Greater Hells Canyon Council

1-541-963-3950

www.hellscanyon.org

EIN: 93-0999442

PO Box 2768

La Grande, OR  97850 

@2018 by Greater Hells Canyon Council

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The True Story of how HCPC got its Name

July 3, 2018

I support HCPC because I am so fortunate.  I was present at the Creation. I hope you’ll enjoy this true story of “How HCPC was born and How it got its name,” told in six short chapters:

 

The Setting: 100 square miles of desert in South Central Idaho, dotted with nuclear test reactors.  Every day a convoy of government buses arrives from Idaho Falls, 50 miles away, transporting employees to th e Nuclear Reactor Testing Site.  Their job is to prove that nuclear power is a safe source of domestic power.

 

Characters:  The good guys:  a group of young nuclear physicists, including my husband, Jack, drawn from all over the U.S. by the beautiful mountains and wide open spaces.

The bad guys:  Idaho Power officials.

 

Chapter One:

 

Because of high radioactivity, Jack’s group often had to wait 4 or 5 weeks between tests, sitting at their desks, sometimes reading government nuclear bulletins, mostly reading Sierra Club journals, growing tree-sized tomato plants, and pouring over topographical maps to plan their weekend hikes.  Let’s call them the Happy Hikers, a half dozen good friends.

 

Chapter Two:

 

When the Happy Hikers saw Russ Mager’s spectacular photos of his float trip adventures in Hells Canyon, they were mesmerized.    It was wonderful to know that such a wild, stunningly beautiful canyon existed.

 

Chapter Three:

 

Idaho Power announced they were planning yet another dam on the Snake River – the High Mountain Sheep Dam that would block and drown 100 miles of that beautiful wild river.  The Happy Hikers were appalled. They focused their spare time at work researching and making plans to defeat the corporate villains of Idaho Power. They prepared highly technical questions and arranged a meeting with Idaho Power officials.

 

At the first meeting, a single employee appeared.  Confronted by six physicists armed with slide rules and complicated questions, he quickly suggested rescheduling.  At each successive meeting, more Idaho Power bureaucrats arrived but left confounded. They understood hydro-power, but the Happy Hikers were armed with statistics about nuclear power and fueled by their determination to keep the free river flowing.  

 

Chapter Four:

 

The Happy Hikers needed to muster community opposition to the dam.  No one had much money. Someone had a ditto machine. How about a newsletter?  OK, How about a name? Something about “no more dams?” Of course it needed to include “Hells Canyon.”  “Save Hells Canyon?” “Hells Canyon Forever?” Eventually, the term “Preservation” gained favor. Hells Canyon Preservation what?  Not a club, for sure, and not a committee. Too many committees in the world. “Council” sounds powerful and deliberative. All in favor?  Unanimous: “Hells Canyon Preservation Council."

 

Chapter Five:

 

When the troublesome physicists with their purple-printed newsletters started winning public opinion against the dam, Idaho Power called in their lawyers.  Slide rules were no match for the legal jargon and wealth of a corporate juggernaut. It looked like the proposed 720’ dam would obliterate the magnificent canyon. The Happy Hikers weren’t happy any more.  They desperately needed help.

 

Chapter Six:

 

Here the creation story enters mythic territory.  Floyd Harvey, an Idaho river guide, unknown to any of the HCPC members, appeared in Seattle. He persuaded our HERO, Brock Evans, a young Sierra Club lawyer, to go to Idaho Falls.  Once there, he agreed to spearhead this epic battle and, -- because he is the smartest person in every room, -- he eventually led HCPC to a stunning first victory to save Hells Canyon.

 

So – That was the beginning.  

 

I’m so proud of what my husband and his hiking buddies started fifty years ago, but we know the fight to preserve Hells Canyon and the glorious ecosystems around it is and will be a continuing story.  

 

Now all of us here, with our generous support, have an opportunity to write new chapters of the HCPC story every day.

 

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