Oral History Interview with
Chief of Information, Bureau of Reclamation, 1937-42; Assistant
Director, Division of Power, Department of Interior, 1942-43; Assistant
Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, 1943-47; Assistant Secretary, Department
of Interior, 1947-51; Assistant Secretary for Water and Power Development,
Department of Interior, 1950-51; U.S. Minister in Charge of Technical
Cooperation (Point IV), Iran 1951-55, and Brazil, 1955-56; U.S. Minister
and Economic Coordinator for Korea, 1956-59.
William E. Warne
May 21, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript
indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the William
Warne oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened February, 1989
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
William E. Warne
May 21, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
JOHNSON: I would like to begin, Mr. Warne, by getting a little background. Would you tell me when and where you were born, and what your parents names are?
WARNE: Yes, I was born in a little place, on a farm really, near a crossroads town called Seafield, Indiana, on September 2, 1905. Seafield doesn't exist anymore; it scarcely existed then. It was about 15 or 20 miles north and a little bit east of Purdue University. It was near the Tippecanoe River, about 10 miles west of Monticello, county seat of White County. My parents were William Rufus Warne and Nettie Jane Williams Warne. They were both born in Ohio, in Pike County, Ohio, in the 1870s. Dad moved to Indiana and helped drain some of the land that eventually became White County, Indiana.
JOHNSON: Is this a farm?
WARNE: A farm, yes.
JOHNSON: You grew up on a farm?
WARNE: We moved to California when I was eight years old. My dad was a pioneer in the Imperial Valley on the irrigation project that was using Colorado River water in the reclamation of the desert south of the Salton Sea and north of Mexico. So I grew up there. He had a dairy farm. We lived on that farm throughout the rest of my boyhood. I went to a two-room country school called Alamo, and to the Holtville, California, Union High School.
JOHNSON: This was all in the Imperial Valley?
WARNE: All in the Imperial Valley. Holtville Union High School was about eight and a half miles north and west of our farm.
JOHNSON: Do you have brothers and sisters?
WARNE: I have, yes. I have four brothers, three of them older than I, and one younger, but no sisters. One by one, as we graduated from high school, we all went to
the University of California at Berkeley. There was only one University of California then. My oldest brother matriculated there in 1915.
JOHNSON: What was his name?
WARNE: Merrill; he's still living, now at 92 retired in the City of Burlingame, California. My youngest brother graduated in 1929, so we had a good long stretch at the university. He, J. Milton, is an orchidist of more than 50 years standing in Honolulu, known worldwide among orchid breeders.
JOHNSON: All of you got a degree from the University of California at Berkeley?
WARNE: All except the eldest one, who enlisted in the First World War and got married and never went back to finish his education. He had a couple of years at the university, but the rest of us graduated, yes.
JOHNSON: What was your major at the university?
WARNE: My major was English. Dad wanted us all to get into agriculture and come back to the farm. The other four did study agriculture, but none of them went back to the
farm in the Imperial Valley. I was the only one who went into the English Department. I wanted to be a writer, a newspaper man.
JOHNSON: How large a farm was this, by the way?
WARNE: Dad had 160 acres, which was standard in those days.
JOHNSON: Was that under the Homestead Act?
WARNE: The land was originally under the Homestead Act, but Dad got there too late to homestead this particular farm.
JOHNSON: Do you have any idea what he paid per acre for that land in those days?
WARNE: Oh, it wasnt more than $100. It had a crop of alfalfa on it.
JOHNSON: And you had to milk cows?
WARNE: Yes, I milked 17 cows night and morning and went to high school during my senior year. I was 17 years old at that time.
JOHNSON: Hand milked?
WARNE: Hand milked, yes. We didnt have electricity in the Imperial Valley during my boyhood. Milking machines came
later. I never had anything but a coal oil lamp to do my homework by until after I went to the university in August of 1923.
JOHNSON: When did they get electricity in that valley?
