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Water Resource Projects - Statement Announcing Administration Decisions

April 18, 1977

Today I am announcing my decision on Federal water resource programs:

--I am recommending the deletion of funds for 18 projects, at a total savings of over $2.5 billion.

--I am recommending modifications of 5 projects, at a total savings of almost $1.5 billion.

--I am recommending the continuation of 9 projects without modification.

--I am recommending the development of major policy reforms in the following areas:

1. more realistic project evaluation criteria;

2. dam safety;

3. cost sharing for Federal projects;

4. water conservation; and

5. redirected public works programs. In balancing the budget, cutting back on inflation, and making the Federal Government more responsive to the needs of the people, difficult choices have to be made. Activities which are wasteful, unsafe, or economically or environmentally unsound simply cannot be pursued. Water resource development programs of the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority are a case in point.

In my budget recommendations to the Congress last February, I initiated a major review of ongoing water resource projects. The review is now complete, and I have specific recommendations for the Congress on the 32 projects which were subject to public hearings. They are based on reviews by the Interior Department, the Corps of Engineers, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, with assistance from the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality.

My decision on individual projects was a difficult one. I have tried to be fair and to give the benefit of the doubt on some projects which would certainly not be justified if they were proposed today. However, I have not hesitated to recommend termination or modification of projects which appeared justified when they were originally authorized.

In consultation with the Congress, State, and local governments, and the public, I intend to develop detailed policy recommendations to insure that our water-related needs are met in the best manner and to use realistic criteria for water project evaluation. The review process I started during the first days of my administration is not going to stop here; further work needs to be done and fundamental improvements need to be made in our water policies and programs.

The drought in the West and recent severe flooding in the East have shown us that despite the massive numbers of federally funded water projects in existence, we are still as susceptible as ever to the ravages of the weather. Instead of proceeding down the same road of more and bigger structural projects, we need to rethink our policies.

In particular, I will work with Congress to develop policy reforms in the following areas:

1. Realistic assessment of both economic and environmental costs and benefits

I will work with Congress to establish more realistic criteria and procedures to insure that initial development decisions are wise.

A more realistic interest rate must be used in calculating the costs and benefits of projects. Many of the projects I reviewed were authorized at such low rates that even though we are building them today, we are pretending that the cost of capital is still the same as it was many years ago. In times of a tight budget, we must be realistic about what it is actually costing the taxpayers of the Nation to build these projects.

We must be more realistic in initial cost estimates for projects to avoid the enormous cost overruns typical of so many water projects. Some projects are ending up costing many times what they were estimated to cost when the Congress originally authorized them.

We must scrutinize the beneficiaries of the projects to make sure that the general public is benefiting from projects, not merely narrow or special interests. One project I reviewed would have benefited only two companies; another would have spent over $1 million per landowner benefited with little repayment. Yet such projects are typically described as providing broad public benefits or helping family farmers.

Demonstrated need for projects must precede authorization and funding. Too often, exaggerated "benefits" and questionable claims of recreation value, fish and wildlife enhancement, or area redevelopment have been used to justify otherwise marginal projects. All too often, valuable fiver recreation and fish and wildlife habitat have been destroyed in the name of "enhancement."

Alternatives, especially nonstructural or small-scale solutions to specific problems such as floods, should always be investigated as substitutes for expensive and damaging projects which often do not provide effective solutions anyway. Interagency cooperation and encouragement of local solutions to local problems need to be an integral part of every water project analysis.

Through each aspect of analysis, environmental values must be a primary concern to insure that irreplaceable natural resources are protected from needless degradation or destruction.

2. Dam safety

I am taking action to upgrade our Federal dam safety and inspection program, and I will work with the Congress to develop legislation to insure that every State has an adequate dam safety program. The recent Teton Dam tragedy indicates the importance of this problem, and several of the projects examined during the review raised significant safety questions. This is a critical consideration for .both existing and proposed dams.

3. Cost sharing for Federal water projects

The beneficiaries of Federal water projects do not bear a fair share of the enormous capital and operating costs. An example of this problem is that the users of the Nation's waterways pay nothing for their construction or maintenance. Today I am recommending continuation of some waterway projects, but I will work with the Congress to develop a system to recoup the costs from the beneficiaries. It is essential as a test of economic demand for existing and future facilities and in assuring a balanced transportation system that the beneficiaries of waterway projects pay their fair share of both construction and operating costs. I will also .be recommending comprehensive reforms in other cost-sharing formulas. This action is essential to genuine water program reforms.

4. Water conservation

In the arid West and across the entire Nation, we must begin to recognize that water is not free--it is a precious resource. As with our energy problem, the cornerstones of future water policy should 'be wise management and conservation. Irrigation efficiency, water pricing, groundwater management, and thoughtful land use decisions will help institute lasting protection from drought and lessen the need for expensive new water projects. Some of the 32 projects would bring water to areas where water use is not even metered and where there are no State groundwater management programs. And the General Accounting Office has recently shown that over half of the water delivered through Bureau of Reclamation irrigation systems is completely wasted. This is unacceptable.

5. Redirected public works program

The current heavy emphasis on expensive water projects is counter to the need for a more balanced public works program providing jobs where they are needed the most, at a cost we can afford, accomplishing necessary work. Water projects provide more expensive jobs than other government spending programs ($25,000 per job), and the current pattern of water project distribution is contributing to the Federal dollar drain out of the heavily populated Northeast where economic stimulus is needed. Many of our water projects simply shift economic development for no apparent policy reason. I have proposed reforms in this area as part of my economic stimulus program, and I will also be developing suggested redirections for the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.

My specific recommendations follow:



fiscal year Total

1978 savings

request (millions)


1. Applegate Lake, Oregon (COE) $7. 4 $74.0

2. Atchafalaya River and Bayous; Boeuf, Black & Chene, Louisiana

(COE) 5.1 10.1

3. Bayou Bodcau, Louisiana (COE) 2.4 10.0

4. Cache Basin, Arkansas (COE) 2.0 88.5

5. Grove Lake, Kansas (COE) 1.0 83.9

6. Hillsdale Lake, Kansas (COE) 14.0 38.6

7. LaFarge Lake, Wisconsin (COE) 2.0 36.9

8. Lukfata Lake, Oklahoma (COE) 0.2 29.6

9. Meramec Park Lake, Missouri (COE) 10.0 88.7

10. Richard B. Russell, Georgia; South Carolina (COE) 21.0 254.9

11. Tallahala Creek, Mississippi (COE) 5.0 52.0

12. Yatesville, Kentucky (COE) 7.2 42.7

13. Columbia Dam, Tennessee (TVA) 20.0 110.4

14. Auburn, California (BR)1 39.7 898.6

15. Fruitland Mesa, Colorado (BR) 7.7 82.5

16. Narrows Unit, Colorado (BR)1 9.7 139.2

17. Oahe, South Dakota (BR)1 17.0 414. 4

18. Savery-Pot Hook, Colorado, Wyoming (BR) 6.0 71.3

Total savings 177.4 2,526.3

1 Further analysis might eventually lead to reinstatement or modification--see specific recommendations.


Cost to Estimated

complete savings

original due to

plan modification

(millions) (millions)

1. Mississippi River, Gulf Outlet Lousiana (COE) $282.8 $24.0

2. Tensas Basin, Arkansas and Louisiana (COE) 186.3 135.0

3. Bonneville Unit, Central Utah Project, Utah (BR) 687.6 659.8

4. Central Arizona Project, Arizona (BR) 1,280.3 333.0

5. Garrison Diversion, North Dakota (BR) 436.4 302.0

Total 2,873.4 1,453.8


Fiscal year Remaining

1978 federal

request cost

(millions) (millions)

1. Dayton, Kentucky (COE) $2.9 $7.2

2. Fulton, Illinois (COE) 4.2 12.0

3. Red River Waterway, Louisiana (COE) 26.0 815.9

4. Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, Alabama and Mississippi (COE) 157.0 1,144.4

5. Tyrone, Pennsylvania (COE) 1.5 27.5

6. Bear Creek, Alabama and Mississippi (TVA) 18.6 22.4

7. Dallas Creek, Colorado (BR) 12.2 46.3

8. Dolores, Colorado (BR) 5.7 183.4

9. Lyman, Wyoming (BR) 4.1 9.9

Total 232.2 2,269.0

I intend to cooperate with the Congress in accomplishing reform in the water resource area, and I hope that the Congress will cooperate with me in eliminating wasteful and destructive spending on water projects.

Individual sheets detailing the recommendations and other information on each of the 32 projects follow.

Note: The individual sheets to which the President referred in his statement were released by the White House Press Office on the same day.

Jimmy Carter, Water Resource Projects - Statement Announcing Administration Decisions Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243376

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