Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Reclamation Act of 1902

The Progressive have dominated the National and State political arena since the day of the Accidental Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th 1901.

In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt stood upon the Bully Pulpit and proclaimed   the ideology of the Progressives by stealthy wrapping it within his proclamation that all deserved a “Square Deal”.

Theodore told one and all, the Federal Government is the solution and the Square Deal would be his tool of Social Justice.

The “Square Deal” was  designed to appeal to the ill informed by proclaiming all the evils of America were the directed actions of those who would exploit the resources of America for their unjust monopolistic gain.  

What Theodore Failed to share, is that these "exploiters" were in reality the local small business entrepreneurship that drove the American Economy.

The Square Deal was the policy implemented by Theodore Roosevelt to substantiate the federal necessity of intervening in the private affairs of Americans' Proprietorial Rights.

The Bully Pulpit was exploited to promote the Square Deal’s Progressive message that government is the solution. 

One "Solution" was to sell off Federal Lands to Homesteaders by constructing massive Reclamation Projects for water irrigation in the Western States.

This enabled Senator Francis Newland of Nevada to secure the passage of the National Reclamation Act on June 17th, 1902 (Public Law 57-161, 32 Statutes at Large 388).

The legislation specifically applied to Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The Congressional Legislation statutorily empowered the Secretary to set aside parcels of Federal Land for the Reclamation Project and sell off quarter sections in compliance to the Homestead Act of May 20 1862 wherein the owners would then be the paying beneficiaries of the Federal Reclamation Project.

The idea in spirit was to sell of the barren Federal Land, from where the Damming of the Rivers would provide inexpensive water to irrigate the Quarter Section Homesteads.
The first such project was the Salt River Project in Arizona, which began construction in 1903.  Over the following Four years, the Department of Interior United States Reclamation Service initiated another 29 projects in 17 States.

IN 1906 the Lone Star Republic jumped on the Project Gravy train with special Federal legislation, for Texas did not have any Federal owned land within its boundaries.

Engineering problems grew along with the expanding Projects which led to larger costs then anticipated.  The project was early on proved to be fiscal black hole.  IN response to pending economic calamity the Federal Government showed its administrative hand, by creating a new authority the Bureau of Reclamation in 1907, in lieu of shutting the project down.  So the Reclamation Act's fiscal albatross of ballooning costs escalated year after year, after year.

The problem as in all government managed projects was the cost was greater than the return provided by the Homesteaders.  The 1903 Reclamation Acts cost was over $85.00 per acre of a Quarter Section.  In 1903 dollars that was $13,600.00 per quarter section.  In today’s inflated dollars with gold at $1600 per ounce equates to $1,088,000.00 per quarter section.

The original legislation limited the users of the irrigation project’s water resources to owning no more than one quarter section which is 160 acres.  The Land Owners who managed their 160 acres farm with water from the Salt River Project along with the other 29 projects encompassing  17 other states by 1906, were to pay back the cost of the project out of their production. The cost of building the first Thirty Irrigation projects exceeded the Act's self funding premises for the quarter section farmer had no fiscal ability to pay for the cost of the “inexpensive" Federal water resource.

When the Reclamation Act’s self funding collapsed, in lieu of closing the operation, the Federal Congress increased Funding in 1910 by moving 20 million dollars in then current moneys from the General Fund to the account of the Department of Interior’s now three year old Bureau of Reclamation.  The Bureau’s administrative largess grew, as the quarter section Farmer's inability to pay was never overcome.
Over the next 85 years the Bureau of Reclamation became an agency with one focus build dams. The Bureau of Reclamation had built 180 projects by 1992.

One of the engineering problems was the underlying geology of the river beds.  The instability of the river beds appears to be a problem the Bureau of Reclamation routinely side stepped. This type of bureaucratic decision appears to be predicated on ignoring a potential problem which led to the collapse of the Grand Tetons Dam project on June 5th, 1976.

Then the other bureaucratic legacy arises in parallel, the Endangered Species Act comes to play which led to the Federally created dust bowl in the Klamath River Basin, when the Bureau of Reclamation turned off the water flow to the dependent farmers in 1992.

In 1992 the troubles began for the Land Owners in the Klamath River Basin in Oregon when the Fish and Wildlife Services turned down the water flow after the growing season to protect Shortnose and Lost River Sucker Fish.

The water spigot continued to be adjusted by the Federal Bureaucrats in 2001 to protect the River Salmon.

So in just under 100 years, the Reclamation Act built 180 Irrigation Projects, wherein the now dependent Farmers lose their Federal assured Water Rights on the whim of Environmental Groups, their Fisherman Allies and Federal Bureaucrats to protect "endangered" Klamath River Basin Salmon.

Not to be outdone the Delta Smelt became the political pawn in San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed more concern for this four inch fish that lives a year, than landowners who invested their lifetime in running the farms with the water from the irrigation project.

Take note there is no press news outside the basins about the political maelstroms that have bankrupted landowners and kept litigators busy for nearly twenty years.

Welcome to the Bureau of Reclamation where the Federal Congress substantiates they knowingly will fund Bureaucratic Failure by “flooding” the failed agency with more of our Private Wealth.

No comments: