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The Federal Presence

Although Nevada is the seventh largest state in the Union, the federal government owns approximately 87% of the land, making the federal presence central to the development of the Silver State in the twentieth century. Federal water reclamation programs had their start with the Newlands Project in 1902, which took water from the Carson and Truckee rivers to make the desert around Fallon bloom. The fact that the Paiute fishery at Pyramid Lake was hurt in the process has led to the longest-running federal law suit in history, which is still unresolved. The construction of Hoover Dam (1931-1935) brought abundant water and electrical power to Clark County in the south and sparked the transformation of Las Vegas from a division point on the railroad into one of the fastest growing cities in the country.


With World War II came thousands of men and women in the military services, some passing through, and some staying to work in defense industries. Huge military bases sprouted up throughout the state. After the war, the testing of nuclear bombs spurred further growth. Even today, after the testing has ended, Nevada is facing federal pressure to become the storehouse for the nation’s nuclear waste.
Nevada Historical Society

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