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that you may know the nature and extent of the territory which our organization represents.
Flood control, is, of course, our greatest problem. Along the 300 miles of the western boundary of our Delta flows the Mississippi River. For a century our people have battled these floods; for many years alone, and more recently with the help of the Federal Government.
Following the disastrous flood of 1927, the Federal Government assumed the responsibility of controlling the floods of the Mississippi and inaugurated a comprehensive program to give adequate protection to all the people of the lower valley, from Cairo to the Gulf.
That program has been carried forward so intelligently and efficiently by the Mississippi River Commission and the Army Engineers, that the great flood of last year, 1937, was passed safely between the levees into the Gulf. All of the people of the lower valley fully appreciate the fact that it was the work of the engineers that saved them from destruction in the emergency a year ago. We are all further aware of the fact that if the other tributaries of the Mississippi, namely, the Missouri, the St. Francis, the White, and the Arkansas, had been in flood at that time and added their waters to the unprecedented flood coming out of the Ohio, the flood-control system in its present uncompleted state would not have been able to handle the situation, and the entire lower valley would have been swept bare.
It is in recognition of these facts, that our people insist upon the immediate completion of the entire flood-control system which the Army engineers have designed to give us full protection.
The plan of the engineers calls for the construction of two floodways or diversions from the main channel of the river, because in the event of a super-flood, there will be more water passing down the valley than the levee system was designed to carry.
One of the diversions, originating near Morganza, La., is principally for the protection of the lower section of the valley. The other diversion, originating near Eudora, Ark., is principally for the protection of the middle section of the valley. The lower section, however, would benefit materially from the Eudora diversion, as would the middle section from the Morganza diversion.
The Army engineers have repeatedly stated that both the Morganza and the Eudora floodways are absolutely necessary.
The people of the Mississippi Delta have an abiding faith and confidence in the Army engineers. They have been vested with the responsibility of solving our flood problem. They are the only authority upon which we can rely in this matter.
The law authorizing the construction of the Eudora and Morganza floodways provides that 75 percent of the rights-of-way in both floodways must be obtained before either is constructed. This provision was placed in the law with the approval of the authorized representatives of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi; and the Chief of Army Engineers. The floodways were linked together because it was recognized that the rights-of-way for the Eudora would be most difficult, if not impossible, to obtain if the projects were separated.
I think your statement here the other day, Senator, confirms that point.
The law has been on the statute books for nearly 2 years, and whereas the required percentage of the rights-of-way have been obtained in the Morganza floodway, only a negligible percentage of the rights-ofway have been obtained in the Eudora.
At the time of the passage of the act, in the summer of 1936, assurances were given by representatives of Louisiana that the rights-ofway would be promptly secured for both floodways.
Two years have passed; however, the rights-of-way have never been delivered in the Eudora. Instead, an amendment is now offered by the Senator from Louisiana, S. 3354, to separate the two projects and proceed immediately with the construction of the Morgnaza floodway alone.
The history of this case to date leads to the inescapable conclusion that the authorities of Louisiana are interested only in the construction of the Morganza floodway, and, if they can obtain it, will continue to withhold their cooperation, which is necessary in securing the rightsof-way for the Eudora.
Right there I might digress just a little, Senator, and say, as Mr. Bradford stated a minute ago, all of the testimony that we have heard here—this statement was prepared before we left Mississippi—has made us all the more certain that that statement is true. I call attention to the fact that Governor Leche, in his statement the other day, very definitely placed the State of Louisiana on record as being interested in seeing their Eudora floodway delayed so that the taxes from these lands might continue to come into the State as long as possible.
Senator OVERTON. May I interrupt you there?
Senator OVERTON. My recollection is that the Governor was referring to a fee simple acquisition of land in the Eudora that would take them off the tax rolls. The flowage easements would not take them off the tax rolls.
Mr. BLAKE. Certainly, such action cannot be considered as constructive or in the best interests of adequate flood control for the lower valley as a whole.
The welfare of the lower valley requires the completion of the entire flood-control system, with both floodways, as planned by the Army engineers.
