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Veto of Bill Relating to the Development of the Fish, Wildlife, and Recreational Aspects of the Colorado-Big Thompson Federal Reclamation Project.

October 14, 1949

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning without my approval H.R. 5134, "To promote development in cooperation with the State of Colorado of the fish, wildlife, and recreational aspects of the Colorado-Big Thompson Federal reclamation project."

This bill is intended to provide for the planning, construction and operation of fish, wildlife, game and recreational facilities in connection with the Colorado-Big Thompson project. To this end, it includes several major provisions. It would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to plan joint programs under cooperative agreements with State, Federal, municipal or local agencies, and to advance funds to such agencies in connection with the planning or execution of these programs. It would also authorize the Secretary to construct, operate and maintain fish, wildlife, game, public park and recreational facilities, including the purchase of land or other rights or property where necessary. The bill would direct the Secretary to make non-reimbursable allocations of such portion of the construction costs of the Colorado-Big Thompson project, heretofore or hereafter incurred, as in his judgment represents the cost of fish, wildlife, game and recreational development. The bill provides that in the event the Secretary, the interested State agencies, and the local interests were unable to agree on any of the major features of any plan or program proposed by the Secretary under this bill, the matter would have to be referred to the Congress and the proposed work could not proceed, except on approval by an Act of Congress. Finally, the bill would authorize the appropriation of not to exceed $100,000 to carry out its provisions.

I am unable to approve this bill because of two major objections. First, this bill would establish, for this one project only, certain policies which represent an important departure from present national law, but which have not been studied sufficiently to know whether or not they form a desirable basis for a new national policy.

I am particularly concerned about the recreation features of this bill. Almost all multiple-purpose projects for developing our water resources present opportunities to realize valuable recreational benefits, especially where large reservoir-lakes are created. Those recreational benefits should clearly be realized, for the benefit of the people who live nearby and those who may visit. But there are serious questions of national policy which must be answered before such recreational development can proceed on a sound basis.

For example, are the benefits of such recreational development, in connection with reclamation projects or flood-control projects, of sufficient national importance to justify the investment of Federal funds, or should some or all of the costs be borne by State and local interests? This bill contains no policy guidance on these questions. They are, however, clearly matters of national policy which should be considered with respect to water-resources projects generally, before embarking on large-scale individual projects.

Another example of a major policy question raised by this bill which needs further study is what part, if any, of the construction cost of multiple-purpose water-control projects should be allocated to recreation. Until now, the basic laws have authorized the allocation of the costs of multiple-purpose projects to flood-control, navigation, irrigation, power, and municipal water supply, as appropriate in particular cases. In certain cases, where the development of facilities to protect fish and wildlife has been incidental to other work on a project or necessary to prevent damage to those resources, the law also authorizes the allocation of part of the cost of multiple-purpose projects to the preservation and propagation of fish and wildlife. The basic laws do not authorize the allocation of any part of joint project costs to recreation; in the few cases where recreation facilities have been built so far, they have been separately justified and financed. This bill, however, would require non-reimbursable allocations to recreation of part of the cost of joint features of the Colorado-Big Thompson project. It would clearly be unwise to adopt such a policy in connection with this one project, before it has been decided whether adoption of such a general policy is in the national interest. Furthermore, if such a general policy is to be adopted, there should certainly be provision for careful standards to guide its application to particular cases--standards which are not provided for in this bill.

My second major objection to this bill is that it contains certain specific features which it is clear without further study are unwise. One of these is the provision that State agencies and local interests could prevent the Secretary of the Interior from proceeding with any major action under the bill if they disagreed with him in any respect. It seems to me that this carries to an illogical extreme the desirable principle that State and local interests should participate in Federal programs for developing water resources. Surely it is possible to provide for adequate cooperation among Federal, State and local agencies without giving State and local agencies a complete veto over the administration of a Federal law by a Federal administrative officer.

Another specific provision of this bill which is objectionable is that it authorizes only $100,000 to be appropriated to carry out its provisions. The legislative history of the bill contains no explanation of this figure. It is such a small part of the probable total cost of the bill that it is relatively meaningless and certainly misleading. The Secretary of the Interior has estimated that the ultimate development costs for the purposes stated in the bill would be in the neighborhood of $2,000,000--and this figure does not appear to include any allocation of construction costs heretofore incurred in connection with irrigation and power features which, under this bill, would be re-allocated and written off as non-reimbursable. It does not seem to me to be appropriate, particularly in connection with a Federal public works project, to authorize extensive work to be done by the Government unless the full cost of that work is simultaneously understood and approved.

For these reasons, I believe that further study is required in both the Executive and Legislative Branches before we shall be in a position to establish sound, long-range policies for recreational development in connection with water-resources projects generally, and for the Colorado-Big Thompson project in particular. Consequently, I feel impelled to withhold my approval from this bill.


Harry S Truman, Veto of Bill Relating to the Development of the Fish, Wildlife, and Recreational Aspects of the Colorado-Big Thompson Federal Reclamation Project. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230200

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