Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Rivers by Design: State Power and the Origins of U.S. Flood Control

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Rivers by Design: State Power and the Origins of U.S. Flood Control

Article excerpt

Review: Rivers by Design: State Power and the Origins of U.S. Flood Control By Karen M. O'Neil Reviewed by Peter C. Little Oregon State University, USA O'Neil, Karen M. Rivers by Design: State Power and the Origins of U.S. Flood Control. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. 278 pp. ISBN: 0-8223-3773-8. US$22.95, paper.

Since the social and economic restructuring of the Progressive Era and the rise of the New Deal in the United States, "[e]fforts to alter the course of rivers have changed social and political structures in expected and unexpected ways" (p. xiv). Rivers by Design sets out to make sense of and critically analyze the relationship between the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the first federal agency to actively manage land and resource development decisions, and the outlying territories, states, and publics impacted by federal flood control policy.

Following the Flood Control Act of 1936, an act stemming from federal attempts at flood control in the 1880s, the Corps focused almost entirely on controlling flooding along the Sacramento and Mississippi rivers and weakened the power of centralized government authority leading to a renewed Corps of Engineers that found itself in a precarious position whereby the agency "unofficially engaged in local, state, and national politics" (p. 22). O'Neil navigates the winding road between federally mandated flood control and local, state, and landowner-based resource planning and management. Rivers, as the book makes clear, represent more than water flowing from one place to another; rivers are political, economic, and social. …

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