Ralph Nader's latest task force report, co-edited by two Harvard students, said the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation has outlived its usefulness and charged the Bureau with building water projects which harm the environment and waste taxpayers' money.
The report claimed the 'Bureau discriminates against Indians and other low-income minorities and benefits a handful of powerful farmers and landowners. The Bureau was created to transform arid Western lands into fertile cropland through the construction of dams and irrigation systems.
The expose, released yesterday, is the work of ten lawyers and students who labored for 17 months compiling data. Richard L. Berkman, a second-year Harvard Law student, and Kip Viscusi, a Harvard graduate student in Public Policy, were its chief editors. Daniel Barney '72 contributed much of the research on the Bureau's Central Arizona Project.
More Than Obsolete
The report, entitled "Damning of the West," said that the Bureau's activities are more than just obsolete. Among the environmental damages catalogued are the despoliation of the Snake River area in Idaho, extensive pollution of the Colorado River, and a recent attempt by the Bureau to dam up the Grand Canyon.
Bureau policies are partial to the interests of big irrigators like the Southern Pacific Company, the report charged, in that Bureau projects, which raise substantially the value of farmland, are centered on the lands of the powerful. By contrast. Indian lands are neglected and Indian water is often diverted for the use of non-Indian farmers and city-dwellers, the report said.
The task force said all projects should be curtailed pending major policy changes. Other recommendations included alterations in laws which presently allow certain landowners to reap large profits, investigation of Indian water rights, and revision of the Bureau's benefit-cost analysis which discriminates against lower-income groups.
"With one-third of the nation's cropland lying idle and with the Department of Agriculture paying farmers to produce less, the U.S. does not need to spend over $350 million per year to create new farmland," the report said.
The Department of Interior has not yet commented on the report