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Bureau of Reclamation

Bureau of Reclamation

The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation was established in 1902 and is part of the U. S. Department of the Interior. It is primarily responsible for the planning and development of dams , power plants , and water transfer projects, such as Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, the Central Arizona Project, and Hoover Dam on the Colorado River . This latter dam, completed in 1935 between Arizona and Nevada, is the highest arch dam in the Western Hemisphere and is part of the Boulder Canyon Project, the first great multipurpose water development project, providing irrigation , electric power, and flood control. It also created Lake Mead, which is supervised by the National Park Service to manage boating, swimming, and camping facilities on the 115 mi-long (185-km-long) reservoir formed by the dam. The dams on the Colorado River are intended to reduce the impact of the destructive cycle of floods and droughts which makes settlement and farming precarious and to provide electricity and recreational areas; however, the deep canyons and free-flowing rivers with their attendant ecosystems are substantially altered. Along the Columbia River, efforts are made to provide "fish ladders" adjacent to dams to enable salmon and other species to bypass the dams and spawn up river; however, these efforts have not been as successful as desired and many native species are now endangered.

Problems faced by the Bureau relate to creating a balance between its mandate to provide hydropower, water control for irrigation, and by-product recreation areas, and the conflicting need to preserve existing ecosystems. For example, at the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, controls on water releases are being imposed while studies are completed on the best manner of protecting the environment downstream in the Grand Canyon National Park and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

[Malcolm T. Hepworth ]



The United States Government Manual, 1992/93. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1992.


Bureau of Reclamation, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. USA 20240-0001, <>

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