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The Bureau of Reclamation's Excess Land Law: Origins of the Modern Controversy, 1933-1961

Koppes, Clayton R. (1978) The Bureau of Reclamation's Excess Land Law: Origins of the Modern Controversy, 1933-1961. Social Science Working Paper, 200. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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In 1976, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sent a series of shock waves along clearly defined fault lines of California agriculture. The court ruled that the federal reclamation laws dating to 1902mean what they say: that heavily subsidized irrigation water can be distributed only to 160acres per individual landowner, and that anyone holding more than a quarter section must dispose of the excess land if he wishes to receive reclamation water. The ruling occasioned surprise and consternation in some quarters, for it seemed to presage a major alteration in the land-tenure pattern of the Central Valley of California, and potentially on other reclamation projects throughout the West. But up on more re flection the only real occasion for surprise and consternation was that the issue should have required recourse to the courts at all. Why should a policy that was clearly established legally, has been praised rhetorically by both political parties, and seems an eminently equitable principle for distributing the benefits of public spending be only erratically enforced for three quarters of a century? Why did the issue arise in particular in the Central Valley, where the land-tenure pyramid presented the very problem the reclamation laws were designed to correct? Why, indeed, did a liberal administration in power during the crucial early years of the Central Valley Project's operation not only fail to enforce the excess land law, but raise the most serious threat to the redistributive principle of reclamation?

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:200
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171023-093434455
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82571
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:24 Oct 2017 21:47
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:56

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