engineer Charles Ellet, backed a more comprehensive strategy of strengthening downstream levees along with upstream storage reservoirs and enlarged river outlets. In 1861, the Corps finally decided in favor of Humphreys' levees-only strategy.

The 1899 River and Harbor Act

The 1899 River and Harbor Act gave the Corps its first direct regulatory mission, by authorizing it to monitor, control, and/or prohibit the dumping of dredged material and other debris into the nation's navigable waters.

Other important legislation was enacted during this period. The Reclamation Act of 1902 created the Reclamation Service (renamed the Bureau of Reclamation in 1923), the federal agency responsible for irrigation and hydropower development in the western United States, that eventually grew in size and power to rival the Corps during the 1940s and 1950s. President Theodore Roosevelt established the Inland Waterways Commission (IWC) in 1906, and in 1909 the River and Harbor Act authorized the Corps and the Reclamation Service to consider hydroelectric power development in their project planning. Traces of the idea of basinwide planning are to be seen in this era and President Roosevelt himself advocated cooperative planning in the nation's river basins, stating that "each river system, from its headwaters in the forest to its mouth on the coast, is a unit and should be treated as such" (Inland Waterways Commission, 1908).

The Federal Water Power Act of 1920

The Federal Water Power Act of 1920 established a uniform process for the licensing of private hydroelectric power projects, but Congress initially neglected to give the Federal Power Commission (FPC) the necessary funds for planning. This was resolved in the River and Harbor Act of 1925. This act requested the Corps and the FPC to estimate the costs of appraising the feasibility of hydropower development, in combination with improvements in navigation, flood control, and irrigation on the "navigable streams of the United States and their territories . . . " (U.S. Congress, 1925). In the River and Harbor Act of 1927, Congress authorized the Corps to undertake comprehensive surveys to formulate "general plans for the most effective improvement of [navigable streams and their tributaries] for the purposes of navigation and the prosecution of such improvement in combination with the most efficient development of the potential water power, the control of floods, and the needs of irrigation" (White, 1957). The surveys came to be called "308 reports," after House Document number 308, which listed the basins recommended for more complete studies. The reports established "the first comprehensive river-basin development plans for the nation" (Moreau, 1996).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement