Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Dedication of the Summersville Dam, Summersville, West Virginia

September 03, 1966

Mayor Bryant, Governor Smith, Senator Randolph:

Thank you for that generous introduction. I came here for this dedication today at the invitation extended to me more than a year ago by Senator Randolph and Congressman Slack.

Senator Randolph, I wish my mother and father might have been here to hear that introduction because my father would have enjoyed hearing what you said about me and my mother would have believed it.

I always enjoy coming to the State of West Virginia. I am very grateful to Jennings Randolph, whom I consider one of the most valuable and effective men in the entire Congress, for seeing that I got here.

Senator Randolph is Chairman of the Committee on Public Works. He secures authorizations for the great projects like this dam that you see here in your own State. But he is more than the spokesman for just the great State of West Virginia. In this particular field, he is the leader of the Nation.

Your other outstanding Senator, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, is a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. He made sure that you had the money to pay for this project. And he makes sure that West Virginia gets her share of everything that comes through that committee.

Both men represent West Virginia and represent the Nation well. And I am proud of their service, as I know you are.

Senator Randolph is a member of the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and the Small Business Committee. He came to Washington in the 73d Congress, and I hope we will benefit from his service for many Congresses to come.

I am pleased to ride down here this morning with your great Third District Congressman, John Slack. He understands your problems, and he understands the great potential of this section of West Virginia. He takes understandable pride in the Summersville Dam. He wants all America to know about this great step to develop your flood control, your water resources, and the recreation in this great State.

I would like to introduce the other members of your State's fine congressional delegation who did me the honor of coming to this State with us today.

I am pleased to be on the platform with the very honorable chairman, Harley Staggers of Keyser. One of his notable accomplishments as Representative of the Second District has been the leadership that he has given this entire Nation in the traffic safety bill which will become law in the White House next week.

Arch Moore, Jr., of Glen Dale, in the First District--came with us this morning--is the ranking Republican on the Select Small Business Committee. We are still trying to convert him to the Democratic Party. I will have to give you a report on that later.

My old friend, Ken Hechler, has represented the Fourth District for 7 years. He is one of the most effective Members of Congress. He served in both the Roosevelt and Truman administration.

James Kee, of the Fifth District, is one of the fabulous freshmen of the 89th Congress. He has done yeoman service on the problems of Appalachia. And we are awfully grateful that he is a member of the West Virginia delegation.

We are also honored by the presence of your great Governor, my good friend, Hulett Smith, who addressed you a short time ago, and by the added presence of Governor Charles Terry of the State of Delaware.

I want to thank Mayor Bryant, Secretary of State Bob Bailey, and others who welcomed me here.

We came here today to consummate an act of faith in the future of the great State of West Virginia.

This is one of the greatest satisfactions that can ever come to any President.

Two and a half years ago I flew over the Ohio River Basin and I saw the destruction that was brought on by one of the worst floods in 20 years. I felt anger and frustration that such tragedies could still occur in the most advanced and most powerful nation in all the world. I knew that we had both the ability and the resources to harness these wild forces of nature, and I was very anxious to get on with the task.

So today we move one step closer toward this goal. The Summersville Dam completes a three reservoir system of the Kanawha River Basin. It is a key part of our flood control plans for the entire Ohio and Mississippi River Basins.

It will prevent flood damages averaging nearly $3 million a year.

In the dry seasons, water from Summersville Reservoir will be used to reduce pollution and to meet the ever-growing demands of the great industries of the great city of Charleston, where we had such a wonderful welcome a short time ago.

The reservoir will also become West Virginia's newest recreation center. It will attract millions of visitors. It will bring new prosperity to the region. And it will give life and truth to the statement that West Virginia is the great outstanding tourist attraction of this Nation.

I think I know some little something about what a project like this will mean to you people. I grew up in a country where water was life itself. It was the most precious resource that we possessed, except for the very air that we breathed.

During most of the year the land was parched and cracked; live oak and scrub cedar were about all it would support. And when the rains finally came, the rivers then flooded. The people were drowned. Property was destroyed. And our topsoil was washed away into the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, we changed all of that, beginning 30 years ago when I was a young Congressman, back in 1937. In time we built six great dams on the Colorado River in central Texas and we stopped the floods and we stopped the drownings. We brought electricity to all the farm homes. We created a vast recreation area for hundreds of thousands of families to visit each year.

That story is not unique. It has happened in California. It has happened in India. It has happened in Kentucky. And it has happened in Israel. It is the story of man's ageless quest to make the waters of the earth serve him--to escape the despotism of flood and drought.

In a sense, the whole story of man is revealed in his search for dependable water supplies. Where there has been too little, wars have been fought over what there was. Where there has been too much, great cities and flourishing agricultures have been engulfed and destroyed. Where there was enough--and where people could depend upon it and where the people could control it--civilization has blossomed and has endured.

And it is no different today.

Even in the advanced nations, competition for the use of water is growing--and the supply of usable water is diminishing. America, with all of its power and all of its great wealth, still suffers periodic drought. The Northeast has been gripped in such a drought for 5 straight years with no end in sight.

But the situation is far worse in the developing nations of the world. I have seen many of its consequences firsthand.

In those lands there is an urgent need for water that is simply clean and pure enough for a human to drink--for drinking, for cooking, for washing, for bathing. Nearly half a billion people who live in developing nations obtain their water from unsanitary sources.

