Accession Number:



Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: July 1, 1937-July 1, 1987: A Condensed History

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



The creation of the Southwestern Division, United States Army Corps of Engineers, in 1937 represented a significant step in the growth of the federal governments responsibility for flood control in the Southwest. The region included several large river drainage systems primarily the Arkansas, Trinity, Brazos, Red, White and Rio Grande. They frequently flooded, causing or contributing to some of the worst deluges in modem American history. By the 1930s the southwestern states were becoming more urbanized and starting to develop an industrial economy. With the growing population in these river basins, there was a natural demand that the flooding be stopped-or at least brought under control. Before the 1930s the roles of the Corps of Engineers in the Southwest had included surveys, dredging and snag-clearing. One major project was improvement of Galveston Harbor on the Texas Gulf Coast. The disastrous Mississippi River flood of 1927 dramatically illustrated the need for a comprehensive plan of flood control, particularly in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Many authorities agreed that only the federal government had the resources for such a large task. As momentum for federal intervention increased, the Depression struck. The election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 marked the beginning of massive federal works throughout the United States, including river improvements. The Flood Control Act of 1936 marked the last step leading to the creation of the Southwestern Division. It authorized 211 flood-control projects in 31 states at an estimated cost of 300 million. The measure also incorporated the concept of multipurpose planning, meaning that federal river basin development would include hydropower, soil conservation, navigation and water supply.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Hydrology, Limnology and Potamology
  • Civil Engineering
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement: