Reviewing Reservoir Operations: Can Federal Water Projects Adapt to Change?

Reed D. Benson – The Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation spent much of the twentieth century building large dams that dramatically altered the nation’s rivers.  The “big dam era” of federal water policy may have ended decades ago, but the dams that went up in that era are still in place today.  These dams form reservoirs that provide a range of benefits including water supply, flood control, and hydropower, and whatever the arguments in favor of taking out some specific ones, few if any major federal dams will be removed anytime soon.  Yet each existing dam faces an important question about its future: should it be operated differently than it is now? Every reservoir stores and releases water to serve specific purposes, and an operating plan directs the timing and rate of storage and releases from a particular reservoir.  Many federal water projects—dams, reservoirs and associated […]

Trust Me, I’m a Pragmatist: A Partially Pragmatic Critique of Pragmatic Activism

Joshua Ulan Galperin – Pragmatism is a robust philosophy, vernacular hand-waving, a method of judicial and administrative decisionmaking, and, more recently, justification for a certain type of political activism.  While philosophical, judicial, and administrative pragmatism have garnered substantial attention and analysis from scholars, we have been much stingier with pragmatic activism—that which, in the spirit of the twenty-first century’s 140-character limit, I will call “pragtivism.”  This Article is an introduction to pragtivism—environmental pragtivism in particular—a critique of the practice, and a constructive framework for addressing some of my critiques. As a central principle of their philosophy, pragmatists reject absolutes.  Pragtivists, likewise, reject perfect environmental outcomes in deference to those that are, at least arguably, directionally correct.  The idea of engaging private business is a more applied, but equally important principle.  Pragmatists advocate that decisions are good if they work, if they are based on lessons from experience.  Pragtivists believe that […]