American Scandal

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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

LA Steals Its Water | The Biggest Problem | 1

LA Steals Its Water | The Biggest Problem | 1

Tue, 12 Oct 2021 09:00

William Mulholland climbs to the top of the water department. But once he's there, he learns that Los Angeles has a terrible secret, one that could destroy the city.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's the morning of March 13, 1928. In a mountain about 45 miles outside Los Angeles, William Mulholland stands on the edge of a bluff, staring down at a muddy riverbed. The harsh California sun beats down on Mulholland as it gazes on in horror. Down below on the canyon floor, there are the shattered remains of a 185 foot concrete wall. To breathe, scattered in every direction, the canyon walls look like they've been sprayed with mud. A bead of sweat begins to trickle down Mulholland's forehead. Everything here, this devastation, is unthinkable. Up until last night, there was a concrete dam at the bottom of this canyon. It was the only thing propping up a sprawling reservoir, an artificial lake holding 12 billion gallons of water. But now it all lies in ruin. As Mulholland surveys the canyon floor, he gets itchy and claustrophobic and feels like he's about to overheat. He's 72 years old, and less sturdy than he was years ago, back when he set out to transform California, to bring water to the desert city of Los Angeles. But it doesn't matter how old he's gotten. This dam was his creation, and its failure is his mess to clean up. So Mulholland takes off the jacket from his three pea suit and begins making his way down a slope towards the scattered remains of the St. Francis Dam. At the bottom of the slope, Mulholland meets Harvey Van Normen, his right hand man. The two men have worked together for over 20 years at the water department, but neither have ever faced a disaster like this. With ankles deep in the muck, Van Normen turns to Mulholland. Oh God, Bill! How did this happen? We just ran inspections. Didn't find anything wrong. Nothing was wrong, Harvey. I engineered this dam along with every other reservoir in Los Angeles. I know when there's a problem. And yet, somehow the dam collapsed. As he surveys the canyon floor, Mulholland notices a wooden shingle sticking out from the mud. That's a piece of soon to roof. One of the workers living here, maybe. Bill, there were over 200 people living here, working right below the reservoir. They're gone. What about the rescue team? Any word of survivors? None, Bill. No. I'm sorry. Mulholland stares at the wooden shingle, as a weary sadness overtakes him. He can only imagine the moment of pure terror last night when the dam broke. 12 billion gallons of water rushing through like a tidal wave, leveling everything and every one in its path. I don't get it, Harvey. The internal engineering was triple checked when this dam was built. There were no errors. Something's not right. We need to look at the dam. What's left of it? Bill, no. Just stay here. That's an 80 foot piece of concrete. It's like a rotten tooth. It could fall over any second. If there was going to fall, it would have already. Bill, don't be foolish. The collapse wasn't even just eight hours ago. It could still be unstable. Harvey, I built this dam. And if it failed, it's my responsibility. But I can't accept that yet. Not until I figure out exactly what happened. I get it, but be careful. Well, Mulholland continues walking toward the remnants of the dam. A moment later, he reaches a massive broken slab of concrete. He takes out a small chisel and taps off a piece of the broken wall. For a minute, he stands in the mud, inspecting the sample. Then he sticks it in his pocket and begins walking back to van Norman. Harvey, this wasn't a failure of engineering. And it wasn't an issue with soil foundation. It wasn't a problem with the concrete itself. When he's saying, Bill, go get the rescue workers. Have them stop looking for survivors. From here on out, I want them to look for evidence of dynamite. Van Norman's face goes pale. And Mulholland knows he doesn't need to say another word. His associate from the Water Department understands the implication. For years, the water department and the citizens of Los Angeles have been terrorized by a group of ranchers and others from up north in Inyo County. People who still won't accept that the water belongs to Los Angeles and that they'll never get it back. And if this was sabotage, it won't be the first. There have been other bombings, armed standoffs, heated negotiations, and even though the fight seemed like it was over, apparently the people of Inyo County aren't ready to stop. But this kind of attack is something else entirely. Blowing up a damn, killing hundreds of people. If that's where this war is going, William Mulholland is prepared to strike back. He'll marshal the forces in Los Angeles and bring his enemies to their knees. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. 