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Letter Concerning the Establishment of an Interagency Committee To Study the Resources and Development of New England and New York.

October 11, 1950

[Released October 11, 1950. Dated October 9, 1950]

My dear Mr.__________

You will recall that in connection with my approval of H.R. 5472, the Rivers and Harbors and Flood Control Acts of 1950 (P.L. 516, 81st Cong.), I sent a message to the Congress indicating what I considered to be serious deficiencies in the legislation. Along with other observations, I pointed out the failure of the measure to provide for a comprehensive study of multiple-purpose resource development for the New England-New York area with appropriate participation by the Federal agencies and the States concerned. The Congress has been considering legislation to meet this deficiency, but final action has not been taken on a bill establishing a commission to conduct the desired study.

I am sure you will agree with me that experience in natural resources development emphasizes the fact that plans for the most effective utilization of water resources must take into account all the multiple-purposes and benefits and also the interrelationships between water and land resources. Moreover, studies of the potential development of these related resources should be based on proper geographical or regional areas. It was for these reasons among others that, on February 9, 1950, in a communication to the Vice-President, I endorsed the legislation, recently considered in hearings before a Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Public Works, providing for the establishment of a New England-New York Resources Survey Commission and authorizing a full-scale investigation of multiple-purpose resource development with participation by the Federal agencies and the States concerned.

In order to realize to the greatest extent possible under existing authority the benefits which would stem from this legislation and to provide essential coordination of the activities of the various Federal agencies in studying the resources potential of this area, I am requesting that the various Federal agencies concerned, including your Department, organize a temporary interagency committee for the purpose of initiating a comprehensive survey of the resources of this region, and preparing recommendations for the development, utilization and conservation of those resources. In view of the general provisions of section 205 of Public Law 516, I am designating the Department of the Army as the Chairman agency. The survey to be conducted by this interagency committee should include the six New England States and New York State. Of course, the committee can exclude from the survey any parts of this area whose resources are not well suited for consideration in a general survey of this kind. The committee should take into consideration the resources of the areas in this region which are of mutual interest to the United States and Canada, such as the Passamaquoddy Bay, with due regard to pertinent international agreements between the two countries. You will recognize, of course, the responsibility of the Department of State in these matters. That Department, therefore, should be consulted on issues affecting these areas.

In serving on this committee, each agency should make its contribution under existing laws and in accordance with its responsibilities under such laws. And it is most important that the efforts of the various agencies be integrated from the very beginning of the investigation if the benefits of all coordination possible under existing law and procedures are to be obtained. The final product of the interagency survey should be a single comprehensive report setting forth the coordinated findings of all the participating agencies.

Each agency and the committee as a whole should coordinate its plans and activities with those of interested State and local agencies. The State and local agencies have a direct and vital interest in the conduct of this investigation and the report that will result. Many of the existing activities of State and local agencies in the resources field should fit into the projected investigation. I am sure that State and local agencies will be anxious to cooperate. In order that they be afforded every opportunity and encouragement to participate in the work of the committee, I am asking the Governors of the seven States concerned to designate official representatives to act as liaison between the committee and the various State agencies concerned with resource development. In addition, I want the committee to invite the ideas and help of local governments and private groups and individuals to the extent possible. It is essential that the Federal agencies draw upon the experience and ideas of the people of the region to the fullest extent and that the final report carry the concurrence or comments of each affected State.

The comprehensive study of land and water resources of this area should include, among other matters, coverage of electric power generation and transmission, forest management, fish and wildlife conservation, flood control, mineral development, municipal and industrial water supply, navigation, pollution control, recreation, and soil conservation. The necessary first step in such a study is an inventory of the land, water, and all of the related natural resources available for utilization, together with a survey of the projected regional and national requirements which might be met through more effective utilization of the natural resources of the region. When these basic facts on resources and needs have been collected and analyzed, the committee should then proceed to determine what development and conservation projects are feasible and desirable, and to prepare recommendations for specific action to carry them out.

It is my desire that this survey be undertaken as soon as practicable and that the joint report be submitted for my consideration not later than July 1, 1952. In taking part in this investigation, each agency should utilize, to the fullest extent possible, funds available for the fiscal year 1951. It will also be necessary for each agency to furnish immediately to the Bureau of the Budget its budget estimates for fiscal year 1952 for participation in the comprehensive survey. As its first order of business the committee, through joint planning of all the member agencies, should prepare a detailed program spelling out the method by which the comprehensive survey will be undertaken, together with a consolidated statement giving more precise estimates of the fiscal requirements of each agency. These program plans should be submitted to the Bureau of the Budget early next spring so as to permit such budgetary modifications as may appear appropriate at that time.

You will recall that in my letter of July 21, I requested several agencies to conduct a detailed review of their .programs for the purpose of modifying them wherever practicable to lessen the demand upon services and commodities which, in view of the present international situation, are needed for national defense. The strengthening of our defense program may delay full implementation of the findings of the proposed survey. Nevertheless, I feel that this initial investigation should go forward immediately since, in providing the blueprints for the most effective development of the resources of this important area of our country, the survey should encompass projects which can make significant contributions to our national defense effort.

There are, of course, certain projects in the general area to be covered by this survey which are plainly good investments for the future of the region and the nation and should be started as soon as possible. Among these are the further development of the Niagara Falls power potential and the construction of the St. Lawrence seaway and power project. The importance of these projects to the national defense makes it more necessary than ever that their construction be undertaken immediately. The interrelationship of these projects and their relation to other resource development work in the Northeast should be considered by the interagency committee, but this survey should not delay the building of these projects.

Finally, as I have pointed out from time to time, the economic growth and stability of an area depends largely upon how its natural resources are developed. Last spring the Council of Economic Advisers appointed a Committee of Experts on the New England Economy to prepare an analysis of New England economic opportunities and problems, which is now nearing completion. It is highly desirable that the findings of this Committee be taken into account in developing the report of the interagency committee.

Identical letters are being sent to the Departments of the Interior, the Army, Agriculture and Commerce, and to the Federal Security Agency and the Federal Power Commission, the agencies which will participate as members of the committee. I am also forwarding a copy of this letter to the Department of State.

Sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Secretary of the Interior Oscar L. Chapman, Secretary of the Army Frank Pace, Jr., Secretary of Agriculture Charles F. Brannan, Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer, Administrator of the Federal Security Agency Oscar R. Ewing, and Chairman of the Federal Power Commission Mon C. Wallgren. A copy of the letter was also sent to Secretary of State Dean Acheson for his information.

In addition the President also wrote to the Governors of the New England States and New York, requesting each of them to designate an official representative to act as liaison between the Federal Interagency Committee and the various agencies within his State concerned with resources development.

On October 28 the White House announced that the New England-New York interagency committee would hold its first meeting in Boston in November. The release stated that Col. Frederic F. Frech had been named chairman of the committee, and that the Governors of the six New England States and New York had been invited to participate in its meetings.
See also Item 33.

Harry S Truman, Letter Concerning the Establishment of an Interagency Committee To Study the Resources and Development of New England and New York. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230330

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