Reclamation, United States Bureau of

Reclamation, United States Bureau of, agency set up in the Dept. of the Interior under the Reclamation Act of 1902. It is charged with promoting regional economies by developing water and related land resources in the West. The original purpose of developing and executing irrigation projects in arid and semiarid regions of the West has been expanded to include developing and executing projects to provide municipal and industrial water supplies, hydroelectric power generation and transmission, water quality improvement, flood control, navigation, and river regulation and control. The bureau is the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States and would rank as the ninth largest electric utility on the basis of production capacity.

The Bureau of Reclamation contracts for the project beneficiaries to reimburse the government for the cost of constructing and operating the project. In many instances it chooses the sites for dams to be used for power as well as irrigation, and then constructs them. The bureau cooperates other government agencies in distributing the power developed. Among such projects are the Bonneville Dam (with an enormous power project) and Grand Coulee Dam, together with a host of related activities on the Columbia, the Snake, and their tributaries (see Columbia, river); the Central Valley Project in California; the Colorado–Big Thompson Project; and the Missouri River Basin Project.

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