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When your day should be ending, but a new season is starting, the world is your cart. Visit or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for a limited time minimum order $10 additional terms apply. From Wondery, I'm Linti Graham and this is American Scandal. Water has always been scarce and incredibly valuable in the American West. And nowhere was this more true than in the young city of Los Angeles. At the turn of the 20th century, Los Angeles quickly grew from a small western outpost into a teaming with Trumpless. But before long, residents faced a dire situation, one that became too great to ignore. They were running out of water. Two men set out to solve the problem. In doing so, they would transform the American West and shape the future of the United States. But supplying Los Angeles with unlimited water came at a serious cost. Farmers and California's Inyo County watched as their own water supply was shipped away. And with their entire way of life threatened, they began to fight back. In this three part series, we'll look at who wins and who loses when a scarce natural resource is up for grabs. This is episode one. The biggest problem. It's the spring of 1877, outside Los Angeles. William Mulholland sits down his lunchpale and wipes a hand across his mouth. Then he steps out of a makeshift tent and finds himself blinded by the sunlight. His eyes slowly adjust to daylight. And when they do, Mulholland finds himself standing amid a vast landscape of desert scrublands. Wild fennel rises out of the dry, cracked ground. And every direction is a mirage of dark browns and sage greens. The desert landscape is still a strange sight for William Mulholland, a 21 year old from Ireland. Mulholland has pale blue eyes and a thick mustache. And although his body is muscled from hard labor, there's still something exhausting about the piercing sunlight in Southern California. And even though it seems like a different universe from Ireland, Mulholland is happy to be in Los Angeles, especially since he was able to get some work. Today, Mulholland has been hired to dig a water well for a wealthy Spanish landowner. If he's successful, he'll be paid handsomely for striking water in this arid landscape. Mulholland grabs his shovel and makes his way toward a simple structure that he built himself. A wooden frame, shaped like an A, and at the center is a hole that's nearly 20 feet deep. He hopes it's his ticket to finding water. But first, Mulholland has to climb down, deep into the hole, and continue digging. Mulholland is surprised that water in the American West is so hard to find. In his hometown back in Ireland, water was everywhere you looked. Most days, it fell straight from the sky. But that's not the case here, in what they call the Pueblo. It's only been a short time since he and his younger brother arrived in Los Angeles. But already Mulholland knows the most important fact about this town. Water is valuable. Mulholland enters the A frame building, grateful for a little shade. And then he begins descending into the hole in the ground, his hands gripping a series of wooden rungs. As he climbs down, he can feel the humidity rising. He starts to sweat, and the smell of damp earth grows more pungent. Soon, the sunlight disappears and becomes just a small glow from above. The walls grow narrower. Mulholland has faith in his handiwork. But even though he built the rungs himself, there's always a danger that something could go wrong. The cheap wood could snap. The hole itself could cave in, burying him alive. But Mulholland doesn't dwell on these dangers. His job is to dig wells, and he needs the money. His brother wants to leave Los Angeles, and if Mulholland stays, he'll have to support himself. So he can't give up on a high paying job just because he's nervous. Soon Mulholland reaches the bottom of the hole. It's dark and damp, and Mulholland resumes digging. He strikes the ground with his shovel, breathing in the musty, earthy air. The work is grueling, and every time his shovel makes contact with the ground, he can hear his brother's voice in his head, saying that Los Angeles is too small. It's in the middle of nowhere. It's a dusty, dangerous town that will never keep up with San Francisco. There's less than 10,000 people in Los Angeles, most are either drunk, getting in a fight, or sick with smallpox. Mulholland leans in and digs harder. His brother may have a point, but Mulholland is tired of ships, tired of being rootless and moving around the world. He's ready to settle down. And there's something more to this city than meets the eye. From the moment he arrived, Mulholland could feel something promising here in Los Angeles. Something different than San Francisco. Los Angeles still seems to be finding itself. It's less set in its ways. There's a sense of noonice and possibility. Los Angeles seems like a place where Mulholland can do something big, where he can leave his mark. And it's that sense of possibility that drives Mulholland every day. Because even if he spends his hours toiling deep in the ground, he can sense that there's something here for him waiting. At the