The question that first presents itself in trying to determine the probable cost of this enterprise is On what basis shall we proceed. A corporation acting under a charter giving it the power of eminent domain, would naturally and properly seek to secure the property required for its purposes at the lowest figure at which it could be honestly obtained, under conditions existing at the time, expecting to become the beneficiary of any subsequent increase in value.
Would this be the position of the government in seeking to secure property for a purpose that would destroy its inherent value for the uses to which it might otherwise be devoted? Obviously no. The broad minded statesmen representing the government would weigh the advantages and disadvantages of any proposition as to its effect on The Greatest Good of the Greatest Number both for the present and future. We have been considering some of the alleged advantages to be derived from such reservoirs, and find them preposterous. We have considered briefly one of the most manifest disadvantages the moral certainty that, from time to time, some of these vast dams would fail and cause a destruction of life and property, only comparable with the ravages of great wars. Now what would be the damage to the people of the Nation resulting from flooding and permanently destroying great areas of our most fertile alluvial valleys of our richest mineral territory, some of which where railroads have been built is now selling at from $1,000 to $1,500 per acre, where natural gas and crude oil underlie the country, where millions of acres of such lands not actually destroyed would be rendered inaccessible or accessible only at tremendous. cost. Would a statesman considering the destruction of such property estimate its value to the Nation at the figure at which it might be purchased today from an ignorant mountaineer? If a true statesman were considering the purchase of such property to be held or improved for the future use of the citizens, he would order that its present market value should be paid, but in the case that we are considering, the purchase would be made for the express purpose of making a use of the lands that would forever destroy their value for agricultural uses, and for mineral products, and would also render inaccessible except at stupendous cost vast additional areas of coal, oil, and gas territory. John Howe Peyton in The American Transportation Problem: A Study of American Transportation, 1909