WARNE: After the Boulder Dam was finished, and the All American Canal. Then the Imperial Irrigation District, under agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, which built the All American Canal, put power plants in at drops along the canal and electrified the Valley. As a matter of fact, the Imperial I.D. serves power in the Coachella Valley as well. The Coachella Valley is north of Salton Sea. So it's quite different down there now. The Imperial Valley is no longer a desert frontier. Imperial is one of the leading agricultural counties in the country.
JOHNSON: So Boulder Dam, or Hoover Dam, made a real difference, a considerable difference.
WARNS: That it did, and it made a difference to me personally. The first public meeting I ever went to, my dad took me to a Farm Bureau meeting in the Alamo schoolhouse. I must have been ten years old.
JOHNSON: Is it that two-room school you were talking about?
WARNE: Yes, in the Alamo schoolhouse which was about a mile west of our farm. An old fellow got up -- I remember his name was Mark Rose -- he was a farmer and he was, I believe, running for the Irrigation District Board at that time. He said, "We must have a dam on the Colorado River to prevent the floods and to give us water during the dry summers." I had observed what happened when the floods came. I mean, the Colorado was a treacherous river, you know; it used to scare the thunder out of us during spring high flows. Then, the canals might be entirely dry late in the summer. The speech was very thrilling to me. I think it influenced the direction of my life. One of the great occurrences of my life was that I was in the Bureau of Reclamation when we finished the Boulder Dam. As a matter of fact, I made the first draft of the dedication speech that Franklin D. Roosevelt gave at the dam in September of 1935.
JOHNSON: Do you remember what year it was that this meeting took place at the Alamo schoolhouse?
WARNE: I figure that I was about ten years old, so it must have been 1915 or '16.
JOHNSON: So we still have about fifteen years to go before
a dam was completed?
WARNE: The dam was authorized in the Swing-Johnson Act which President Coolidge signed on December 22, 1928. They had started the railroad from Las Vegas, Nevada, out to the dam site in Black Canyon in the last year of Hoover's administration. The construction of the dam really got started when the Public Works Administration came into being in 1933 in FDR's first term. The PWA made an allotment to the Bureau of Reclamation of a sufficient amount of money to enable the letting of the major construction contract to the Six Companies, the contractor that built the dam.
JOHNSON: What was the most important lobby, would you say, that did make that dam possible?
WARNE: The most important lobby that made the dam possible was actually Phil Swing, who was the Congressman from Imperial and San Diego Counties at that time. Well, his district was wider than that, since we had fewer people then. The Imperial Irrigation District was deeply involved, and there was an outfit called, I think, the Irrigation District Association. The state engineers, or water resources directors, of the seven Colorado River
Basin states were advocates. And the City of Los Angeles. They were the main ones, as I remember it. The City of Los Angeles was the principal actor in Southern California at that time. It was interested in a source of power and a future augmentation of its water supply. Los Angeles was a very dynamic, even aggressive city at that time.
JOHNSON: They needed the drinking water, and water for industrial uses, at that time?
WARNE: They were really after power in the City of Los Angeles at that time. But, yes, L.A. and 15 other cities or water agencies on the Southern California Coastal Plain were seeking new water sources. The Imperial Valley farmers needed flood control; the river had broken into the valley in 1905 and formed the Salton Sea. The irrigated lands are all below the elevation of the river, most of them below sea level. Between 400,000 and 500,000 acres are watered in the Imperial Valley.
JOHNSON: Oh, I see. Well, how was Los Angeles getting its water?
WARNE: At that time, Los Angeles was getting water out of Owens Valley to the north, in an aqueduct that the city built in the early 'teens. In 1930 -- that was while
preliminary work on the dam was being started -- Southern California organized to take water from the Colorado River. The City of Los Angeles and some 15 other cities organized the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which is the dominant regional water agency down there now. The MWD serves about 11,000,000 people in Southern California today. It was the MWD which built the aqueduct to the Colorado River, and signed the contract with the Interior Department for water from Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the dam. I don't know when the contract was signed; it was fairly early; signed by Secretary Wilbur before the advent of Harold L. Ickes in Interior.
