Transcript for A New Horizon, segment 03 of 13


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Today here in Powell, Wyoming, we're celebrating the eightieth anniversary of the first delivery of irrigation water to the Garland Division of the Shoshone Reclamation Project. I'm Beryl Churchill. I've lived here for fifty-one years, and our sons are the fourth generation who have farmed this land. This project, the Garland Division of the Shoshone Reclamation Project, was one of the first built by the Bureau of Reclamation. As you can see from the festivities, it's lost none of its significance over the years. The water made available through this project continues to provide a major economic basis for much of this area. This celebration today is extremely appropriate to the times. Not only is a time for the community to say thank you, but it's also a time for us to remember how important water was in the development of the Great Plains.

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Water projects such as the Shoshone were a major influence in the early settlement and growth of the West. Later, during the hard years of the Depression, construction jobs created by these projects proved invaluable. Following World War Two, Congress authorized the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, a wide-ranging water development plan. It focused on controlling flooding in the Missouri Basin, developing hydroelectric power, and providing irrigation water for agriculture. Over the years many of the Bureau's projects in the region were constructed under the Pick-Sloan Program. By the early nineteen eighties, virtually all of the projects that were economically and financially possible had been built or were under construction. In addition, environmental concerns, the growing federal deficit, and agricultural surpluses contributed to a greatly reduced construction program in the Bureau. These changes brought about the eventual consolidation of three of the Bureau's regions, producing today's sprawling Great Plains Region that stretches from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Bureau's mission is changing. For years, we were primarily a construction organization. Now we've become more focused on resource management, conservation, and environmental protection. Instead of building large dams and water delivery systems, the emphasis today is on increasing benefits at existing facilities. This often involves making physical improvements or changing the way facilities are operated. Much more emphasis is also being given to groundwater recharge, water quality maintenance, and cleaning up toxic materials. Construction work, though still important, will be of a different nature in the future and will generally involve smaller projects, though the region is completing several major projects. Potential projects will continue to undergo a full range of physical, social, and economic investigations. One of our biggest jobs today is operating and maintaining dams, power plants, and water delivery facilities already in place. Paramount to this task is insuring that all these facilities are safe.