Arthur Maass, a political scientist whose study of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ management of water resources earned him the respect of the agency he criticized, died on March 26 in his home in Boston. He was 86.
Maass joined the Harvard Government Department in 1948, becoming a full
professor in 1959. He chaired the department from 1963 to 1967 and, in 1967, was appointed the Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government. He retired in 1984.
His work focused on the legislative and administrative processes of American government in general, and decision-theory relative to public investments in particular. Among these public investments, the management of natural resources, especially water resources, occupied a major place in his work.
In his first book, “Muddy Waters: The Army Engineers and the Nation’s Rivers” (1951), Maass found that the flood control and irrigation projects undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers seldom take into account the larger needs of the region because local members of Congress and the special interests they represent have a disproportionate influence over the funding and planning process.
Fifty years later, the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged Maass’ contribution by naming the reference room in the Corps’ Institute for Water Resources in Alexandria, Va., after Maass and Gilbert F. White, another pioneer in the field. The Maass-White Reference Room contains extensive materials donated by Maass and White on water resources planning in the United States and around the world
As director of the Harvard Water Program from 1955 to 1965, Maass further developed and refined his ideas on water management, pioneering the use of computers to construct complex models of river systems in order to better coordinate demands for hydroelectric power, flood control, irrigation, industrial and city water supply, navigation, and recreation. The principal findings of the study were published in 1962 as “Design of Water Resource Systems: New Techniques for Relating Economic Objectives, Engineering Analysis, and Governmental Planning.”
During his career, Maass served as a consultant to the secretary of the interior, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China, and other public agencies. In 1978, he published (with Raymond L. Anderson) “… And the Desert Shall Rejoice: Conflict, Growth, and Justice in Arid Environments,” a comparative study of six irrigation communities in Spain and the United States.
He was a co-author of “Area and Power” (1959), a study of federalism and local government, and in 1983 he published “Congress and the Common Good,” an evaluation of the organization and procedures of the legislature with regard to the public interest. His published work has also addressed such topics as water law, the staffing of the presidency, the prosecution of state and local officials for corruption, and other subjects. In 1958, the Boston Society of Civil Engineers awarded him the Clemens Herschel Prize.
Born in Baltimore in 1917, Maass received an A.B. degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University in 1939 and a master’s of public administration and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1941 and 1949, respectively.
Maass leaves three nephews and one niece. At his request, there will be no funeral or memorial service. His ashes will be buried without ceremony at Mount Auburn Cemetery.