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Letter to the Vice President Urging a Study of the Land and Water Resources of the New England States and New York.

February 09, 1950

Dear Mr. Vice President:

I am informed that the Senate will shortly consider H.R. 5472, the rivers and harbors and flood control authorization bill. In addition to authorizing projects for construction, this bill will also authorize a number of investigations and studies to be made, looking to future projects for the development and conservation of our land and water resources. Such investigations and studies should be carefully planned, so that all relevant facts will be considered, and the resulting information and recommendations will be of lasting value for future action, both governmental and private.

I am writing this letter to recommend that the Senate adopt an amendment to H.R. 5472 which I understand is to be offered by a group of Senators from the New England States and New York, providing for a broadscale study of how the land and water resources of those States may be best conserved and developed for the best interests of their people and the whole Nation.

We are often inclined to think that, because those States were originally settled two hundred years and more ago, and because they led the Nation for many years in industrial and commercial development, they do not need the benefit of modern methods of resource development and conservation. Such a conception is very far from the truth. New York and the New England States have real and serious problems of soil and forest conservation and management, and of controlling and using water to prevent floods, to provide domestic and industrial water supplies, and to furnish low-cost hydroelectric power. These problems must be overcome if these States are to participate fully in the economic growth of our country.

We have gradually come to understand that, if best results are to be achieved, these problems should be considered together, and met by comprehensive planning and action which recognizes the close inter-relationship of land and water and their manifold uses. In many areas of our country coordinated plans have been worked out for multiplepurpose, integrated development of natural resources. However, these seven States have not, so far, had the benefit of such comprehensive study and planning.

Some notable individual projects have been planned, such as the St. Lawrence seaway and power project. These projects should, of course, proceed without further delay. No additional study is needed before they are constructed. They are obviously necessary parts of any broad-scale program. But a wider scope, a broader vision, is needed if the full possibilities inherent in the resources of these States are to be realized.

In the field of hydroelectric power, for example, it is not enough to consider each project by itself. There are many undeveloped power sites in the New England States, including the Passamaquoddy project, which have been estimated to offer in the aggregate as much as 3 million kilowatts of additional capacity. The redevelopment of the power capacity of Niagara Falls, concerning which negotiations with Canada are in progress, can provide more than 1 million kilowatts of additional capacity. From Niagara on the west, through the St. Lawrence project, which will provide just under 1 million kilo, watts, and on into the New England States, there is a whole range of projects which should be considered in relation to each other. These projects could all be interconnected by transmission lines. Some of them offer a steady, continuous power supply; others could provide the intermittent supply needed to meet peak loads. Much of this power could be produced at as low cost as any in the Nation.

These potentialities need to be thoroughly studied, since they offer real possibilities for increasing the present power capacity of New York and the New England States by as much as 50 per cent.

Development of this great supply of hydroelectric power, representing three or four times as much electricity as we will obtain from the St. Lawrence project alone, would clearly stimulate the broad economic development-industrial, commercial, agricultural--of those portions of the region which have for many years been lagging in all-around economic progress. This power supply would also be a powerful force toward lower electric rates in New York and New England. This region now includes some of the highest electric rate areas in the country. Residential rates in the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas in recent years have been the highest of all cities over 50,000 population in the country--about one-third higher than the national average. Six of these seven States are among the ten States in the Union having the highest power rates for residential consumers. The homes, farms, and industries in these States should be enabled to share in the general downward trend of rates and upward trend of use, which have added so much to the prosperity of other regions.

These power possibilities are only one example of the questions of land and water use in the New England States and New York which should be thoroughly studied. Some of the worst cases of water pollution in the country are found on the rivers in these States. A great deal should be done to rebuild depleted soils, restore forests, and increase recreational opportunities. These and other resource questions should be studied together, and guidelines laid down which will be useful to Federal, State, and local governments and private groups in providing for the provident husbandry of the precious natural resources of these States.

I believe that a sound method for accomplishing this is provided by the proposed amendment to H.R. 5472. The amendment would establish a study commission of seven members, including citizens from the region and representatives of the principal Federal agencies concerned. The Commission would utilize all the studies which have been made already, and would arrange for such further investigations as may be desirable. An advisory committee appointed by the Governors of the seven States would participate in the work of the Commission, and the Commission's recommendations would be submitted to the Governors for their comments before submission to the President and to the Congress. The Commission's final report would be submitted in two years, after which time it would be dissolved.

These provisions, which are similar to those already adopted by the Senate to establish a study commission for the Arkansas, Red and White River basins, should result in a great combined program for wise, permanent and economically sound development of the natural resources of these States. Such a program will be a stimulus to economic growth and prosperity not only for those States, but for the whole Nation.

Sincerely yours,


Note: As enacted, H.R. 5472 does not contain the provisions requested by the President (64 Stat. 163). See also his message to the Congress upon signing the bill (Item 140, below).

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Vice President Urging a Study of the Land and Water Resources of the New England States and New York. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230638

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