bottom of the hole, Mulholland strikes the ground once more with his shovel. But this time when he pulls the blade from the sodden ground, he feels the earth goes soft beneath his feet. A rivulet of water gurgles up near his toes. Mulholland's eyes go wide with joy and wonder. He slams the shovel back into the ground and begins digging feverishly, pulling up thick, wet mud. He tosses aside the mud and finally catches a glimpse of something that takes his breath away. A small, reflective pool of water. His face flushed and red. Mulholland leans back and groans with happy success. He reached the aquifer, the water that stored below the earth's surface. And what's more, he did it all on his own. He's so happy he could almost cry. But it's not just the culmination of this exhausting task. It's something more. 20 feet down in this well, Mulholland can clearly see his path to success, the way he's going to make something of himself. Los Angeles will always need water. And if he can master this, if he can find a way to keep delivering this precious resource, he'll be able to change the future of this barren desert city. Four years later, William Mulholland steps into the Los Angeles Library in downtown. The library is a small, two room building. And it's after six o clock in the evening, so there doesn't seem to be anyone else around. Mulholland nods as he walks past the librarian. By now, she knows him by sight. And she probably knows exactly where he's going. Through the front room with its checkerboards and spittoons for tobacco, and then into the larger room with books. Mulholland enters the dimly lit space, but he doesn't need to check the catalog. He knows where he's going. Mulholland walks to a shelf and grabs a thick book on civil engineering. Then he settles into an empty chair and finds the page where he left off. Mulholland continues scanning the page hungrily. There's still so much to learn, and so much that he'd like to do with his knowledge. It's not that Mulholland's life in Los Angeles has been a disappointment. He does have a steady job working as a ditch tender for the Los Angeles water company. He spends his days patrolling the canals that run through the city, distributing water from the LA River. It's Mulholland's job to remove anything that's gotten stuck. But he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life fishing out dead animals from ditches. Mulholland has a burning desire to move up in the world, and the way to do that is to educate himself. So he comes to the library at night to study civil engineering. In the dim light of the library, Mulholland turns the page of the textbook. He's been reading the book constantly, trying to learn as fast as he can. But his studies tonight are especially important. Because tomorrow, Mulholland is heading to the Boinevista Reservoir, which is under construction. He'll be working under the water company's superintendent, a man named Fred Eaton. Eaton's not just the best engineer in the city, but he's also incredibly influential. So if Mulholland impresses him, he may earn himself another opportunity, something that lets him move up in his field. And for that, Mulholland needs to be as prepared as possible. In case Eaton asks any technical questions. But Mulholland is exhausted for his long day. He's only been reading a few minutes, but already the words on the page have begun to dance around each other. He feels like he's read the same sentence eight times. 20 minutes pass, and somewhere in the other room, there's a gentle ticking of a clock. Mulholland's islas grow heavy. Maybe he can just rest his eyes for a moment. He wouldn't go to sleep just a quick break with his head down on the desk. The next thing he knows, there's a hand on his shoulder. Mulholland starts, opens his eyes and shoots up, a bead of saliva hanging from the corner of his mouth. Standing in front of him is the librarian. She has a kind look on her face and says the library's closing in ten minutes. Mulholland glances down at the textbook and moans. He didn't get through even ten pages. But there's no challenging the rules. If the library's about to close, it's about to close. So Mulholland shuts the book and returns it to the shelf. Stepping out is the night air. Mulholland feels a gentle breeze coming in from the ocean, and he begins making his way home. His nap did little. His body is exhausted and his brain feels flat. And while Mulholland could be disappointed with himself for napping, he knows it's okay. He's already taught himself a lot about civil engineering. So when he arrives at work tomorrow, he's sure to be ready to impress Fred Eaton. He could even earn himself a job at the water company building. Maybe with an actual office and a bigger paycheck. And maybe if he plays his cards right, Mulholland will get the chance to build something big in Los Angeles. 