50 years ago — Slightly over a century ago, the Civil War strived to settle by combat a few issues involving human rights, plus a decision as to who would govern a young nation. At the same time an economic decision was made by someone unknown that government policy relating to distribution of government lands to war veterans (the 1862 Homestead Act) would be limited to 160 acres.

Such an expanse of land no doubt represented and equate economic unit at the time. By the turn of the century this principle was established doctrine in the minds of Eastern and Midwestern politicians and therefore readily incorporated into the Reclamation Act of 1901, which governs the unit of land to be served by irrigation water from federally sponsored projects. It was also hazily referred to in Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1927 when the Colorado was finally harnessed for the benefit of the entire southwestern region of the United States.

The result of these actions is that Western United States have been forced to live under an archaic and ridiculous law, fostered by provincialism and Eastern political jealousy, for over a hundred years and thereby subjugating economic realism to petty political tyranny. Even in our modern era, when the West has gained in political strength through population migration, there continues to be substantial resistance to change from unconcerned Congressmen representing regions with little or no involvement and our own liberally-oriented Representatives.

Part of the continued opposition to a realistic revision of this old law stems from a misconception that by these means the myth of a small family farm will be sustained. Volumes of literature have been written on the issue of acreage limitation by federal fiat and tons of recorded testimony in Congress have piled up over the years in an almost unbelievable mass that today serves as a monument to how a free republic can bog down in an early hopeless tangle of sentiment, petty politics legalism and economic unreality.

The State of California has finally come out with the first sensible program since U.S. Senator Clair Engle attempted to device a workable formula to solve the problem in the mid-1950s. Briefly, California has proposed that all restrictions relating to irrigation water from federal projects be initially set at 640 acres and that anything above this level be subjected to additional levies to be determined by the administrators in localized regions.


40 years ago — SALTON CITY — A bold effort by a builder committed to low-cost housing and “decent shelter” in the “overlooked agricultural market” between California and Texas along the Mexican border has entered its initial phase.

Norman Shanahan, president of Shanahan Homes, Palm Springs, who has erected some 1,000 low-cost homes in Riverside and Imperial counties, revealed an ambitious plan to utilize a highly quality-controlled, multi-government approved manufactured housing concept to erect up to 3,800 homes in this market over the next four years.

Some 215 homes aimed at farm workers and retirees are planned for the Salton City area.

Shanahan said he has contracted with a major manufactured housing concern for the production of homes that can be occupied in less than 60 days from the time they start down the assembly line.

To launch the program, Shanahan announced plans for three low-cost housing developments utilizing the manufactured housing concept.

Prototype model homes are currently available for viewing at the tiny agricultural community of Mecca, 45 miles southeast of Palm Springs, and at Salton City, on the west side of Salton Sea.

A third community is scheduled for viewing before the end of the year in Somerton, Ariz., 12 miles south of Yuma and equidistant from the Mexican border. Together these communities will comprise 624 single-family homes with a total value of approximately $22 million.


30 years ago — County bus riders will be picked up by a new bus service Monday after Imperial County’s canceling today of its contract with Valley Transportation Service. The county also acted to replace VTS with Goodall’s Charter Bus Service, Inc.

Beginning Monday, passengers on three county-subsidized bus routes will be picked up by Goodall’s buses at regularly scheduled stops.

The contract was canceled because of a partial court settlement between the county and Goodall’s, said Kevin Ready, deputy county counsel.

Goodall’s in September filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking to void the county’s contract with Valley Transportation. Despite cancellation of the contract, some issues have not been resolved and the litigation has not been completed, said Ready.

Ready said the cancellation also was due to a county audit that uncovered fiscal and auditing irregularities in current and past Valley Transportation contracts. Ready declined to give further details on the audit.


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