Gilbert F. White
Q: The difference then being one of emphasizing flood control instead of
lessening flood damages?
A: Yes. In fact, I would like to have had it speak on making best use of the
floodplains. But people thought that was pushing it too far, that it would be
a more attractive and supportable set of recommendations if the title were
reducing or managing flood losses. You realize this came along after Senate
Document 97, and it came after the Water Resources Planning Act. We had
the, as it now proves in retrospect, sanguine view that with the Water
Resources Council in operation and with the new federal flood insurance
program which had been renovated and put into operation, we could expect
some substantial changes in federal management of floodplains. That set of
hopes was not fully realized. One reason was that the Bureau of the Budget
wouldn't let go of some of its responsibilities.
Q: To the WRC?
A: Yes. I never fully understood why that was. It was not from lack of effort
on my part to go and talk with people in the Budget and the director over
there to try to understand why they were so reluctant to give the WRC
responsibility to insist that the recommendations were carried out. But they
Q: Who was the director at that time?
A: The last person I recall discussing it with was Elmer Staats. Of course,
Elmer went over and became Comptroller General. I think Elmer was the last
person I talked with.
My hunch is there was a particular person in the bureau who steadfastly held
the line against relinquishing duties to the WRC. At the same time, he was
unwilling to exercise the duties himself. The result was a halfhearted and
inconsistently sustained activity on the part of the bureau.
Some interesting ideas came out of the task force's lively discussion. John
Krutilla, in the best econometric mode, suggested that what the U.S. ought to
do was simply grind down all of the federal activities with respect to floods.
Just make a lump-sum payment to the owners of property in floodplains for
what we considered to be, at that time, the vulnerability of the property to