Oral Histories

Interview of Robert V. Phillips

General manager and chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Water for Los Angeles: Robert V. Phillips
Water for Los Angeles
Urban Planning and Land Use
Water Resources
Biographical Note:
General manager and chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Basiago, Andrew D.
Phillips, Robert V.
Persons Present:
Phillips and Basiago.
Place Conducted:
Conference room at the University Research Library, UCLA.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Andrew D. Basiago, UCLA Oral History Program; B. A., History, UCLA.Basiago prepared for the interview by consulting sources in the DWP's municipal reference department and in the Water Resources Center Archives at UCLA. He looked at in-house material, including DWP memoranda and the employee magazine Intake. In addition, he also read several academic histories and reviewed Los Angeles Times articles dating from 1913 to the present.
Processing of Interview:
George Hodak, editorial assistant, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.In October 1986 the edited transcript was sent to Phillips, who reviewed andapproved the edited transcript. He made some corrections and additions andreturned the manuscript in February of 1987.Teresa Barnett, editor, prepared the table of contents and biographical summary. Richard Candida Smith, principal editor, prepared the index.
6 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series made possible by a grant from the Division of Water, Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power, complements the earlier University of California series “Oral History of California Water Resources Development."
Working with father, James E. Phillips; reasons for Owens Valley residents' bitterness; why the Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power (DWP) kept investigations of Owens Valley a secret; DWP policy of employees working their way through the ranks; Phillips's first job with DWP; Ralph R. Procter's work on soil compaction and moisture content; William Mulholland's responsibility in San Francisquito Dam failure; role of Freemasonry in the DWP; Inyo County places assessment on water for Los Angeles; the Phillips formula; surveying DWP land in Inyo and Mono counties to determine fair leasing prices; purchasing water rights in Owens Valley; Los Angeles growth with new water supply; Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD); expense of different sources of water; formation of MWD limits growth of Los Angeles; formation of MWD profits Southern California Edison Company; Los Angeles City Council increased control over DWP; increased pressure by special interest groups; Gilmore Tillman's advice on putting DWP under jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission; the 1974 DWP employee strike; salary of DWP general manager compared to salaries in private industry; Phillips's reluctance to become general manager; environmentalists; nuclear power; early DWP projects to generate power for Los Angeles; relationship between DWP water and power systems; utility rates; Phillips's view of Owens Valley issue; use of water from reclamation plants; installation of French drains to prevent oil seepage into the city's water supply; turbidity and construction of filter plant at the Van Norman Reservoir; DWP water compared to bottled water; lawsuits brought by soda ash plants on Owens Lake against DWP; City of Los Angeles v. City of San Fernando; environmentalists oppose DWP policies in the Mono Basin; courts' increasing tendency to favor environmentalists over DWP; impracticality of alternative energy sources; appointment of Carl Tamaki as general manager; affirmative action; top engineering schools; damage to the Van Norman Dam in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and measures taken to save the dam; DWP response to the Sylmar earthquake; policies implemented as a result of the quake; Phillips receives award for land management policies in the eastern Sierra Nevadas; Phillips's opposition to DWP plans to drain the Owens Valley of all of its water; problems with aging DWP dams and changes in dam construction following the Sylmar earthquake; artificial nature of energy shortage, early 1970s; standard of living and water conservation; desalinization methods of assessing water rates.