JOHNSON: You got your bachelor's degree, with a major in English from the University of California at Berkeley, in what year?
WARNE: In 1927.
JOHNSON: What did you do at that point?
WARNE: I went back to the Imperial Valley from the university and managed to become the news editor of the Brawley News, a little daily paper. Brawley is one of the
leading towns in the Imperial Valley; it is in the northern part of the Valley. One of my brothers was a teacher in the Brawley Union High School at that time. He spent his entire career in Brawley, eventually retiring as Superintendent of Schools there. He is retired now and living in San Diego.
JOHNSON: And how long were you editor there?
WARNE: Oh, the rest of the year 1927. Then I went to Calexico, which is a border town, as news editor of the Calexico Chronicle, a small daily with a Spanish weekly edition that circulated in Mexicali, the sister city across the border in Mexico. I became the string correspondent for the Associated Press while in Calexico. That's a pretty good news center. The AP didn't have any way of covering northwestern Mexico except by telephone and with me down in Calexico. As a stringer, I think I got ten cents an inch for whatever the AP used, but my pay got significant enough because of many news stories that they thought they ought to take me on their staff. In August of 1928, the AP asked me to come up to Los Angeles to become an editor in the Los Angeles Bureau of the Associated Press. I was with the Associated Press then in Los Angeles for three
years. I was night manager of the Bureau during the last year. I met my wife there in 1928; we were married a year later in July, 1929.
JOHNSON: Whats her name?
WARNE: Her name was Edith Peterson.
JOHNSON: A Swede.
WARNE: Yes, she is a Swede. Both of her parents were born in Sweden, though they have lived in California since 1894 or 95.
JOHNSON: So you are living in Los Angeles now, moving from Calexico to Los Angeles.
WARNE: Correct. While in Brawley and Calexico, I followed closely the progress of the Swing-Johnson bill in the Congress and covered local angles on the campaign for control of the Colorado River.
JOHNSON: Quite a change from Calexico to Los Angeles.
WARNE: Yes. I had a room in Pasadena. One of my university friends mother was running one of those -- it wasnt quite a boarding house; youd call it a motel now -- but
motels hadn't developed to the extent then of earning a distinctive name. I met my wife in Pasadena.
In 1931 the Associated Press decided to open a bureau in San Diego. San Diego was in many ways much like it is today, except that then it was only about one-tenth as big. I was sent to San Diego to open the new bureau. And again, I did a lot of reporting on the subject of water, as I had in Brawley and Calexico. The Colorado River Aqueduct was going into detailed planning at that time. San Diego had the problem of how it was going to get water that had been allocated to it over the mountains from the Colorado River. I was following the developments pretty carefully.
Then in 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt became the President, the whole center of the news world moved from New York to Washington. The moguls of the Associated Press wouldn't leave New York, so they had to beef up the Washington Bureau. Everything was sparking out of Washington at that time. The AP decided to bring into Washington 24 of the young reporters on its staff who had displayed familiarity with their areas, and give them regional assignments. I found myself drawn into Washington. Edith and I got there on September 15, 1933.
My assignment was to cover everything that happened in the capital that had any special news value to California, Arizona and Nevada.
I quickly found that most of the news of interest to these three states, that wasn't strictly national in character, was originating in the Interior Department or the Navy Department. So I more or less covered the Congressional delegations and those departments. I became well acquainted with Senators Hiram Johnson, of California, and Carl Hayden, of Arizona, for example, and the Congressional delegation from those states. The departmental coverage brought me in contact with [Harold] Ickes, who was then the Public Works Administrator, as well as the Secretary of Interior. It developed that I was the only one on the whole AP staff of 104 reporters who knew anything about western water problems, or irrigation, or actually hydro power developments. So I became the expert on those subjects. I came to the attention of Secretary Ickes and of Mike Straus who was then his assistant and Director of Information for the Public Works Administration.
JOHNSON: You did interview them for information for your newspaper?
WARNE: Always, yes.
JOHNSON: You went to the top?
