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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/381

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377
THE NORTH PLATTE VALLEY

no expensive construction, the alignment following the outlying gravel knolls along the bluff that borders the valley, occasionally intercepting these or encountering short stretches of Brule clay. In the quality and extent of irrigable lands and their favorable juxtaposition to economical canal alignments, the North Platte project is favored in its distribution system as well as in storage facilities.

The average rainfall over the irrigated area will probably not exceed thirteen inches per annum. The mean temperature is 45°, the maximum 98°, and the minimum—20° Fahrenheit, and the length of the growing season is sufficient to mature most of the crops raised in this latitude, including corn. The principal crop at present grown is alfalfa, with some corn, oats, wheat, sugar beets and potatoes. The principal supply market is Omaha, but Denver, Kansas City and St. Joseph are contributory. The greater part of the produce will be marketed in the west, unless demand and supply shall be sufficiently disturbed to unsettle their present balance.

Taking eighty acres as a unit and assuming the total area to be irrigated under the North Platte project as 300,000 acres, there will be 3,750 farms. Assuming that the average family consists of five persons, we have 18,750 persons occupying these lands.

Adding to these the merchants, blacksmiths, carpenters, doctors, clergymen and others, with their families, for whom this population will provide patronage, the total becomes approximately thirty thousand persons, exclusive of a probable additional population employed in canning factories. This community will be based upon good homes on the land, free from tenantry and collectively participating in the natural opportunity upon which each irrigator depends. The population at present inhabiting these lands is small, numbering not more than a couple of thousand persons.

This work of the Reclamation Service with its promise of partial relief from the urban congestion that threatens the nation is carried forward by moneys received from the sale of public lands. These moneys are restored to the government by the water users and all possibility of initial tenantry is prevented by the stipulation that tracts exceeding a certain size, between 'forty and one hundred and sixty acres, must be subdivided and sold to persons who will use them to obtain a livelihood before water will be placed on the land.

It has been well said that the safeguard of a nation is a large population of working farmers, owning the land they use, and as a means for the partial accomplishment of this desirable condition, the work of the Reclamation Service deserves commendation.