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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Relating to the San Luis Valley Project, Colorado.

October 29, 1949

I AM withholding my approval from S. 1385, a bill providing that the excess-land provisions of the Federal reclamation laws shall not apply to lands that will receive a supplemental water supply from the San Luis Valley project, Colorado.

Under the excess-land provisions of the Federal reclamation laws, water from a Federal reclamation project may be supplied to any one landowner, on a permanent basis, for not to exceed 160 acres of irrigable land within the project. Where the land is held in community or joint ownership by a husband and wife, water may be furnished for as much as 320 acres. The enrolled bill would increase the basic limitation, insofar as lands within the San Luis Valley project are concerned, from 160 acres to 480 acres. This change would have the effect of increasing the husband-and-wife limitation, for lands within that project, from 320 acres to 960 acres.

One great objective of the Federal reclamation program is to foster the establishment and maintenance of farm homes throughout those portions of our country where agricultural operations cannot rely solely upon nature for a water supply. The excess-land provisions of the law provide the legal mechanism for assuring that the benefits of the irrigation systems will inure to family-size farming enterprises. This is true whether the purpose of the particular project is to open up new land for settlement by providing an original water supply, or to stabilize an existing irrigation economy as in the case of the San Luis Valley project. In the absence of requirements designed to channel the water to those who are striving to build or conserve farm homes for their families, the heavy investments of interestfree funds being made for the reclamation program would lose much of their justification.

The San Luis Valley project, when completed, will provide a supplemental supply of water for approximately 500,000 acres. The only unit of the San Luis Valley project planned for construction at the present time is the Conejos division. The great bulk of the 86,000 acres that would be served by this division is already held in farm units that comply with the excess-land provisions of the Federal reclamation laws. Most of these existing farm units will be fully capable of supporting a farm family at an acceptable standard of living, once a regulated water supply is made available. On the other hand, approximately 24,000 acres of land within the Conejos division are of such quality, considering the comparatively short growing season of the region, as to make questionable their capacity to provide satisfactory family livelihoods if the farming operations must be in units meeting the present limitations. The enrolled bill, however, is not restricted to these 24,000 acres, or to the Conejos division, but would apply to the San Luis Valley project as a whole. In striving to meet the problems of a small part of the area, it would relax the existing acreage limitations for a much larger block of lands where adequate family-size farms can be maintained within these limitations.

It does not seem to me to be desirable or necessary to enact a bill of this sweeping character in order to achieve whatever corrective action may be needed to adapt the principle of aiding family-size farms to the particular conditions of the San Luis Valley project. It will be at least two years before the construction work on the Conejos division is completed. In the meantime, I hope that the Congress will consider legislation amending the excess-land provisions of the reclamation laws so as to authorize appropriate adjustments in maximum acreages, where necessary, under carefully-worked out standards, which could be applied not only to the San Luis Valley project, but also to other projects in which some adjustment may be warranted. Such legislation would seem to me to provide the proper way to meet special and unique situations, such as those in the San Luis Valley, without doing violence to the basic and often re-affirmed principle of maintaining the family-size farm on reclamation projects.


Harry S Truman, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Relating to the San Luis Valley Project, Colorado. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230274

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