WARNE: Oh, yes. Ickes had a press conference every week and next to the President's, it was the most active one in town. So I was there constantly. One day Mike told me, "Say, you know the Secretary said to me, 'Who is that young fellow who asks all those questions about reclamation?' That's Bill Warne of the AP." The Secretary said, "You get him over here." So they offered me a job with the Bureau of Reclamation.
JOHNSON: I guess you asked good questions then, which indicated you knew the subject.
WARNE: Ickes appreciated it. I got very well-acquainted with Secretary Ickes and Mike. I was with the Bureau in Washington, from June 1, 1935 until April, 1947, except that the Bureau, at Ickes' urging, used to loan me out to other agencies for short or longer periods of time.
JOHNSON: What was your first position?
WARNE: My first position was entitled "Editor." I soon found that the whole country was greatly intrigued by the construction program that the Bureau had underway. This was at the depth of the Depression. Everybody was interested
in efforts to start development again. I discovered that the Bureau had available, on a monthly basis, progress reports accompanied by good pictures of work in progress, wherever they had a major project. Of course, the construction of Boulder Dam was the biggest, and we had a splendid, an excellent, photographer there, Ben Glaha. I sent pictures to all of the large newspapers; every week at least three or four pictures that showed something going on. Most of them were Glaha's. In those days the major newspapers put out rotogravure sections on Sunday. The New York Times, for instance. Well, almost all of the real big papers did. I think there was scarcely a week went by that we didn't have one or two pictures of some large-scale construction work in the rotogravures, and sometimes a picture would take a whole page. This attracted not only the attention of such people as Harold Ickes but of others. I became the expert on the subject of irrigation in the Department and elsewhere in the Government as well.
JOHNSON: These pictures would be of irrigation projects, dam building...
WARNE: Dam projects, power plants, canals, farmers breaking new land, building new homes, new schools.
JOHNSON: And these were under the Bureau?
WARNE: Under the Bureau. We were opening some desert land. Some of the pictures would be of farmers out developing land, leveling it and planting their first crops. It was a stimulating work, and the President was much interested in it -- President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt.
JOHNSON: Did this include the remedying of erosion, erosion problems? Did they deal with that?
WARNE: We in the Bureau didn't deal directly with the erosion problem. Ickes made a grant of Public Works funds to set up a Soil Erosion Service, as it was called at first. It was a separate agency.
JOHNSON: It became Soil Conservation?
WARNE: It became the Soil Conservation Service, and the President moved it over to the Department of Agriculture, which wasn't particularly what Harold Ickes had in mind. But that happened. I went out with Dr. Hugh Bennett, director of SCS two or three times, to some of his projects, because some of the things that SCS was doing were not unlike some of the things we were doing on our irrigation projects in the arid regions.
JOHNSON: Dr. Hugh Bennett?
WARNE: Yes, he was the director of the Soil Conservation Service.
JOHNSON: Oh, I see. What positions did you go through before you became Assistant Commissioner, or Commissioner, of the Bureau?
WARNE: I was made Director of Information which put me in charge of a relatively small staff, but also a staff that I established in our District offices out in the field. As the Director of Information, I was loaned by John Page, who was then the commissioner, to the National Resources Planning Board, their Water Committee, as a writer and an editor in the preparation of a magnificent report called "Drainage Basin Programs and Problems," under the date of 1936. Then, the next year we put out a revision under the same title, but dated 1937, and this brought me face-to-face with the problems of resource planning in the development of the nation. I got curious about what the Bureau was doing with regard to the forward planning of the next step of such programs as the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, where we had construction of the Grand Coulee Dam going like the wind, you know. The
plan included diversion of water to irrigate a vast area in the Big Bend. So I raised the question of how were we going to develop that land. A million acres in the Big Bend area of Eastern Washington is what we were shooting at at first. No one had an answer to my question. It was a bigger job than the Bureau had ever undertaken and our engineers were all more or less wound up in the construction phase of these great projects.
