Reclamation Policy

September 28, 1948

Report Outline
Reclamation Policy and the 1948 Campaign
Origin and Growth of Reclamation Program
Non-Political Issues Affecting Reclamation

Reclamation Policy and the 1948 Campaign

Federal reclamation policy, long considered outside partisan politics, is assuming some of the aspects of a major sectional issue in this year's party battle for the West. President Truman, seeking to capitalize on western dissatisfaction with cuts in budget estimates for water and power projects, has charged the Republican-controlled 80th Congress with “sabotaging the reclamation program.” Gov. Dewey has accused the President of misrepresenting the action of Congress, and other Republicans have charged mismanagement, inefficiency and waste in Democratic administration of the program. The voters of the 17 reclamation states to whom these charges are addressed cast ten million ballots in the presidential election of 1944.

The primary purpose of the federal reclamation program, instituted in 1902 under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, is provision of facilities for the irrigation of arid and semi-arid lands. Secondary and incidental purposes include production of hydroelectric power at irrigation dams, land drainage, flood control, improvement of navigation, provision of municipal water supplies, and development of recreation areas and wildlife refuges. A large part of the cost of reclamation projects is self-liquidating, being reimbursable by water and power users.

Campaign Debate on Reclamation Issues

The principle of federal assistance to reclamation is generally accepted and can no longer be said to be an issue in the United States. However, many differences exist over details of the reclamation program. The most persistent one concerns the rate at which projects should be developed, which in turn depends on the size of annual appropriations by Congress. Other contested issues include (1) the place of public power in the program; (2) methods of distributing water made available by reclamation, (3) coordination of reclamation with other water resources programs.

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