Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 12 Irrigation and Reclamation

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Chapter 12. Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees, 1816-1968

Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation of Arid Lands, 1891-1921 and the Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, 1921-46

12.72 The Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation of Arid Lands was established on December 16, 1891, succeeding a select committee that had been established during the 2d session of the 50th Congress (1889) to investigate the best means for irrigating arid lands. The committee's name was shortened to Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation in 1921. It remained a standing committee until the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 assigned its functions to the Committee on Public Lands.

12.73 Only a small number of petitions and memorials were referred to the select committee during the 51st Congress (1889-91), and no unprinted records of the standing committee exist before 1894. The records (4 ft.) consist of committee papers, 1899-1946 (2 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures, 1894-1946 (1 ft.); minutes, 1903-1946 (3 in., including 2 vol., 1903-26, 1937-46, and unbound records, 1929-33); legislative dockets, 1903-30 (3 vol., 4 in.); and a digest of legislative action, 1925-31 (1 vol., 1 in.). There are major gaps in most of these series.

12.74 The committee papers, arranged by Congress and thereunder either chronologically or in no discernible fashion, consist largely of executive communications and reports from Federal agencies, many of which were printed as House or Senate documents. Also found among the records are minutes of committee meetings, January 1929-May 1933 (71A-F14, 72A-F15, 73A-F14); a small amount of correspondence, 1923-46 (66th-79th Congresses, with gaps for the 67th, 69th-70th, and 74th Congresses); and transcripts of hearings that were not printed. Of particular interest are transcripts of the December 19, 1903, testimony of Frederick H. Newell, chief engineer of the Reclamation Service, before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Committees on Irrigation and Reclamation (58A-F14), and the February 3, 1944, hearing to investigate delays in construction of irrigation projects (78A-F16). Legislative case files on bills referred to the committee, 1901-46, can be found in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions.

12.75 The petitions and memorials are arranged for each Congress chronologically by date of referral. They reflect the concerns of farmers and ranchers of the Great Plains and Western states that they receive an adequate supply of water for their land through the use of irrigation and diversion projects, for protection of water rights, and later, for adequate water for the generation of electricity; they also reflect the opposition of other segments of the population to the projects. Many of the petitions and memorials express support for or opposition to specific projects, such as diversion projects affecting the flow of the Sacramento River in California (59A-J61) and a proposed dam on the Yellowstone River (67A-J38), or for issues such as drainage or flood (63A-J42, 70A-J40). There are no petitions for this committee for the 74th Congress (1935-36).

12.76 A volume labeled "digest of legislative action, 69th-71st Congress" that is unique among records of standing committees, provides a subject index of all legislation, reports, and executive communications referred to the committee for the mid-1920's and early 1930's. Legislative dockets list bills and resolutions referred to the committee and indicate the actions taken on each.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.