I went to the Commissioner and suggested that we get Dr. Harlan H. Barrows, of the University of Chicago, who was co-chairman of the Water Committee that put out the two reports that I mentioned, and with whom I worked very closely during the preparation of those two reports. I suggested that we set up a joint planning program for the Columbia Basin Project. Mr. Page said, "Well, okay." He would go for that if the White House thought well of it. Mr. Delano was then, I think, the head of the Resources Planning Board. Barrows and Delano talked to the President and he said, "Oh, this is wonderful." His idea was to make the farms of a size graded by the quality of the soil so that each farm would support a family of four and bring in enough income for them to send two kids to college. That was adopted as our planning objective.
We set up the planning project; Barrows and I were the co-directors of it. I was really the manager; he was the one who presided at our meetings and so forth. A wonderful man. The country's outstanding geographer.
JOHNSON: Advisor, sort of?
WARNE: That's right, an economic geographer of great distinction. And we paid him the munificent sum of $50 a day.
JOHNSON: In those days that was money!
WARNE: And a per diem of $7.50; that's more of a subsistence allowance than I got. So we set up joint investigations of the area; these involved the Department of Agriculture and local planning agencies and everybody. I think we had as many as 52 agencies involved on something like 28 identified problems. We had special committees working on each of them.
I remember that Major Roy F. Bessey, Counselor, National Resources Planning Board, stationed in Portland, Oregon, representing the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, was one of them, for example. He was on the committee that studied Problem No. 2, the task of selecting types of farming for the newly irrigated lands and methods of integrating them into the regional economy. Marion
Clawson was at that time in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. He was put in charge of the Agriculture Department's coordinating committee for the joint investigations. I don't know whether you've interviewed him or not, but he has written a book recently called From Sagebrush to Sage, in which he spends a little time describing these studies.
We pursued the studies to a conclusion, and brought the reports out in 1943. The Columbia Basin Project Act of May 27, 1943, authorized the construction of the irrigation features of what theretofore had been called the Grand Coulee Dam Project. This Act embodied the findings and the plans that were worked out through the joint investigations. The war was going on in 1943. The President said, "We'll put that on the back burner, and have the project ready for the returning soldiers at the conclusion of the war." Of course, he didn't live to see that program through, but President Truman supported very strongly the Columbia River Basin Development Project in his term. We started actually executing the plan in about the year 1946.
At the conclusion of the First World War there had been a rush of returning soldiers back to the land. Reclamation projects that were ready for settlement in 1919
and 1920 were overrun. We expected something like a repeat performance of that to follow World War II. President Roosevelt wanted a maximum number of viable farm units to be planned for the vast new irrigated Columbia Basin Project. In his turn, President Truman supported the program that we devised. Work was begun on the canals and ditches almost immediately at the war's end.
At first there was a fairly lively interest in taking up the new farms when they were ready, but soon there was complaint that the units were too small to produce a level of living that the returning veterans anticipated, and the rush was to the cities and industrial jobs rather than to new farms.
About half of the planned 1,000,000 acres in the development was withdrawn from the project, part of it because the Hanford nuclear complex interdicted it, but most of it because large wheat farmers on the east side of the area did not want to subdivide their lands.
The Bureau proceeded, however, to provide water to new blocks of 50,000 acres, or so, on an annual program of expansion and settlement.
During the Eisenhower Administration, to the chagrin of a few of us who had worked on the planning of the project,
an amendatory act of October 1, 1962 removed many of the provisions of the 1943 Act that were designed to maximize the number of farm families to be settled and assist them in acquiring lands that had been dry land farms but that were to be purchased and resold by the Bureau in irrigable units of 60 to 180 acres. The 1962 Act substituted for these special provisions, worked out for the Columbia Basin Project, the standard 160 acre provision of the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902.
I visited the area in 1983 when I went up to Grand Coulee Dam for the 50th anniversary of the start of its construction. The irrigated lands of the project are now well developed. The project is somewhat lop-sided, since the eastern half was not built on schedule. However, it is interesting to note that these wheat lands are gradually tending to come back into the project and new canals are being built to them.
