation of this proposed treaty. The zeal of these other agencies in furthering production of strategic materials in Mexico is, of course, commendable; but it is illustrative of the grave difficulty faced by the Department in the conduct of foreign relations when it apparently does not have an opportunity to integrate and coordinate all the facets of the foreign relations of this Government In the present instance long and complicated negotiations for the development of certain agricultural projects in Mexico had apparently been carried on in Mexico without any regard to and knowledge of other and possibly conflicting negotiations being carried on by the Department. Unfortunately the Department might be held responsible for certain consequences that it was not in a position to prevent. For example, it is not contemplated that the United States will be able to allocate to Mexico from the Colorado River any more water than is now being used by Mexico. However, if other agencies of our Government help Mexico develop projects in the delta requiring the use of approximately 800,000 additional acre feet of Colorado River water,67 how will it be possible in the future to say to Mexico that, our need of these products having ceased, we shall cut off this additional quantity of water? On the Rio Grande the problem is perhaps worse. From this river we hope to secure from Mexico an allocation by treaty of approximately 1,000,000 acre feet per year. The possible effects of these Rio Grande oil seeds projects upon these hopes for a fair share of Rio Grande water should be studied. In all candor it must be asked whether all these projects contemplated by certain agencies of this Government will, in the long run, help or hinder the development of good relations along the border.
In all of these matters it is, of course, important to prevent the [Page 621] development of an active spirit of contention and dissension along the border. It may be thought necessary to implement the program of economic assistance to Mexico, but this program should assuredly be closely coordinated and integrated by the Department and not dispersed among various agencies. Furthermore such a program should in some manner be tied in with the important water negotiations. In fact, it should afford a good opportunity to secure a reduction of Mexican demands on the Colorado and an increase in Mexico’s offer of water from the Rio Grande. Above all it should be recognized that the water problem is a life and death matter in our Southwest, and its solution will have vital effects upon the long future of both the United States and Mexican portions of the basins of these boundary streams. It may even be stated that in the long run good general relations with Mexico can not be maintained without a satisfactory solution of the boundary water problems.
The factual situation regarding the San Juan and the Retamal developments should be pointed out. The San Juan enters the Rio Grande opposite Rio Grande City, Texas. With an average annual contribution of nearly 1,000,000 acre” feet, it is the most important Mexican tributary with the possible exception of the Conchos. Azúcar Dam, providing a storage capacity of nearly 2,000,000 acre feet will, therefore, be able to hold two years run-off. Once the reservoir is filled, it can be said that the effects of the dam will be favorable for Texas as long as the Mexicans do not use too much of the water supply, for the dam would tend to provide a more reliable flow of the Lower Rio Grande in the dry season. Compared with the San Juan Dam the Retamal heading is, for the time being, more dangerous in that it can divert the entire flow of the river at a point opposite Weslaco, being thus above the points of diversion for some of the largest irrigation districts on the Texas side. Both these Mexican developments underline the importance of Federal Project no. 5.
Finally, there appears to be ample reason to believe that the Department will be held very largely responsible by the American people for any lack of clarity, coherence, unity, and balance in our foreign policies, not to mention any lack of success in their prosecution. It stands to reason, then, that the authority possessed by the Department should be commensurate with its responsibility.

J. F. McGurk
  1. Addressed to the Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Bonsal) and to the Adviser on Political Relations (Duggan).
  2. Not printed.
  3. A marginal note by C. A. Timm reads: “Apparently abandoned but no proof of this exists in RA [Division of the American Republics]”.