5 Years Later, Fred Eaton roves through a private club in downtown Los Angeles. The room is full of city officials and socialites who gab and drink cocktails. Eaton smiles as he moves through the crowds and shakes people's hands. His cheeks have grown tired from all the smiling he's had to do this evening, but Eaton can't go home just yet. He's the superintendent of the city's water company. And after several years on the job, he's decided that it's time to move on to something bigger and better. This crowded event is his going away party. Eaton's next step is to try his hand at politics. He's fairly certain he'll be successful. He has a broad, handsome face, and when he speaks, he projects a sense of familiarity and easiness. He also understands that delicate work of holding public office, the need to form alliances, to make friends with people who can help you. It's a skill set that helped Eaton at the water company, but he's not certain whether his protege has that natural aptitude for politics. William Mulholland is impressive. He's completely self taught, and in just five years, he's worked his way all the way up the ladder of the department. But before Eaton hands off the torch, he needs to make sure that Mulholland is truly up to the task, and that he won't damage Eaton's legacy. Eaton squins through a haze of cigarsmo, and spots Mulholland standing next to the bar. He approaches from the back, and surprises Mulholland with a strong pat on the shoulder. Oh, that's you. That's scary. Well, I can't say I'm exactly surprised to see you being the guest of honor at all. I don't know what this company's going to be without you. Bill, with you at the helm, I'm sure, will survive. Eaton downs the last of his drink, and sets it on the counter. I was packing up the office today. You know what I found? Blue prints for the Boinevist of RetroWart. You remember? That was the first project we worked on together. Even then, I knew you were a cut above. Oh, I remember it differently. Mostly, I was scared stiff that I'd screw up. Everyone makes mistakes. You run a department, you're bound to run into some trouble. The question is, how you respond. And whether you keep making the same mistakes. I'm guessing if I got the promotion, that means I must be the type that learns from his errors. You are. But Bill, look, you're about to be the next superintendent of the water company. And the city where water is everything. You know of the city's terrible secret. A water supply isn't going to last. Huh, that's a bit drastic. Tell me I'm wrong. Well, no, you're not wrong, Fred. No, I'm not. Some might say it's an impossible job to keep this thirsty city sated. So why'd you say yes? Uh, I guess I have a different point of view. We can keep drilling wells, and we built three large reservoirs. We'll catch the rain when it falls. If the rain falls. What if that's not enough? Tell me, what would you do, Mr. Superintendent, when all the water runs out? I'll frag you and I both know there's enough groundwater beneath our feet. I don't know. Cities grow fast. Grandwaters of finite resource, Bill, tell me something. Eaton steps closer. A series look on his face. What are you going to do when there's no more water? How will you explain it to city home? Ah, well, Fred. I suppose I won't explain it. I'll fix it. There's always a solution. I mean, that's engineering. If there's one thing you've taught me, and all the time we've worked together, is that there's always a solution. Mulholland finishes his drink and sets down his glass. And if that doesn't work, I'll drink a pint of whiskey and go tell him they built the city in the wrong place. They should have settled in Long Beach. Oh, Bill, you've got a good sense of humor, and you're going to need it for this job. Congratulations, Superintendent. You have my blessing. Eaton holds out his hand in Mulholland crypts of tight, with a proud smile on his face. It's at that moment that reality sinks in for Eaton. His time at the water company is over. William Mulholland is now the custodian of this city's water supply. Eaton pushes himself away from the bar, and begins making his way back through the club. It's a lively party, and Eaton feels good about his replacement. William Mulholland is the man for the job. But Eaton was grilling Mulholland on more than just hypotheticals, because he knows the greatest crisis in the history of Los Angeles is closer than anyone thinks. Mulholland is right. No one should have built Los Angeles in the middle of a desert. They have enough water for the time being, but someday, and someday soon, it's going to run out. And no matter how creative he gets, William Mulholland won't be able to stop Los Angeles's lucky streak from running dry. Lots of people don't know it, but autumn is an ideal time to plant. Shorter days and cooler nights create ideal conditions for the plants to get established. If you're looking to spruce up your home, proven winners color choice shrubs has an amazing selection of flowering shrubs and evergreens for planting and gardens and landscapes. 