JOHNSON: When did Truman first come to your attention? I suppose it was while he was Senator.
WARNE: Yes. I think he was on the Appropriations Committee, and I used to make presentations before the Appropriations Committee, but I don't think he served regularly on the
subcommittees that I appeared before most frequently.
JOHNSON: And you didn't have any connection or anything to do with the Truman investigating committee?
WARNE: No, not at any point, though I was aware of it. On loan from the Interior Department; yes, I spent the year of 1942 and part of 1943 on loan to the War Production Board in conducting what we called the War Production Drive. The objective was to get labor and management together and properly motivated for the switchover from civilian to war production. It was a very active program and quite successful, as a matter of fact. Senator Truman was briefed on that.
Ickes called me back from the War Production Board to the Interior Department in 1943. Well, most of the work of the Drive was done by that time anyway. I was then made the Assistant Director of the Power Division. The Power Division was first set up under Abe Fortas and Tex Goldschmidt, Arthur R. "Tex" Goldschmidt, Abe's assistant. Abe was moved to the Under-secretaryship of Interior, and then he went into the Army.
I was brought back to the Interior Department by the Secretary. Ickes always kept a string on me. I never was off the Interior Department's payroll, but I
worked for many different agencies. He brought me back as the Assistant Director of the Power Division, which Tex then headed. We had a good deal to do with the allocation of the power out of Grand Coulee Dam, including 100,000 KW allocated to "project X." I didn't know what "project X" was. I challenged the idea of dedicating that much power to an unknown project. A couple of colonels pulled out this order that said, "Top Priority, Top Secret." It turned out to be the Hanford nuclear plant, but its identify and purpose were not known to me until much later; after, indeed, we had built a second, redundant, transmission line from the dam to Hanford. The colonels simply said, "This project can't stand a power outage under any circumstances. It must have a second, back-up line." They had the top priority order, so we did it.
JOHNSON: So all you know was that it was "project X?"
WARNE: That's all, until the day after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. I was out there with a Congressional committee at Grand Coulee Dam, and they said, "Okay, now you can visit the project X." I was astounded at what had been done at Hanford.
JOHNSON: It is kind of interesting that electric power for
both the atomic bombs was drawn from Government sources.
WARNE: Actually, you know, it's almost inconceivable that we could have gotten that big a block of power, except from a new installation, and it was quite fortuitous that we had the Grand Coulee Dam and Power Plant ready to go at that time. It was quite fortuitous.
JOHNSON: Yes, I think that's written up; your involvement is written up in your book on the Bureau of Reclamation.* In other words, we probably don't have time to get into the details of that further.
WARNE: I don't know, yes...
JOHNSON: The Columbia Valley Authority, which became one of Truman's pet projects, something at least he promoted along with the Missouri Valley Authority...
JOHNSON: President Truman apparently was sold on the TVA idea, and that became, of course, a major issue as to whether there were going to be more TVAs.
WARNE: It certainly did.
*William E. Warne, The Bureau of Reclamation (New York, Praeger, 1973).
JOHNSON: Were you promoting the TVA-type projects in the Western states?
WARNE: I was promoting coordinated and comprehensive river basin development. As a matter of fact, I mentioned a moment ago, the 1936 report that we brought out. That was the report that changed the directions of not only the Bureau of Reclamation but of the Corps of Engineers, and the thinking of Congressional committees from an individual single-purpose project concept, to a multiple-purpose river basin planning and development program. I was very strong for that. I mean, I thought that was the solution to the ultimate development of our Western states particularly. You know, that was my major interest throughout. To duplicate the TVA at that time in the immediate postwar years -- for example, in the Missouri River Basin -- didn't seem to be possible. You couldn't get the states to permit the establishment of a regional administration. The states were too strong by that time, I think, at least in that area. They had very powerful Senators, O'Mahoney and...
JOHNSON: Now are you talking about Missouri Valley?
WARNE: I'm talking about the Missouri Valley.
JOHNSON: We had about eleven states, I suppose.
