John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks at the Signing of Water Resources Development Contracts

January 28, 1963

I take great pleasure in this. These two contracts represent the largest water contracts in the history of our country. In addition, I saw this project come to life in California and so it is with special pleasure we sign this.

This is the Westlands Water District in connection with water received from the Central Valley Project in California. It is the largest water service contract in the history of the reclamation program. The revenue is to be returned to the Treasury over the 400-year payoff period and will exceed a quarter of a billion dollars. Water will be made available to about 350,000 acres, where ground water tables have been seriously dropping because of excessive pumping.

This special ceremony, I think, signifies the importance of this action to the entire Nation and it is of importance to the entire Nation. This is going to provide a means of producing food which will be of benefit to our country and, really, of benefit to the world. It will direct attention to the fact that the users of water for irrigation, community water supply, and other purposes, repay the Federal Government for the water which has made arid areas more productive and industrial development possible. Thus, in a very practical sense, the substantial investment of the Federal Government in these large projects is a loan and is a bet on the future of our country.

The second contract with the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District removes burdensome drainage charges formerly called for on an early basis and sets up a sliding scale repayment program similar to other contracts under reclamation law. As a practical matter, the approval of this and the previously signed contracts with the Quincy Irrigation District and the South Columbia Basin Irrigation District permits us to go forward with the development of the remaining 500,000 acres of the Columbia Basin project. The contract limitations, which are now being amended, have prevented the necessary additional appropriations for construction. The fact that accord has been reached on the Columbia Basin contracts is especially pleasing. A dispute over the former repayment provisions had existed for several years.

With the help of the Senators from the State of Washington, Senator Magnuson and Senator Jackson, and Senator Anderson, Chairman of the Senate Interior Committee, Congressman Wayne Aspinall, Chairman of the House Committee, and other Members of the Congress, I can now announce that our goal of a few years ago has been achieved. Eventually the results of the contracts approved here today will be more productive-farms, homes, commerce, and industry-to this area where the population will be steadily increasing. I congratulate the Members of the Congress, the representatives of the water users, Secretary Udall and his staff in bringing these contracts to fruition.

Note: The President spoke at 3:45 p.m. in the Fish Room at the White House.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at the Signing of Water Resources Development Contracts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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