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Harvey O. Banks; Leader in Creating State Water System

September 28, 1996|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

SACRAMENTO — Harvey O. Banks, an internationally known water engineer who played a key role in developing California's State Water Project, has died of leukemia at age 86.

Banks died Sunday in Austin, Texas, where he had lived in recent years.

A former director of the California Department of Water Resources, Banks was perhaps best known for his efforts to get the State Water Project built.

Banks worked to promote the legislation that created the gigantic system of dams, reservoirs and viaducts to transport Northern California water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

The water project's pumping plant at the south end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta--at the head of the 444-mile California Aqueduct--is named after Banks.

He was appointed director of what was then a new agency, the Department of Water Resources, in 1956 by Republican Gov. Goodwin Knight. Banks was reappointed in 1958 by Knight's successor, Democratic Gov. Pat Brown.

After leaving state service in 1961, Banks worked as a consulting engineer based in San Francisco and in Belmont, Calif. Among other projects, he served as a consultant to Orange County concerning the intrusion of seawater and to Riverside in its squabble with San Bernardino over water supplies.

Banks also helped Texas develop its water plan and served on the governing board of the Water Education Foundation, a Sacramento-based nonprofit group.

Born in Chaumont, N.Y., he was educated at Syracuse and Stanford universities.

Banks was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Morgan Banks. He is survived by his second wife, Jean Ott Williams of Austin, and three sons from his first marriage, Robert, Philip and Kimball.

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