The success of the national irrigation law in causing the opening up of waste arid bad lands in the West for agricultural purposes through systematic irrigation, has been so marked that a movement is now begun for the improvement of swamps and waste low lands in the several States by the reverse operation of drainage, to be carried on under the supervision of either the Interior or Agricultural Department or both combined. The movement is being furthered by the National Drainage Association, located in Washington, D. C, which has supported a special bill Introduced at the lasi, session of Congress by Senator Flint of California known as Senate bill No. 6626, and favorably reported from the United States Senate Committee on Public Lands. The general purpose of the work to be carried on under federal supervision is most commendable and should appeal strongly to the best Interests of the citizens of all the States; for in some States, notably those bordering on the Atlantic coast, the extent of marshy, swampy lands is too vast to warrant the State's making appropriations for their general improvement and redemption. In other words, the land improved would not stand the tax necessary to pay for an improvement on such a mammoth scale. The United States by assisting the States with its credit and engineering forces in swamp drainage and reclamation on well-defined regulations, will enable the State and local communities to secure the benefit resulting from such work practically without the necessity of laying a burdensome tax. The conditions of the Flint general drainage bill are very similar to those of the Irrigation Law. By cooperation between States, corporations, or individuals and the Secretary of the Interior, drainage projects will be carried on by the federal government. But prior to entering into such works it will be necessary for the States to pass local legislation before the cooperation can be put into effect. When this stage is reached the Secretary of the Interior is empowered to advance the necessary funds at three per cent per annum for ten years, taking a lien upon the lands to be drained. It has been found that the cost on the average for irrigation is $28 per acre, subject also to an annual tax for the users of the water. The Secretary of the Interior has reported on a large drainage project, now under survey on the Minnesota Indian reservation, that the lands can be drained at the cost of $3.25 per acre. The government reports show that there are approximately eighty million acres of swampy lands. It is alleged that if these were drained and made habitable, they would afford (divided into forty-acre farms) homes for twenty millions of people. Not only this, but the agricultural value would be large, inasmuch as these lands would grow profitable crops v.lth no difficulty, while their nearness to local markets would enable the owner readily to dispose of the produce. Aside from the agricultural value of reclaimed lands is the abolishment of their pestilential character, the elimination of mosquito propagation, and the riddance of malaria, resulting in the production of a more general healthful condition over the entire country. The remarkable transformation in the Panama zone obtained by scientific drainage is a shining example of what can be done to promote good health conditions. A special convention of delegates from the several States was held by the National Drainage Association in Baltimore, Md., on November 25, 27, and 28, to discuss the subject of swamp reclamation and its furtherance by national aid. It would seem as if such a philanthropic scheme of marsh reclamation would and should command universal support.
This article was originally published with the title "National Swamp Reclamation"