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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/306

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

authorizing the retention of rights in power developed by private means, the time limitation in grants for state or private works, and the leasing of power developed on public works.

 

Land Waste and Reclamation

Each year the rivers of mainland United States pour into the seas a thousand million tons of richest soil-matter in the form of suspended sediment—an impost greater than all our land-taxes combined, and a commensurate injury to commerce in the lower rivers which are rendered capricious and difficult of control by the unstable load. Moreover, the greater part of the sediment is swept down during floods which annually destroy and depreciate property to the average value of scores if not hundreds of millions, besides preventing development of the fertile lowlands; and furthermore, expert determinations show that the organic contamination of running water varies directly with the suspended sediment, so that muddy water is a common cause of disease and death. Now any comprehensive plan for waterway improvement will necessarily involve prevention of floods by means of far-sighted forestry, intensive farming, judicious reservoir-construction, and other devices whereby the waters will be compelled to flow even clearer and purer than they did before nature's delicate balance between rainfall and slope and natural cover was disturbed by settlement and industry. It is conservatively estimated that the benefits resulting from the clarification and purification of the water will in themselves balance the entire cost of the system of waterway improvement required to relieve the existing congestion of traffic.

And the control of the waters involves reclamation of arid lands by irrigation, and of certain swamp and overflow lands by drainage. It is estimated that these means, extended to projects already in sight, will fit 150,000,000 acres of highly fertile land for settlement, thereby furnishing (in forty-acre farms with necessary villages) homes for an additional population of 20,000,000—or four times that number under the intensive culture which finds "ten acres enough." The expense involved might by judicious administration be made incidental to that required for improving the waterways for navigation (which would hardly exceed that of a trans-continental railway line), while the direct benefits, as illustrated by the operations of the U. S. Reclamation Service to date, would amount to many times the cost.

 

Development and Conservation

Such are some of the conditions and values brought into view by the recurrent congestion in transportation—for which relief is imperative, else the nation, must sacrifice its supremacy and by reason of