353. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Salinity Problem with Mexico

We agreed in late January on the text of a proposed five-year agreement with Mexico in an effort to reach a practical solution to the salinity problem. We have been checking it out since then with domestic interests to make certain it is acceptable before signature. The [Page 748] text of the agreement, in the form of a Boundary Commission Minute, is attached.2

We have also worked out a five-year truce under which both countries agree to negotiate remaining differences instead of going to the World Court. The chief remaining difference is Mexico’s claim for damages which State is thinking of disposing of in a loan to help rehabilitate the Mexicali Valley.

State and Interior are working on a memorandum of understanding between them to define the responsibility of each agency for carrying out the proposed agreement.

Udall and Mann consider the proposed settlement as better than generally thought possible and recommend we accept it.

The seven Colorado Basin States were consulted at a meeting at Phoenix on January 26–27. The seven Governors have now written you accepting the agreement with some reservation, expressing their appreciation for the close consultation with them, and commending the negotiators. Interior believes it has satisfied the Governors on their reservations. It is recommended you reply in general terms to the Governors and leave the technical points for Secretary Udall to handle.

Senators Hayden and Anderson and Congressman Aspinall have accepted the agreement. However, Senator Hayden made his approval subject to the condition that you would send up a budget amendment for FY 1966 requesting the $2.2 million needed to complete the $5 million in works called for in the agreement (Interior has $2.8 million), and $3 million to start a $7 million 17-well ground water recovery project in the Yuma area.

Interior recommends that you accept Hayden’s conditions. Budget concurs, but recommends that Hayden be informed that the 94-well ground water recovery program in the Yuma area, of which the 17-well project is a part, poses difficult problems in our relations with Mexico, which must be studied thoroughly. The Administration’s commitment is, therefore, limited to the 17 wells. Mexico has protested the 94-well ground water recovery program, but State interposes no objections to the 17 wells. Budget will send separately the proposed budget amendment for your signature and transmission to the Congress.

We considered the possibility of a ceremony in connection with the signing of the agreement. Mexico is opposed. They regard the agreement as a hard bargain, and thus difficult to sell politically in Mexico. Simultaneous Presidential announcements of the settlement are planned at the time of signing. I will recommend the draft of such a statement after it has been worked out with Mexico.

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That you sign the attached letters4 to the Governors of the Basin States.
That you approve the Budget amendment.
That you authorize the signature of the proposed agreement with Mexico.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. IX. No classification marking.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. The President approved all three recommendations. The agreement on the salinity of the lower Colorado River was signed on March 22. The text of the agreement, a statement by President Johnson and a joint State–Interior announcement are in Department of State Bulletin, April 12, 1965, pp. 555–557.
  4. Not attached.