Chapter

A Centralized Authority and a Comprehensive Plan: Response to the Floods, 1914–1917

Jared Orsi

in Hazardous Metropolis

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780520238503
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930087 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520238503.003.0003
A Centralized Authority and a Comprehensive Plan: Response to the Floods, 1914–1917

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The flood impelled southern Californians to try to control water. In July 1914, 250 representatives from municipalities, civic organizations, and businesses gathered downtown at Blanchard Hall in response to an invitation from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The delegates resolved that “control of the flood waters of the County should be vested in a centralized authority and should be in accordance with a comprehensive plan embracing the entire county.” They envisioned that engineers would redesign the rivers, the public would finance the plans, and nature would submit to human management. In attempting to execute these visions, the delegates institutionalized a new ideal of hydraulic order. That institutionalization occurred through two simultaneous processes. One was the formulation of a plan for controlling the waters. Here southern Californians drew upon Progressive Era faith in entrusting social problems to objective experts. Another part of institutionalizing flood control entailed the establishment of a government body with the authority to execute whatever plan the engineers produced. The resulting flood-control regime reflected both the impulse to control water and the conflicts that arose as southern Californians crafted a new public authority.

Keywords: floods; flooding; southern California; hydraulic order; flood control; Progressive Era

Chapter.  7782 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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