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A Federal Policy For Development of Western Water

John A. Carver, Jr., Proceedings of 14th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1968)

This article does not present a formula for the resolution of the water problems of the Western United States, either from an engineering or a political standpoint. It is an analysis and a prescription for action by Westerners concerned with water development.
The starting point is an unflinching recognition that the manner of development of western water is and will continue to be the policy prerogative of the Federal Government. It now appears that the Federal Government can make water policy and planning its prerogative, to whatever extent it desires.
Equally requisite for an examination of the subject is the intellectual discipline sufficient to separate the concepts of power and policy. The reach of the federal power in development of water resources, in the West particularly, is virtually without limit. But it does not necessarily follow that the Constitution or the statutes on the subject were intended to establish the federal policy to the full extent of the federal power.
Moreover, in the semantics of the word policy, it will be necessary to differentiate between the specification by Congress of a federal objective, and the specification by Congress of the ways and means to reach that objective. Where Congress is silent or ambiguous in methods and procedures, administrators have the leeway to [474] adopt procedures which one may doubt that any politically