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Only a few houses dot the horizon. It's barren and quiet, but it's a world that may soon change. The population of Los Angeles is increasing at a rapid clip, and real estate developers have shifted their focus north to this, the San Fernando Valley. But developing the valley could threaten the future of Los Angeles as a whole. It's a problem that Fred Eaton has to manage. For the last two years, Eaton has been mayor of Los Angeles. It's a tough job, and running an entire city has eaten pull in several directions, but there's no bigger problem than water scarcity. There have been some attempts to address the issue. William Mulholland is now superintendent of the water company, and he's encouraged residents to conserve. He even installed an ingenious system of water meters for residents homes. But conservation was unpopular, and it wasn't enough. And with the city on the brink, Fred Eaton is going to have to find some way to put the brakes on growth, without angering the politically powerful class of developers. The electric street car rounds a bend, and Eaton turns from the window to find an old, barrel chested man hoping to speak with him. Moses Sherman is a real estate mogul who owns this line of street cars. He also owns countless other transit lines across the city, and apparently has plans to build up the valley. Sherman is grinning as he looks out over the landscape. Well, Mr. Mayor, what do you think of my little electric railway? Moses and I think it's a wonder. The people of Los Angeles think he can go farther and faster than anyone else in the country. Well, it sounds like you like it. But it looks like you don't. Why the frown? Oh, no. Me? I'm just tired. You know, it's a lot of work being there. Fred, be honest with me. We've known each other for years. You've got something on your mind. Eaton takes a moment to compose stones. He can't afford to upset the developers, not if he wants to hold onto his job. Well, Moses, it's true. I am concerned about something. This region has some problems with scarce resources. Fred, don't dance around it. You can talk about water, aren't you? Yeah, that's right. If we use too much of a too fast, it's all gonna be gone. Now, I think this street car is marble. I've said that, and I mean it. It's a real enticement for people to move out to the valley. And you could really develop this area. But you think we shouldn't. Eaton purses his lips. Maybe for now. Fred. A city is a lot like a train. Once it starts, it doesn't pay to slow it down. Yeah, but like a train, it runs on something, and this city runs on water. What happens when people start moving here? What are they gonna drink? The same water we're drinking now. And you're gonna make it happen, Mr. Mayor. Moses, this is a desert. We can't change that basic fact. Maybe. But the winner of the next election. That is something we can change. Sherman stands up and begins walking to the exit of the street car. Fred, like it or not, people are going to start moving to the valley. It's gonna happen. So if water isn't falling from the sky, you're gonna have to find it somewhere else. Otherwise, this city might just find another guy for the job. Eaton stays seated as Sherman steps out of the street car and into the sunlight. As Sherman walks away, Eaton adjusts the pinch of his tie. It was an unvarnished threat, and Eaton knows that Sherman and his fellow developers wouldn't hesitate to act on it. Eaton feels trapped. Shoring up the city's water was supposed to be William Maholins job, not his. There's only so much that Eaton can do as mayor, but it's clear now that he can't just sit around a moat waiting for his own demise. If Eaton wants to stay mayor of Los Angeles, somehow, he's gonna have to find more water. It's the spring of 1903 in Bishop California. Wilford, Waterston, walks down Main Street at the center of this high desert town. Bishop is a sleepy community at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and as he walks down Main Street, Waterston marvels at the craggy mountain peaks, which are bathed in morning light. Soon, Waterston steps into the Inyo County Bank, where he serves as president. Waterston greets the clerks, and when he sits down at his desk, he begins his work with reviewing a loan application from a farmer. Waterston taps his fingers against the desk as he reads, normally a bank wouldn't offer a loan in a case like this, the farmer has terrible credit, but Waterston isn't a typical kind of banker. He's not just concerned about profit. Bishop is a rural area, and most of its residents are farmers and ranchers. Waterston prides himself on helping out his fellow residents, and helping Inyo grow. Bishop may never be San Francisco, but Waterston wants to provide whatever opportunities he can here in his small town, a town that he loves. Waterston begins riding up a letter of approval for the loan, but as he's drafting it, his brother Mark comes storming into the office. Mark's a little shorter and a little less good looking, and for some reason he appears to be deeply troubled. Mark announces that he's just heard some awful news. There's some new federal program called the U.S. Reclamation Service. Apparently it's meant to help create farming communities out west. Federal agents have arrived here in Inyo County, because they want to do a study about how locals use water from the