The American Commissioner, International Boundary Commission (Lawson), to the Secretary of State

Sir: During a recent conference with the Mexican Commissioner, Rafael Fernández MacGregor, he proposed that the Commission undertake, as soon as practicable, a joint investigation of conditions along the lower reaches of the Colorado River where the régime has been changed due to storage and diversion development in the United States, with a view to developing definite plans for adequate flood control structures necessary to assure the protection of lands in both countries.

In this relation, reference is made to a memorandum on this subject included in the Report of the American Section of the International Water Commission, United States and Mexico (71st Congress, 2nd Session—House Document No. 359, p. 186), which stressed the necessity of flood Control on the Colorado River in Mexico as vital to the protection of the Imperial Valley as well as to Mexican lands. The changed regime of the river, since the completion of Boulder Dam, has only partly diminished this flood hazard. The flooding of cultivated land in Mexico has occurred often during the last few years and I believe that the proposed investigation is not only warranted but is urgently necessary in order to determine definitely the extent [Page 1388] to which cultivated lands in the Imperial Valley may be in danger in the event of abnormal flash floods, especially on the Gila River.

Ample Congressional authority for the proposed investigation by this Section of the Commission exists under the provisions of the Act of August 19, 1935 (Public No. 286—74th Congress),32 and it may be assumed that the Mexican Commissioner was assured of the availability of funds to carry out his Section’s part of the investigation before making the proposal. The funds now available to this Section are not, however, sufficient to undertake the necessary field work.

The length of the river involved is about twenty miles in the United States and about sixty miles in Mexico. The section of the river which forms the international boundary line is, of course, the most important in so far as concerns the investigation, since a break from the increasing height of the river bed in that section might conceivably prove disastrous to lands in both countries. It follows that comprehensive studies of levees and other protective works, as well as careful hydrographic studies, must be made in order to decide upon a plan for adequate protective river canalization through this section of the river to the Gulf of California; and it is estimated that approximately $50,000 would be required for that purpose during the remainder of the fiscal year.

It is believed that certain protective measures on the Lower Colorado River are required regardless of ratification of the treaty signed February 3, 1944; and that the proposed joint investigations, necessary to determine the extent of the necessary measures, should be undertaken without delay.

In this connection, it occurs to me that the Administration’s endorsement of the pending water treaty constitutes a recognition of the seriousness of the problems confronting our Government in respect of international streams; and, in view of Mexico’s proposal made through its Section of the Commission, looking to a satisfactory solution of one of the major problems involved, that the President and the Bureau of the Budget may see fit to make available the funds necessary for that purpose.

I am convinced, after careful consideration, of the importance of the proposed investigations and, therefore, recommend that the Department consider the desirability of taking appropriate steps to obtain the funds necessary for that purpose.33

Very truly yours,

L. M. Lawson
  1. 49 Stat. 660.
  2. In a letter dated December 1, 1944, Joseph F. McGurk, Acting Deputy Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs, told Mr. Lawson that he recognized the importance of an early beginning of joint investigations. He said that the Department would take steps to secure the necessary funds, although it was doubtful that funds could be made available in time to undertake this work before the start of the next fiscal year. (711.1216M/11–1644)