The Federal Reclamation Program was created by Congress in 1902 to foster economic development and settlement of the west by encouraging small family farms. This Article argues that due to abuses by large landholders and ineffective enforcement by the Bureau of Reclamation, this goal was not achieved. To eliminate these abuses and to control the amount of federal water subsidy, Congress passed the Reclamation Reform Act (RRA) in 1982. The RRA made significant changes to the reclamation program and authorized the Bureau to adopt regulations to implement these changes. This Article argues that, despite these efforts, the goal of reform remains unfulfilled largely due to the influence of agribusiness interests on the Bureau's rulemaking process. The Article concludes that the opportunity for genuine reform still exists, and recommends that the Bureau (1) adopt new rules to carry out the intent of the RRA, using its 1986 proposed rules as a starting point; (2) consider modeling its water subsidy limitations on the Department of Agriculture's crop subsidy rules; (3) restore and expand the Bureau's Acreage Limitation Branch; and (4) if necessary, seek additional legislative approval of measures that will carry out the intent of the RRA.
The Broken Promise of Reclamation Reform,
40 Hastings L.J. 657
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol40/iss3/4