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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill for the Construction of the Weber Basin Reclamation Project, Utah.

August 30, 1949

I HAVE approved S. 2391, to authorize the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Weber Basin reclamation project, Utah.

This bill will authorize the Secretary of the Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation, to construct, operate, and maintain the Weber Basin project for the purposes of supplying irrigation water to 70,000 acres of new lands and supplemental water to 30,000 acres of land now inadequately irrigated; supplying municipal, industrial, and domestic water; controlling floods; generating and selling electricity; and for other beneficial purposes.

I have signed this bill with reluctance because it was enacted without following the normal procedures for obtaining full information and adequate review concerning irrigation projects before authorization. The bill appears to have been enacted on the basis of the information contained in a preliminary report of the Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation. This report had not been reviewed by other interested agencies or by the Executive Office. So far as I know, there has been no final report on the project by the Secretary of the Interior or the Commissioner of Reclamation.

The enactment of this bill under these circumstances raises a number of serious questions. These questions are raised because there has not been sufficient opportunity to review the adequacy of the data contained in the report of the Regional Director, and because the bill represents in some respects basic departures from the established reclamation law.

I have given my approval to the bill only because I am convinced, after careful study and after discussions with several Members of Congress from Utah, that the project is basically sound and that it will be possible to overcome the most serious difficulties arising from the lack of adequate consideration before the project was authorized.

The provisions of the bill which appear to be most questionable are as follows:

1. It authorizes the repayment of irrigation water supply costs over a period of 60 years instead of the period of 40 years which has prevailed heretofore under the reclamation law.

2. The project report of the Regional Director contemplates a nonreimbursable allocation of cost in the amount of $4,656,000 for recreation. The allocation of cost to recreational facilities is not now authorized under reclamation law. If the allocation authorized in connection with the project were uniformly applied as a precedent, it would ultimately involve the Government in the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars.

3. Under the proposed repayment plan for the project, the amounts repaid by municipal and industrial users would be applied first to the repayment of the cost allocated to municipal and industrial purposes, and then to the repayment of part of the cost allocated to irrigation--all of this on a basis which would provide total revenues over a period of 60 years sufficient only to cover the total reimbursable cost without interest. Thus, in addition to receiving no interest on the reimbursable irrigation cost, the Government would also receive no interest on the reimbursable cost for municipal and industrial uses.

4. The report on the project was not referred to the Department of the Army for review and comment by the Chief of Engineers in accordance with the provisions of section 1 of the Flood Control Act of 1944. Consequently, the Corps of Engineers has had no adequate opportunity to consider the phases of the project in which it is interested. On the basis of such study as he has had time to make, however, the Chief of Engineers raises serious questions as to the amount allocated for flood control.

5. The report on the project was not made available to the Department of Agriculture. Consequently, it has not been possible for that Department to express its views with regard to the agricultural and economic feasibility of the proposed plan.

There is no urgency for immediate construction of the Weber Basin project. In fact, the plans of the Bureau of Reclamation call for construction to be spread over a period of 12 years. I believe, therefore, that the objections to the present authorization can, for the most part, be eliminated-some of them by future action of the Congress, and some by the exercise of the discretion which the bill fortunately permits.

The bill does not commit the Secretary of the Interior to the cost allocations made in the report of the Regional Director. It is flexible enough to permit an apportionment of the cost on an equitable and sound basis consistent with the facilities and system of operation finally adopted for the project. The construction of the proposed recreational facilities can be postponed until such time as the Congress has enacted basic standards for the allocation of costs to recreational purposes in connection with reclamation projects. The questions of proper allocation of flood control benefits and construction costs can be resolved between the Secretaries of the Interior and the Army. Additional information concerning the ability of water users to repay the costs of irrigation features of the project can be developed in consultation with the Department of Agriculture. The questions of a 60-year repayment period and interest on the reimbursable costs for municipal and industrial water users will be reconsidered when a complete study of this project is available.

For the foregoing reasons, I am directing the Secretary of the Interior to take the following steps: To complete his study of this project and submit a final report; to defer initiation of construction of any of the recreational facilities pending determination of a national policy on recreation at water resources development projects; to work out with the Department of the Army a sound flood control plan and cost allocations; to consult with the Department of Agriculture on the ability of the water users to repay the costs of the irrigation features; to make such other adjustments in the plans, estimates, cost allocations, and repayment obligations as may be required on the basis of the above and the data which will become available when detailed surveys, engineering designs, and refined estimates are completed; and to defer final negotiations on any repayment contracts with the water users until definite repayment amounts and conditions are settled.

I do not intend to submit any requests for construction appropriations until the above preparation has been accomplished and it is known as surely as possible what is going to be done, how much it will cost, how much is going to be repaid and when. It would seem that this plan for proceeding with the Weber Basin project is only fair to the water users who will eventually have to return to the United States the investment allocated to irrigation and municipal water supplies.

I have always favored a sound water resources development program and the authorization of additional projects as needs arise and as they are found to be justified. I consider it essential that the program be not jeopardized by premature authorization of projects in advance of resolution of questionable features. To do so may lead to unsound action which will endanger the success of our whole reclamation program.

Note: As enacted, S. 2391 is Public Law 273 (63 Stat. 677).

Harry S. Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill for the Construction of the Weber Basin Reclamation Project, Utah. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229989

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