Floyd Dominy changed the map of the West as commissioner of the federal Bureau of Reclamation from 1959 to 1969. It was on his watch that Glen Canyon Dam was built, forming giant Lake Powell on the upper Colorado River. In "Encounters with the Archdruid," author John McPhee improbably convinced Dominy to raft down the Colorado with David Brower of the Sierra Club. From a remembrance in High Country News:
In the end, it seemed that Dominy and Brower had a blast, drinking beer and occasionally bickering about whether remote stretches of the Colorado were valuable because they were untouched, or wasted because they weren’t being developed.
I’ve never forgotten McPhee’s description of Dominy, smoking cigars on the raft trip and somehow able to keep his cigar lit as the raft passed through a waterfall. Brower kept referring to the future Lake Powell as “Lake Dominy.” When I spoke to Dominy, I said I thought the trip sounded pretty exciting.
“It was boring!” he said. “Boring, how could it be anything else? You can’t see out from the bottom of a canyon.”
Dominy argued that if the West were going to be developed, the waters of the Colorado River’s cycle of flood and trickle would have to be managed. Others doubted that intensively developing the West was a wise thing to do in the first place; they thought that the region should be left unpredictable and fragile –– that we should discourage settlement, rather than invite it. But Dominy was convinced that nature could be improved; that it could, and should, be manipulated and mastered in order to make life less difficult for human beings.