WARNE: Yes, eleven states in the arid region. So we got the principle established of regional development in our authorization of the Missouri Valley program.
President Truman's suggestion of a Missouri Valley Authority in the image of the TVA came after a similar coordination and development plan, lacking regional administration, had been authorized by approval of the Pick-Sloan plan in the Flood Control Act of 1944, which was signed by President Roosevelt on December 22, 1944. The so-called Hayden-O'Mahoney amendment was included in that Act as Section 9 calling for Comprehensive development of the Missouri River Basin and approving the House Document 475 and Senate Document 191, 78th Congress, second session, as revised and coordinated by Senate Document 247, 78th Congress, second session, which embodied the Pick-Sloan plan. I had worked on the coordination agreement, Senate Document 247, and was deeply involved in the negotiation that led to the Hayden-O'Mahoney amendment.
There has been a lot of derision thrown by some at the so-called Pick-Sloan Plan for the development of the Missouri Basin. Well, the Pick-Sloan Plan may have
been, as one of its critics said, "a loveless shotgun marriage of the Corps and the Bureau." But it nevertheless provided the framework for regional development.
Again, as a result of my work in the Columbia Basin Irrigation project, I was put in charge of trying to get the Missouri River Basin Program going. We established, again, joint commissions. We got the Governors of the basin states each to appoint someone to work on a conjoined plan. I never really got the Corps [of Engineers] to participate fully in our Missouri Basin Field Committee, but we got all of the Interior agencies and the agencies of the Department of Agriculture to participate. We set up the field committee in Billings, Montana. It had as its purpose the general coordination of the program.
At that time, less than 10 percent of the households in North Dakota and South Dakota and eastern Montana had available electricity. The people out there were getting along as I did as a boy in the Imperial Valley, without electric lights or power. The Missouri River Basin project has involved the construction of the power systems and the negotiating of the power service contracts by the Bureau and the Interior Department. The Corps always avoided getting involved in anything as controversial as electric power. The Flood Control
Act of 1944 put Interior in charge of marketing the power from all Corps dams, not just the great flood control dams on the Missouri River. Today, as a result of the Missouri Basin project, over 90 percent of all households in that area are electrified. I considered that a pretty good achievement. The Corps great flood control dams on the main stem of the Missouri River provide most of the power.
JOHNSON: And that's an outgrowth of the Pick-Sloan Plan?
WARNE: Absolutely, the result of it, yes.
JOHNSON: The building of the dams on the upper Missouri?
WARNE: The building of the dams, yes, and the marketing of the power from those dams. The Bureau has interconnected the Missouri River plants with the dams that eventually were built in the upper Colorado River Basin. They have a network now that covers the entire West, though part of that grid is by interconnection through other systems.
JOHNSON: It's a blend of private and public power?
WARNE: Part of it, yes.
JOHNSON: On that Missouri Valley Authority, did that go as far as Truman wanted it to go?
WARNE: No. No, I'm sure that it didn't.
Senator James Murray of Montana -- I believe that he and Mr. Truman had been good friends and had associated in many activities while the President was in the Senate -- introduced a bill to create an MVA, an authority patterned after the TVA, to conduct the Missouri Basin Development program. I do not remember now whether or not he had an MVA bill in the Senate when the 1944 Flood Control Act and its Hayden-O'Mahoney amendment were under consideration He either introduced his bill or reintroduced it, however, after Mr. Truman became President.
JOHNSON: President Truman wanted it more comprehensive?
WARNE: He wanted a more comprehensive one, yes, with a regional administrator. What we had may not have achieved all the objectives, but it did achieve the objectives of improving the quality of life, and improving the recreational and other amenities available to what really was a very depressed region.
JOHNSON: And then there was, of course, the flood control for the lower Missouri...
WARNE: That was achieved, yes, and the improvement of navigation below Fort Randall.
JOHNSON: ...which came a little late because of the '51 and '52 floods. Did you get involved in those problems?
