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Veto Message

January 14, 1895

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return without my approval House bill No. 7451, entitled "An act to authorize the entry of land for gravel pits and reservoir purposes and authorizing the grant of right of way for pipe lines."

The first section of this bill permits the sale to railroad companies, in the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, under certain restrictions and at an appraised value, certain public lands to be used by said companies for gravel pits or the construction of reservoirs. It also permits grants of the right of way for pipe lines connecting such reservoirs with the railways of said companies.

The second, third, and fourth sections of the bill relate to the purchase by any citizen of the United States, or any association of citizens, or any ditch or water company, of public lands suitable for reservoir purposes at such a price as the Secretary of the Interior shall prescribe, not less than $2 per acre.

The right to purchase these lands is given by the sections last referred to "under rules and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior."

I think the expediency and propriety of disposing of these lands for the purposes specified should in each case be determined by the Secretary of the Interior, as well as the rules and regulations governing such disposition.

The objections to the bill, however, which appear to be the most serious are found in its fifth and last section, which provides:

That any State or any county or district organization duly organized under the laws of any State or Territory may apply for any of the storage-reservoir sites not reserved by the United States, situated on unentered public lands, for the storage of water for irrigating, mining, or other useful purposes, whereupon the Secretary of the Interior shall set aside and withdraw from public sale or other disposition such site or sites and permit the use thereof for either or all of such purposes.

These provisions do not seem to be in harmony with prior laws by which, under certain conditions, arid lands may be conveyed to States for the purpose of irrigation, and it is not clear what is intended by the words "any of the storage-reservoir sites not reserved by the United States."

The apparent purpose and effect of the section is to give to the organizations mentioned the right to select such land as may present eligible reservoir sites not reserved and upon unentered lands, and demand of the Secretary of the Interior a grant of the same, leaving no discretion on the subject to him or to any other officer of the Government; and these grants are to be made without any compensation to the Government and without any specific requirement of the amount or kind of work to be done or improvements to be made upon such sites.

The grants may be demanded not only for the storage of water for irrigating purposes, but for "mining and other useful purposes." Inasmuch as no officer of the Government is vested with any discretion in the premises, the pretext that the "purpose" to be accomplished is "useful" might result in the use of these sites in a manner prejudicial to the surrounding public domain and destructive of the utilization of such sites for irrigating purposes.

The wise and prudent safeguards which have been incorporated in other legislation relating to the disposition of arid public lands and their irrigation seem to have been to such an extent overlooked in the construction of the bill under consideration that, in my judgment, if it should become the law a beneficent policy which the Government has entered upon in the interest of agriculture would be seriously endangered.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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