Owens River. There's talk of creating some 60,000 acres of new farms. Waterston leans forward as eyebrows scrunched up. He doesn't understand how is this awful news. His brother lays out a worst case scenario. The federal government could arrive in any town and claim the rights to any land it wants. Whenever the feds are involved, it only spells trouble, Waterston's brother says. Their independence could be gone. Their land taken away. Waterston shakes his head, smiling, and invites his brother to take a seat. He then explains that while these concerns are legitimate, his brother isn't seeing the bigger picture. It's good news if the government wants to develop land here. It could be a guarantee of future prosperity. If the government creates 60,000 acres of new farmland, that could lead to more houses, more businesses, and more investment opportunities. It would be a gold rush for the bank. His brother, Marr, just snorts, saying he'll believe in Bishop the Boom Town when he sees it. In the meantime, he's going to start warning people. Waterston shakes his head again. His brother is always predicting that the sky is falling. But every now and then, his worries are justified. But Waterston is certain that this isn't one of those times. More farms is more money, and that's just the way of it. So, Waterston stands up, the numbers are already churning in his head. This federal project could be a cash cow for Bishop. He needs to track down these federal agents to learn more. The faster he can get information, the faster he can get head start on this development, and potentially make a fortune. A month later, Fred Eaton crosses a set of trolley tracks in downtown Los Angeles. The city streets pulse around him with brand new automobiles rumbling past horse drawn carriages. Eaton stops for a moment to take in the scenery. It's remarkable how quickly Los Angeles has grown up into a bustling city. Once his reverie has passed, Eaton continues through downtown and approaches the hotel Westminster. He steps into an ornate lobby and spots his old friend, J.B. Lippincott, waiting at the bar. The two grin when they catch each other's eyes. They're about to spend the evening drinking and gambling a good and rockest time. But Eaton has some other intentions for the evening too. His friend, Lippincott, works for the U.S. Reclamation Service. And recently took a trip up north to Inno County. It sounds like he has some information that could save Los Angeles. Another source of water. Soon, the two men settle in at a corner table and order drinks. And while Eaton should start with a little small talk, he's too impatient. Immediately, he asks Lippincott about his trip up north. What did he learn? Lippincott dips his head, looking left and right, checking whether anyone can hear them. Then, with his voice low, he says that he does have some information. But Eaton must promise to keep it a secret. Eaton nods, offering his solemn promise. And after taking a sip from his drink, Lippincott tells Eaton that the Reclamation Service is going to expand its footprint in Inno County. The U.S. government is going to be a major player up north. Eaton stares at his friend in disappointment. For a while now, Eaton had been dreaming of an incredible possibility. 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles near the town of Bishop. There's a large river with an endless supply of water. And while he isn't sure exactly how to do it, Eaton has dreamed of bringing Owen's river water to Los Angeles. Eaton knows it's a crazy plan. He'd have to transport the water through some kind of aqueduct, maybe the longest of its kind in the world. 200 miles. And crucially, Eaton would have to buy up the water rights from landowners who live at the edge of the river. But this news changes everything. If the federal government is sticking a claim in Inno County, Eaton's dream of bringing Owen's river water to Los Angeles is as good as dead. Eaton finishes his drink in a single gulp and orders another. His mood is sour. But Lippincont promises that all hope isn't lost. The federal government is a slow moving machine. All Eaton has to do is move faster than the guys back in DC. His dream could still become a reality, provided that Eaton gets a plan to bring the water to Los Angeles and financing. Sipping his drink, Eaton can already hear the clock ticking. He's the former superintendent of the water company, and so City Hall will take him seriously if he requests funding. But it's that first part, developing a plan. Eaton knows that he can't single handedly design an aqueduct with this kind of complexity. It's been too many years since he last work as an engineer. But Eaton does know someone with expertise and geology, construction, and the flow of water across long distances. He's a self taught engineer, a man with outsized ambitions. And perhaps most importantly, he has a deep sense of loyalty. Eaton smiles. It's time to speak with William Moll Holland, his former protege, together the two of them could transform Los Angeles. And maybe even grow rich in the process. Eaton Eaton Eaton Eaton Eaton Eaton