What Is the National Reclamation Act?

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The National Reclamation Act of 1902, also known as the Newlands Reclamation Act, allowed the federal government to commission and fund water irrigation projects, according to the National Archives. The law stemmed from arid conditions in the western states. Under the law, funding for the projects came from the sale of public land.

President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to expand settlements in the West with irrigation projects, explains the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. This process of homemaking included resources to support new settlers, such as water. Under the law, the federal government created projects in several states, including the Hoover Dam. According to the Theodore Roosevelt Center, the original act included provisions for 16 western states, but this later expanded. The irrigation projects especially contributed to successful farming in the region.

The law instituted eminent domain for federal irrigation projects, according to the Center for Columbia River History. Section 7 of the law instructed the Department of the Interior to use funds from the sale of public lands for eminent domain purposes, and it allowed 30 days to vacate the property after notification from the Department of Justice. In Section 8, the National Reclamation Act also included a provision for the adherence to state law except in certain circumstances.