This is a study in public administration and public policy. It is concerned with those federal field services that manage and develop natural resources in the Pacific Northwest. For the past fifteen years there has been widespread interest in the region drained by the Columbia River concerning the possible establishment of a valley authority. There has been continuous and acrimonious debate over the need and desirability of copying the Tennessee Valley Authority model for the planning, control, and management of the land, water, and related resources now under the jurisdiction of several separate federal bureaus and departments. That debate became particularly vigorous near the close of the Second World War when President Roosevelt advocated the early enactment of valley-authority legislation to carry out developmental programs in the Missouri and Columbia River watersheds. This proposal was quickly expressed in bills introduced by Senators Murray of Montana and Mitchell of Washington.
The Mitchell Bill, introduced in February, 1945, first spelled out the detailed basis for a federal valley authority-program for the Columbia Valley region. Its publication was greeted within the Pacific Northwest with paeans of praise from public ownership advocates, most of the leaders of the Washington and Oregon state granges, and many other citizens concerned with a comprehensive and integrated plan for developing the region's water resources and for placing on a sustained yield or on a conservation basis the management of the land and mineral wealth over which the agents of the national government exercise financial, administrative, or legal responsibility. Anguished cries of even greater volume and intensity came from other regional residents and organizations, private utility officials, chambers of commerce, the National Reclamation Association, and many other business groups, who protested and denounced all valley-authority legislation for the Columbia. The protagonists of change charged that existing federal agencies within the region had failed to make the most of the resource potentialities for its people and for the nation, had supported piecemeal and duplicating plans and programs, and had engaged in enervating jealous conflict. The opponents of the authority idea countered with praise for the plans and achievements of the galaxy of bureaus entrusted with the development and management tasks and with charges of federal "dictatorship" and "communistic" objectives lurking behind the authority facade.