Eaton Eaton All right, ready? Ready. Okay, when you watch the next one with the one raised, don't f**king up. Watch it with us. Pass and lose side pass hosted by the Kid Miro and me. Michelle Beatle, he is funny and I will be there. And she also knows what she's talking about. We go live on amp every race Sunday. That is right. Download the app and follow us at amp presents F1 on amp. It's the summer of 1904. And William Moll Holland is driving his new car through the beach town of Santa Monica. The ocean wind blows through his hair and Moll Holland hits the brakes as he pulls up to the Santa Monica pier. As he steps out onto the wooden pier and breeze in the salty air, Moll Holland smiles. He feels serene out here on the edge of the Pacific. The beach has a way of clearing his thoughts, helping him work through his problems. And that's why he came here today. He needs a clear head to work through these latest issues. Just days ago, officials discovered that a city reservoir was leaking the city's drinking water into the ocean. Millions of gallons of water had just disappeared. After some investigation, it turned out to be a simple mechanical failure, one that was easily fixed. Still, it was a devastating moment from Moll Holland. Years ago, he stepped off a boat from Ireland and decided that Southern California would be his new home. He promised himself that he'd do something with his life, and it seemed being named the superintendent of the city's water department was his crowning achievement. But the job has presented one disaster after another. Los Angeles is in the middle of a nine year drought. The aquifers are running dry. Water is becoming increasingly scarce. And with mishaps like the loss of millions of gallons of potable water, Moll Holland has been assigned all the blame. The situation has grown incredibly tense, and Moll Holland knows that somehow he has to fight through what's become a political struggle. His career and legacy depend on it. But Moll Holland has never been much of a politician himself. That's the other reason he's here today. Moll Holland has come to get advice from Fred Eaton, his former mentor and the one time mayor of Los Angeles. Moll Holland spots Eaton who's standing against the railing of the pier, and when Moll Holland approaches, for a moment, the two just stand side by side, staring silently at the ocean. It's an infinite supply of water if the city can never use. Moll Holland turns and begins to unburn himself. He tells Eaton about the city's dire situation as well as his plan. Moll Holland wants to implement a massive citywide conservation effort. It includes increased regulation on just how much water each citizen should use. Moll Holland acknowledges it sounds draconian, but it's the only remaining option. Eaton shakes his head, saying he feels bad for Moll Holland. But he reminds his former protégé that most people in this city couldn't care less about conservation. What they need isn't more regulation. Los Angeles needs more water. Moll Holland knows it's the truth, but where could such a source possibly come from? The Los Angeles River has already been drained to sand. The aquifers are drying up. There's nothing left. But Moll Holland notices that Eaton is smiling. The older man poses a question. What if the answer isn't in the city, or even in the county? What if the answer to LA's water problems was a river 200 miles north? Moll Holland narrows his eyes. Is Eaton talking about the Colorado River? That would be impossible to divert all the way to Los Angeles. No, Eaton tells Moll Holland he's talking about the Owens River up in Inyo County. The ranchers and farmers are sitting on more water than they know what to do with. And Eaton has a plan to bring all that fresh water down to Los Angeles. Moll Holland begins to argue, but Eaton interrupts him, offering a proposition. The two should take a trip to the Owens Valley. They can keep it secret. Moll Holland just needs to see the river for himself. Moll Holland is shaking his head, reminding Eaton that he's a busy man with multiple crises to deal with. He can't hit the road and disappear for days. But Eaton says that's all the more reason to get out of town. Moll Holland needs to let things cool down. He can think of it as a vacation, a reprieve, a little camping trip. Moll Holland looks down, shaking his head, surprised by the words he's about to utter. He tells Eaton he'll go. He's never turned down a camping trip, and at this point he's out of ideas. Los Angeles is going to run out of water. So even though this Owens River plan is almost comical and scope, it might be the only way to save the city. A few weeks later, a wagon bounces over a rutted path in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As it heads around a curved ridge, William Moll Holland's eyes go wide, his breath catching. Down below on the floor of the valley is the large Owens River. It's splashing and gurgling, and the dark ribbon of water looks almost like a crooked finger pointing south, pointing in the direction of Los Angeles. Moll Holland is awed by the sight. For days, he's been