Floyd E. Dominy, Commissioner,
Bureau of Reclamation, 1959 - 1969.
Dominy is easily the most colorful Commissioner in Reclamation's history. Born in 1909 and raised on a Nebraska farm, Dominy grew up realizing the importance of irrigation in the arid West beyond the hundredth meridian. He studied civil engineering at Georgia Tech but eventually dropped out for financial reasons. Returning to the West, he worked as an agricultural laborer and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wyoming in 1932.
After college, in the depths of the Great Depression, Dominy worked as a teacher, agricultural agent and, beginning in 1938, in Washington, D.C., as a field agent for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He worked two years for Nelson Rockefeller, the coordinator of inter-American affairs implementing programs in Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Central America countries to obtain raw materials necessary to the war effort and to counter Nazi influence. He joined the Seabees and served in the Pacific, most notably working to establish agriculture on Guam to provide food supplies to American troops.
Probably influenced by a 1937 visit to recently completed Hoover Dam, after the war, he joined Reclamation in 1946 as a land settlement specialist. He supervised the Allocations and Repayment Branch, Division of Irrigation between 1950 and 1957. Dominy rose to assistant commissioner from 1957 to 1958, and was named the associate commissioner from 1958 to 1959. Dominy became commissioner on May 1, 1959.
Notable events during his term as commissioner included completion of Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and Navajo dams of the Colorado River Storage Project. Dominy also played a role in authorization and initiation of construction on the San Luis Unit and completion of the Trinity River Division, both on the Central Valley Project. Congress authorized the massive Third Powerplant at Grand Coulee and Reclamation’s last very large authorization, the Colorado River Basin Project Act which included the Central Arizona Project and expanded the Central Utah Project, during his term in office. During his term as commissioner, Reclamation kept tabs on widespread, visionary, public and private planning efforts aimed at supplementing water supplies of the arid West and actually developed the Pacific Southwest Water Plan of January 1964.
Commissioner Dominy served under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and some contemporaries said he wielded more influence on Capitol Hill than any Secretary of the Interior. He was a key subject in two influential books focusing on water in the West, Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert and John McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid.