Oral Histories

William D. McDougald

b.1927

Bill McDougald

Q: It sounds as though San Diego isn’t threatened?

A: Oh, you know, I think the most classical thing I ever said to Secretary of the Interior Babbitt. By the way, regardless of the comments we see about him, he was a down to earth person and you could really talk. We went out and we visited the tails out at the Atlas. The Secretary was here out of Arizona and I said to him, “You know, the thing that bothers me about this whole thing? They’re saying to me if I pollute a drop of water here in Moab, it’s going to affect San Diego, California.” And of course he’d been in on the water battles betweeen Arizona and California and he says, “They’ll do anything to steal your water!” I got the biggest bang out of that. I really had an enjoyable visit with him.

Q: It sounds like you’ve met a lot of interesting people.

A: Oh yeah, over the years I have.

Q: What do you think about Moab over the years? How has it changed for you?

A: Well, it went from a mining town to tourism, about 80% tourism, today ( at least 80%). It’s a changed town. It sits between two wonders – Arches National Park and the Canyonlands. It’s located ideally for tourism along the Colorado River and that’s our industry. So if you gonna live here, you might as well like it because that’s where it is, you know! I don’t have any problem with it. Three or four years back there were 56 food and drink stops along Main Street.

Q: Well, that’s good to hear.

A: I found out many years ago and I don’t know how it came about, probably consulting water with Jim Salmon up there in Castle Valley. I found out that Castle Valley had a different populace than the old Moab, you know. We had different people coming in. But I found out and Bob Jones told me one time in a very nice way, “I have the most educated tour guides in this world.” And he did! They had more degrees. So see we’ve got a blending of people here, but we’ve still had good people coming. We had good people during the uranium boom and we had different people move in later on that are excellent people.

Q: Well, it sounds like you’re an optimist.

A: Oh, you can work with these guys. Certainly you can. They’re going to bring you some new ideas that’ll benefit, say, the Moab City government. There’s going to be some new ideas that come along and they’ll benefit you.

Q: Are you worried about Cloudrock?

A: Until we got that new well and I’m on the Water Board. Until we developed that one well, that one we just brought in and it’s a strong well. I think we’ll be okay on servicing Cloudrock. I don’t have no problem as long as we have the water to service them. And they have to do their own sewer connecting linesto discharge into District sewer lines that flows to the City sewer plant. Now the development up there is large acreage except for the limited housing development along the valley rim. The developments up on top are to be really large tracts so to use a lot less water.

Q: So do you miss being in the midst of City Government?

A: Well, no I don’t miss that. I’m still on three boards. I’m on the Water Board and that was one of my projects in the city was water over all those years. I was on the Board that bought the Sommerville Ranch, you know, and Dick Allen was the one that negotiated with Lloyd Sommerville to buy the ranch that gave us springs #2 and #3. We already had spring #1 by the crossing termed Spanish Valley Drive to the golf area.

Q: Is the Sommerville Ranch where they’ve been digging the wells?

A: Yes, the watershed is over part of the Sommerville Ranch and Dick Allen negotiated with Lloyd Sommerville in 1959. We also purchased four 40 acre parcels from BLM for recreation. Most of the golf course is in the BLM 40’s. We had cattle one winter. We lost eight head, I remember that. The first year w had cattle, the City of Moab, so they got out of business after the first year.

Q: The City of Moab owned the cattle?

A: Yes, we bought the cattle with the ranch. And we lost eight of them the first season.

Q: We got out of the cattle business?

A: We wanted the springs and we wanted the water rights. Now spring #2 and #3 used to run over to irrigate the Sommerville Ranch. We sold to George White, except for 180 acres of water shed. We sold him the basic land without the water. He came from La Sal and was first to develop water wells.

Q: Did that take the water?

A: George White #4 sitting up on the side hill up there that has the tank setting by it? Now it goes into the Diostrict serving the upper valley. This well became a trade with George White for water from Ken’s Reservoir or Lake. He was a fantastic guy, probably one of the great ranchers I’ve ever worked with. You know people fight and die over this water and George was such a reasonable man. Now he looked out for his own interests but he was big in developing the water on the upper end of the valley. He was a great leader in water projects.

Q: So did he sell the water rights to the City?

A: Yes, we bought up the rights. The two larger springs are all fenced in on what’s known as the golf course now.

Q: South of the golf course?

A: No, they’re on the golf course lease of 80-100 acres. In fact, the golf course was mainly bordering four BLM quarter sections. By the way, the ranch cost $65/acre and the BLM land $2.50/acre.

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