traveling across California with Fred Eaton through the rugged San Gabriel Pass and across the bone dry Mojave Desert. Yesterday, they finally crossed into Inyo County, where Fred Eaton promised there was a sight to behold a possible solution for Los Angeles's most pressing problem. He wasn't lying. Moll Holland eases the wagon over to the side of the road to get a better look at this river valley. The craggy peaks of the Sierra's are over to the west. Every year, snow falls all along those mountains, and every spring, the snow melts and comes hurtling over the valley floor, reaching into this majestic body of water. For Moll Holland, it's like stumbling on a river of gold. He has to get a closer look. Moll Holland and Eaton begin walking down the ridge toward the river. Eaton turns toward Moll Holland with a look of pride. Beautiful, isn't it, Bill? 400 cubic feet of water flowing down that river every second. Do the math. I know you can. That's enough for a city five times the size of Los Angeles. It's remarkable. God. And it might even be technically possible. Elevation here is 4,000 feet. Los Angeles is sea level. Yeah. Gravity can do the work. You could build an aquifer that would transport the water all the way to Los Angeles. You wouldn't need to pump anything. Yeah. Like I said, gravity would do all the work. Incredible, isn't it? It is. It would fix everything. Moll Holland squats down and grabs a pinch of soil from the ground. But what about the local ecology? I mean, what happens to the people up here? You can't divert all that water without consequence. Bill, you need to be a pragmatist. Over 200,000 people live in Los Angeles. More are coming every day. You know what the population is around here? No idea. 5,000 people. Just 2.5% of Los Angeles. So tell me. Who's future would you like to sacrifice? Many or the few? Fred. The people up here have a right to this water. They were here first. Except that these ranchers are not doing anything with it. This river runs into a lake that's so salty it turns the water alkaline. It's being wasted. But you and I, we could put this water to good use. Moll Holland stares out at the rushing river. It does look like an overabundance for such a small population. Okay. But these people in in your county, they're not going to just hand over their water. Bill, you won't have to worry about that. I'm going to buy them out. I just need to move faster than the US government can. It would get us all the water we need. But there's something else. A man who owns all this land and all this water, he could stand to turn an enormous profit. Give him a pretty big bargaining chip with the city of Los Angeles. I have that right, Fred. Eaton looks away, ignoring the comment. Moll Holland knows there's money to be made in any real estate deal. And sometimes those deals involve self dealing. It's an unsavory prospect. But right now, there's a more immediate concern. All right, Fred. I guess first things first. Where exactly are you going to get all that money? Bill, again, don't worry about that. Just focus on designing me an aqueduct. I'll take care of everything else. Moll Holland wants to push back to keep challenging his former mentor. Something about this plan still doesn't feel right. But as he looks down at the roaring river, Moll Holland's concerns begin to melt away like a spring snowpack. You can already see it, a 200 mile aqueduct carrying away this bounty of water and delivering it to the bone dry city of Los Angeles. This could be the answer to the problem that has nagged Moll Holland for years. It's an issue that's threatening to destroy Los Angeles and with it Moll Holland's reputation. So even though the plan seems like a mad heist, it could be the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to transform Los Angeles and cement William Moll Holland's reputation as a legend of the American West. From Wondry, this is episode one of LA Steels It's Water from American Scandal. In the next episode, William Moll Holland begins work on his ambitious aqueduct. But in the Owens Valley, local landowners decide they won't give up their water without a fight. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like. American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wondry Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondry app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initially, and thank you. If you'd like to learn more about the problems with water and early Los Angeles, we recommend the book Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatizations are based on historical research. Americans can't let us hosted edited and executive produced by me Lindsay Graham for airship. Audio editing by Molly Bach. Sound design by Derek Barrett. Music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by George Ducker, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonlofes for Wondry. Wondry. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion, or you woke up in the morgue, or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. 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