Chapter

The Perils of Public Works

Donald J. Pisani

in Water and American Government

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520230309
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927582 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520230309.003.0002
The Perils of Public Works

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This chapter looks at how the idealism of the reclamation crusade slowly died away in the years after 1902. It shows that the structure of American government also limited federal reclamation. It then studies the turf wars that occurred within the federal bureaucracy, such as the turf war between the Interior and Agriculture Departments. One section reviews the Reclamation Service, where it determines that several officials in the Agriculture Department—including Elwood Mead—thought that the Service placed most of its focus on engineering. It also shows that the Service was usually forced to defer to the states. The chapter emphasizes that the Reclamation Act gave hope to both private irrigation companies and large landowners, and uses the stories of Snake River Valley in Idaho and the private project at Twin Falls to demonstrate the triumphs and pitfalls of reclamation and the impact that irrigation had on the creation of towns and communities in the west.

Keywords: reclamation crusade; federal reclamation; turf wars; federal bureaucracy; Elwood Mead; irrigation; Snake River Valley; Twin Falls

Chapter.  15842 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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