WARNE: I was out here; I flew over the flooded area, but all you could do was wring your hands at that point. No, I don't think you could have expected to have achieved the flood control result as early as 1951. That didn't give enough time.
JOHNSON: Of course, that was mainly floods from Kansas or water from Kansas.
WARNE: It came right out of the Blue and the Kansas Rivers, much of it did, but the Missouri was high too.
JOHNSON: In '52 it was the upper Missouri I guess that flooded and that came down river. Those dams were built after '52, weren't they? We're talking about the late '50s, maybe.
WARNE: Fort Peck was built early, but it was so high up it couldn't control floods originating downstream. We had some of the new dams started, but we didn't have them finished at the time of those floods. I remember the Republican River in Nebraska went out of bounds and flooded everything in sight. I think that's the same time that you got it here in Kansas City.
JOHNSON: If we can get back to the Northwest again, which was one of your areas of expertise, I notice in our interview with C. Girard Davidson...
WARNE: I knew Jebby well. He and I worked together. He and I were Assistant Secretaries together under Krug for several years.
JOHNSON: He says here that so many agencies were involved, that is in the Northwest, that programs either bogged down or were constantly involved in jurisdictional disputes. Did you see that as a problem in the Northwest -- jurisdictional disputes?
WARNE: Well, in the planning of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, we didn't have jurisdictional disputes. Now, I'm not sure which programs Jebby was talking about there. He had one-half of the Department and I had the other at that time. And I don't know whether he felt that, as I'm pretty sure the Secretary did, that the Bonneville Power Administration was a pretty important element in our Northwest regional development, and might have been taken together more effectively with our Bureau of Reclamation programs. I was in charge of the Missouri River Basin, the coordination of the programs
there. Jebby was in charge of the Columbia River Basin for the upper level work. I mean the fact that I did the work on the irrigation project, and at one point was responsible in part for the allocation of the power out of Grand Coulee Dam, doesn't mean that I had charge of the program endeavoring to make a Columbia Valley Authority.
My work on the Columbia Basin Project was in a period earlier, largely, than when Jebby came into the Department as Assistant Secretary under Secretary Krug, which was in 1946 or thereabouts. Let me see, I was appointed Assistant Secretary by President Truman on May 15, 1947. Secretary Krug had succeeded Mr. Ickes about a year earlier, and as I recall it Jebby became an Assistant Secretary almost immediately. I was Assistant Commissioner of Reclamation from 1943 until Mr. Krug tapped me to succeed Warner Gardner as Assistant Secretary.
JOHNSON: Well, he apparently blames the defeat of the Columbia Valley Authority proposal on what he called "old line agencies" in the Departments who did not want decision-making transferred to the regions as well as lobbying by private power companies, especially of Senator Dworshak of Idaho.
WARNE: Yes. That could have been a reference to the Bureau
of Reclamation as well as others. I knew Dworshak very well. The Senator was an advocate of the reclamation programs, but not of public power. He fought rather successfully to keep the Bonneville Power Administration from extending its jurisdiction into southern Idaho. The BPA was Secretary Ickes' effort to gain regional power development in the Northwest. Jebby had been with the BPA. Certainly the Bureau of Reclamation bucked turning the Grand Coulee Dam power over to Bonneville. While the Bureau remains the operator of the power plants at the dam, and reserves an allocation of power to operate the pumps that provide irrigation water to the Columbia Basin Project, it was not otherwise successful ultimately in that contest with BPA.
JOHNSON: He also felt that Oscar Chapman did not like controversy and favored centralized authority in Washington, D.C., so there was both in the Department, as well as in the private power lobbies, resistance to the CVA.
WARNE: Yes, I'm sure that's true. As I say, Jebby was much more intimately connected with the CVA than I. Now I knew Dworshak very well, and worked with him on getting some development started on the Snake River. But, I
also recognize the fact that he was one of the ones who strongly opposed a regional authority. I mean he didn't even want the Bonneville Power Administration sticking its nose into Idaho. I'm not sure that it does yet, although I think Idaho participates in the power planning program now for all of the N