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m 1888-1891 · The Irrigation Survey MAJOR POWELL'S long maturing plans for an irrigation survey took a new lease on life when agitation for federal support of irrigation found an unexpected champion in Congress. In 1887 "Big Bill" Stewart of Nevada, after an absence of twelve years, returned to the Senate to fight for two causes—free silver and irrigation.1 At last the irrigation movement was gaining momentum. The everincreasing pressure of population encroaching into marginal lands in the semiarid region brought into clear focus the fact that no more good land not needing irrigation was available to settlement. The Major had tried to make that point ten years before. Throughout the congressional investigation into the conduct of the federal scientific departments in 1884 and 1885 Powell repeated his warnings that the reclamation of additional land could be accomplished only by the investment of huge sums by private capital or by the federal government. Most of the small streams which could be diverted at moderate cost had already been de­ veloped and to redeem new areas the larger streams had to be utilized. Settlers meant prosperity and irrigation meant reclamation of land for homesteaders. Under Stewart's leadership a coalition of western Con­ gressmen started action. In March 1888, through the efforts of this small group and useful behind-the-scenes cooperation by the Major, a joint resolution was adopted calling upon the Secretary of the Interior to "make an examina­ tion of that portion of the United States where agriculture is carried on by means of irrigation, as to the natural advantages for the storage of water for irrigation purposes with the practicability of constructing reservoirs, together with the capacity of streams, and the cost of con­ struction and the capacity of reservoirs and such other facts as bear on the question." 2 1 W. M, Stewart, Reminiscences. See also the excellent review by E. W. Sterling in Miss. Vail. Hist. Rev., Vol. 27, pp. 421-34. 2 Senate resolution, Feb. 13,1888; Powell's first communication, Feb, 13, 1888, 300 THE IRRIGATION SURVEY Major Powell, because he was virtually the only authority in the gov­ ernment service on the scientific aspects of irrigation and because of his prominence during many years in the agitation for a federal land pol­ icy, was naturally called upon to estimate the costs of an irrigation survey. As director of the Geological Survey he had been able to devote con­ siderable attention, both personally and through his scientific subor­ dinates, to the gathering of information on sources of water, water flow in streams, rainfall, and evaporation. The topographic parties had been gathering soil samples and making soil maps in addition to their regu­ lar duties. Powell's expanding concept of the complex economy of water had gone beyond his view of 1878. In 1882 the Major realized that utilization for irrigation of the Missouri andother detritus-laden streams would furnish at least a partial solution to the serious engineering prob­ lems caused by floods and silting. The use of water for irrigation in­ volved far more than arid land. When the call for action came the Major, well aware of the trend of events, was ready. Through William F. Vilas, Secretary of the Interior, he sought an initial appropriation of $250,000 to implement an irriga­ tion survey.3 More than a little maneuvering of the familiar variety was needed to obtain funds for the recommended survey. The clique, of which Stewart was the leader, attached a rider to the Sundry Appropriations Bill over the protest of the appropriation committee and succeeded in getting it through. By this move the committee on public lands, which would legitimately havehad authority, was deprived of an opportunity to study and report on the measure. In the House of Representatives an amendment providing that "all lands made susceptible of irrigation" by the reservoirs and canals be reserved was proposed by George Symes of Colorado. Thisproposal was obviously intended to prevent speculation in lands which might be benefited by irrigation and especially to prevent the organization of water companieswhich could later reap huge profitsfrom homesteaders. There was considerable question as to the wisdom of this amendment and Symes himself attempted unsuccessfully to withdraw it. In accord­ ance with congressional procedure the bill next went into conference to adjust differences, and it emerged with an additional amendment which authorized the President at his discretion to open any or all lands 3 On March 29 Sec. of the...


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