policy experts (see White, 1957; United Nations, 1970). Although many local and state interests supported federal dam, lock, levee, and canal construction, efforts to create independent, executive authorities to develop river basins generally were resisted by both Congress and the states.
Origins of the river basin planning concept in the United States date back to observations and ideas of John Wesley Powell and his studies in the western United States, as well as President Theodore Roosevelt, who, when transmitting the Inland Waterways Commission preliminary report of 1908, stated, “Each river system from its headwaters in the forest to its mouth on the coast, is a unit and should be treated as such” (White, 1957). The concept of integrating water development plans and projects across a river system was brought to focus in basin scale for rivers such as the Allegheny and Monongahela, the Columbia, and the Missouri. The basin program that commanded the most attention in this era was for the Tennessee River. Development of the Tennessee Valley region, via the Tennessee Valley Authority established in 1933, was promoted as a model of unified river basin development, both domestically and abroad. President Roosevelt planned to apply the concept in the Missouri River basin, but the states and Congress blocked efforts to create a similar federal authority for the Missouri in the 1944 Flood Control Act and the “Pick Sloan” legislation (Ferrell, 1993; NRC, 2002). Following the New Deal era, federal support for large dam construction began to wane in the 1950s. The Eisenhower Administration (1952-1960) followed a “no-new starts” policy and stressed increased local responsibilities for smaller projects.
A new era of dam building was initiated by the Kennedy administration, and new Corps dams were built in the 1960s in the southeastern and midwestern United States. The Johnson Administration placed a high priority on river basin planning, and the Water Resources Planning Act of 1965 created seven river basin commissions coordinated by a federal Water Resources Council (WRC). However, because Congress was funding fewer dams, levees, and canals, these commissions had no clearly defined role, as noted by the National Water Commission (NWC), which operated between 1968 and 1973 (NWC, 1973). The NWC also looked ahead to the changing roles of the Corps of Engineers. The NWC 1973 report identified many of the problems with trying to adapt a new project construction model to changing water demands that the Corps was facing. For example, the commission noted that “The Corps . . . is not likely to exist as an agency specializing in the construction of great engi-