On June 17, 1902, conference enacted the nationwide Reclamation plot (P.L. 57-161, 32 Stat. 388), also known as the Newland Act, come "ppopriat the receipts native the sale and disposal that public soil in particular States and Territories to the building and construction of irrigation works for the reclamation of arid lands." through this act, congress intended to harness the intermittent precipitation in seventeen western states and use it to encourage individual families to resolve in the West by convert arid commonwealth land right into agriculturally productive land. The act created a Reclamation company with the technical specialization to construct huge water projects to water the West, and also established a Reclamation money to finance these expensive ventures. A century later, through every significant river yet the Yellowstone dammed, the office of Reclamation has actually been forced to change its emphasis from massive building projects to the operation and also maintenance of these facilities.

You are watching:
How did the national reclamation act affect the environment?


In 1888, Francis G. Newlands arrived in Nevada and began to advocate for an watering system the would draw away water from the Truckee and also Carson Rivers come local family members farms. Newlands suggested that his proposal might be funded through the revenue of commonwealth lands. Once Nevada elected him come the home of Representatives, he worked with Frederick Newell, the chef hydrographer the the U.S. Geological inspection (USGS), to go after this idea top top a national scale.

During this period, need for water from broadening western farms started to exceed the it is provided from intermittent precipitation, and also farmers sought to record rain and snow runoff as an alternative source for water. When their private and state-sponsored irrigation programs failed due to inadequate funding and technical expertise, this farmers pressed the federal federal government for aid. Due to the fact that the federal federal government had currently become connected itself in various other local framework subsidies for roads, flow navigation,harbors, canals, and also railroads, both Republican and also Democratic candidates thought they could convince conference to aid irrigation programs, and so campaigned top top pro-irrigation platforms. Notwithstanding eastern and midwestern opposition, conference passed the Reclamation Act once western legislators filibustered and also delayed votes on eastern rivers and harbors projects.


As originally promulgated through Congress, the Reclamation Act motivated western negotiation by selling federal lands to separation, personal, instance farmers and also then providing them v inexpensive water, for which the farmers would repay the government. These payments and the proceeds from land sales would be put in a Reclamation money to finance the construction of the water projects. In addition, water sales to be to be limited to those people farming one hundred and also sixty or under acres and also residing on the land. By the begin of the twenty-first century, however, the acreage limitation had been relaxed and also the residency requirement had been abolished completely.

The Reclamation Act developed the United says Reclamation service as the company to implement Congress"s mandate, and also the Reclamation money as the financial device that would finance the program. The Reclamation organization investigated potential water jobs in every of the seventeen western says with federal lands. The Reclamation service later ended up being the independent office of Reclamation (BOR) in ~ the department of the Interior.

Congress developed the Reclamation money on the premise the fees built up from water purchased native reclamation projects would develop a self-sustaining endeavor, repaying construction and operation costs. The projects" immense building costs soon verified the premise unrealistic. Because that example, earlier self-supporting projects developed by local efforts had price less 보다 twenty dollars an acre. The federal reclamation projects, through contrast, cost an average of eighty-five dollars one acre. Thus, the farmers" re-publishing of the federal expenses proved too good a sum for your repayment.


Congress comment to farmers" i can not qualify to salary water costs first with prolonged repayment periods, and then a decreased obligation to repay the funds. In 1926, congress passed the Omnibus Adjustment plot to expand the regards to repayment from ten annual installments come forty annual payments. Then, as soon as Congress realized the farmers still might not repay the project costs, that passed the Reclamation job Act of 1939 that conditioned repayment just on a farmer"s "ability come pay."

This lack of repayment by farmers compelled Congress to look in other places to money the reclamation projects. In June 1910 Congress advanced $20 million from general treasury funds and $5 million in in march 1931 for these projects. After that time, appropriations because that individual jobs drew funding from both the Reclamation Fund and also the general treasury fund. Additional funding sources had receipts indigenous the Mineral Leasing Act, proceeds indigenous the lease and also sale ofproducts from withdrawn lands, and money native the revenue of excess lands.

During that is heyday, the BOR set up such impressive public functions as Hoover Dam, Shasta Dam, and Grand Coulee Dam, each the biggest concrete framework in the human being at the time of that construction. These dams noted benefits including power production, irrigation, water storage, overwhelming control, and also public recreation in the form of fishing, water skiing, and also swimming. In elevating these monuments to person ingenuity, however, BOR subtly change its mission from building dams for society"s advantage to merely constructing dams. Led generally by BOR efforts, 75,000 public and also private dams were developed in the joined States throughout the twentieth century. President wilhelm J. Clinton"s secretary of the interior, Bruce Babbitt, in assessing this figure, well-known that BOR had gone also far, noting the itamounted to an median of one dam a day, consisting of weekends, built since the signing of the statements of Independence.

Since the 1970s, the dam-building fervor has actually slowed dramatically. The last significant authorization for a project developed in the late 1960s. Since then, the combined effects of the governmental Procedure act (1946) and also the National environmental Policy act (1969) have forced federal agencies to justifyeconomically and environmentally their major projects. With price over-runs of perfect water projects exceeding approximates by at least 50 percent, and also with major disruption and also destruction that riparian ecosystems, together justifications have actually not been easily found. One examine has even pointed come dam construction as a significant factor in the deterioration of aquatic habitats, v 67 percent that freshwater mussels, 64 percent the crayfish, 36 percent the fish, and also 20 percent of dragonfly types extinct, imperiled, or breakable as a result.

Even though the Reclamation Act has led to unintended disadvantage economic and also environmental impacts, it proceeds to serve as the basis for the operation and maintenance of existing facilities. Indicating awareness that few of its jobs no longer serve helpful purposes, a conference committee in 1994 even debated the demolition of valley Canyon Dam. Thus, the BOR"s mission might realign itself with Congress"s initial objectives for the agency, that of constructing water projects where crucial to finest serve every interests involved.

See also: National environmental Policy Act; surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.


"The office of Reclamation: A short History." bureau of Reclamation. .

Center for Columbia river History. "Reclamation Act/Newlands action of 1902." .

Collier, Michael, et al. "Dams and also Rivers: A primer on the Downstream impacts of Dams." U.S.G.S. One 1126 (1996).

Devine, Robert S. "The Trouble with Dams." Atlantic Monthly 276, no. 2 (1995): 64–74.

Fernley Nevada chamber of Commerce. "The nationwide Reclamation plot of 1902: The Newlands irrigation Project." .

Klein, Christine A. "On Dams and Democracy," Oregon regulation Review 78, no. 3 (1999): 641–93.

See more: Chevy 6.0 Oil Pan Torque Sequence, Oil Pan Torque Sequence

McCully, Patrick. Silenced Rivers, the Ecology and Politics of large Dams. London: Zed Books, 1996.