Water for growing food--water for producing the elementary goods of life--these are the desperate needs in country after country, nation after nation. But food to meet their needs can be produced only by advanced methods of irrigation and the production of goods require increasing amounts of water that tax the resources already available. Consider this figure: It takes 70,000 gallons of water to produce a single ton of steel.

If our water needs are great today, when 3 billion human beings inhabit the earth, imagine the situation at the end of this century--when that population will be more than 6 billion human beings.

Our water needs by the year 2000 will not be met merely by doubling the water resources of today. They must be expanded several times over.

So it should be clear by now that we are in a race with disaster. Either the world's water needs will be met, or the inevitable result will be mass starvation in the world, mass epidemics in the world, mass poverty greater than anything you have ever known before.

If we fail, I can assure you today that not even America's unprecedented military might will be able to preserve the peace for very long.

So we must be prepared to take action-and we must take it quickly. We know that the battle can be won. We believe that with what we know now--and with what we are just beginning to learn--we can find solutions to problems which just a few years ago were considered insurmountable.

Working through the United Nations, we have joined with 100 other countries to further man's knowledge of water and its relationship to environment.

We have committed ourselves to a water for peace program. A plan of action has now been developed and was presented to me just this week.

First, we will sponsor an International Conference on Water for Peace in Washington next May 23 through May 31.

I know West Virginia will take pride that she will provide a great deal of the leadership in your congressional delegation, Senator Randolph, for that Conference.

We hope to focus universal attention throughout the world on mankind's need for water and to stimulate practical cooperation among all the nations of the world to meet man's need for water.

Second, we will continue our efforts to find cheaper and better ways of converting sea water and brackish water that can be used for both irrigation and human consumption.

We have a great many experiments in the mill now that will come up with, we hope, exciting and unbelievable results.

This is one of our great hopes for the future, for while our population continues to increase, the amount of water presently available remains the same as it was 5,000 years ago.

The administration just asked Congress' approval to share in constructing the world's largest nuclear-fueled desalting and electric powerplant in the marvelous western area near Los Angeles.

Ultimately that plant will produce 150 million gallons of fresh water daily--75 times the capacity of our largest desalting plant today.

Our breakthroughs in this area--when they occur--will be shared by the rest of the world.

Third, we must join with other nations in creating or strengthening regional centers for water resource development.

Fourth, we must develop more trained water experts here in the United States-these experts to provide services to countries that need leadership, need competence, and that are requesting our help.

Fifth, we must seek ways to train such experts in other countries--so we can man the new regional water institutions.

Sixth, we must encourage international development of whole river basins for flood control, for water conservation. This kind of development offers man unique opportunities for international cooperation and for the reduction of tensions between nations in the world.

Seventh, we must encourage more effective cooperation with other nations and international organizations in resisting water pollution in all of its forms. We just cannot afford to continue befouling the water that we have labored at such cost to secure.

The race for water will not be an easy one. It will require the best we have. It will require a spirit of cooperation among nations unknown in the history of man.

That is why I am trying to get people to think of this most important subject before it is too late.

This race must be won, because there is no acceptable alternative. For unless it is won, all that we have been seeking to provide for the growing nations--all the technical assistance and training, all the contributions of modern science and technology, all the foodstuffs and fertilizers, all the industrial loans and educational development, all the security from external aggression-will be worn away by the arid winds of drought.

A genuine peace cannot be founded in a desert. A genuine peace cannot be founded among crowded nations that are starved for this elemental--yes, this divine--gift.

My old friend, the great historian, Walter Prescott Webb, of the University of Texas, once wrote: "In their efforts to provide a sufficiency of water where there was not one, men have resorted to every expedient from prayer to dynamite. The story of their efforts is, on the whole, one of pathos and tragedy, of a few successes and many failures."

Here today God has blessed you, and you are blessed, with one of the few successes.

As we look out at this magnificent new dam and reservoir to our backs, I have renewed hope that still other resources--the power of science and the determination of man--will, along with a little prayer and a good deal of dynamite, empower us to quench the thirst of generations to come.

You in West Virginia have shown that you not only have the prayer and the dynamite, you have the leadership of men in the Congress. You have the leadership of the great Corps of Engineers who participated. You have leadership in the State level with your great Governor--to build projects like this that millions in years to come will enjoy, and millions today will thank you for.

With this hope Mrs. Johnson and I have come here today to this beautiful State of West Virginia where we have seen so many friendly faces in the last 6 years that we have come among you, to dedicate this important national project, this Summersville Dam, that will not only serve West Virginia, but will serve the entire people of the Nation who today have their eyes on a growing, on a coming, on a developing, on a proud people--the people of West Virginia.

Note: The President spoke at 11:22 a.m. at Summersville, W. Va., after which Mrs. Johnson spoke briefly. His opening words referred to Mayor William S. Bryant of Summersville, Governor Hulett Smith, and Senator Jennings Randolph, all of West Virginia. Later he referred to Representative John Slack, Jr., Senator Robert C. Byrd, Representatives Harley O. Staggers, Arch A. Moore, Jr., Ken Hechler, and James Kee, all of West Virginia, Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr., of Delaware, and the Secretary of State of West Virginia, Robert D. Bailey.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Dedication of the Summersville Dam, Summersville, West Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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