The people of the Mississippi Delta stand squarely on this position and oppose any attempt, by indirection or otherwise, to remove or weaken the assurances provided in the act of 1936 for the completion of the entire flood-control system. We refuse to be placed in the position of blocking the Morganza floodway. We likewise refuse to permit others to block the Ěudora floodway. Both are necessary; and both should be constructed without further delay.
According to the terms of the Flood Control Act of 1936, the construction of the Eudora and Morganza floodways is dependent upon the securing of the rights-of-way from the local interests. This has permitted the construction of both floodways to be delayed for 2 years already. There is nothing in sight that promises an improvement in this situation, under the present law.
There again, that has been amply demonstrated time and again here.
The Flood Control Act of 1936 should be amended so as to remove all present restrictions now hampering the Army engineers in the execution of their plans and give to them the necessary authority to proceed immediately with the completion of the entire flood-control system, including both the Eudora and Morganza floodways, with whatever modifications or substitute diversions as in the opinion of the Mississippi River Commission and the Chief of Engineers are necessary for the protection of the lower and middle section of the valley. The authority given to the Chief of Engineers should include full power to exercise the right of eminent domain to obtain whatever interest in lands that may be necessary.
Temporizing with the present inadequate law, as contemplated in the pending Overton amendment, accomplishes nothing.
Right there I would like to digress again, Senator, regarding the inadequacy of the present law insofar as both floodways are concerned. You will recall that in response to, I think, a question asked by Mr. Whittington, the Chief of Engineers stated Monday, in his testimony, that if under the terms of this present law both floodways had been constructed and were available for you, in the flood of 1937 neither of them would have been used, because they could pass the water safely into the Gulf without using them. Now, speaking purely as a layman and not as an engineer at all
, we are all familiar with the tremendous economic loss that was suffered by the State of Louisiana, city of New Orleans, Arkansas Delta, Mississippi Delta—the entire alluvial valley suffered a tremendous loss in that flood, although levees did not break. I am not referring to the flooding of the backwaters. I am referring to the fright of our people. I am referring to the effect it had, for instance, on the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the fact that mills that had stored goods in our warehouses pulled them out, shipped them away, the fact that people became panicky, probably due to too much radio information, and moved their belongings out.
I know that in our section people sold their stock, gave away everything they had—scared to death. People who had property they wanted protected went out and built flood walls all around the place.
There is no question of the economic loss occasioned by that flood, and yet we did not get wet. It certainly would seem to me that it is a part of wisdom, and I believe it is the theory of the engineers in their efforts to solve this problem, that the thing to do is to keep a serious emergency from ever arising; in other words, the flood plans should work to keep the river from ever getting to a dangerous condition, rather than working merely to take care of an emergency after it has arisen.
I feel certain that under the terms of the present law both of those floodways are inadequate, because they cannot function in a preventative way. They merely take care of an emergency after it exists, an it seems to me it would be very, very important, looking at it from the standpoint of a dollars-and-cents loss, that to modify the present law would be the thing to do, regardless of these other features of separation, so that floodways can be constructed to function to prevent emergencies from arising.
In light of the foregoing, we, therefore, respectfully urge your committee to revise the Overton amendment, S. 3354, so as to amend the basic law of 1936 as herein suggested, and thus promptly give full and complete protection from all floods to all of the people in the Mississippi Valley.
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Blake, I have just one or two questions. You stated that in your opinion the Eudora floodway would be of benefit to people in the lower section. What do you base that concluision on?
Mr. BLAKE. Well, it takes the water out of the river before it gets down to them. Anything that diverts any water that they are going to have passed below there, would certainly be of benefit to them.
Senator OVERTON. Does the Eudora permanently divert the water from the Mississippi, or does it return again to the Mississippi?
Mr. BLAKE. It is my understanding, Senator, that waters go down into the backwater area of the rear and cross there into the Atchafalaya River.
Senator OVERTON. It is not your understanding that any of the waters find their way back to the Mississippi?
Mr. BLAKE. It was not my understanding that they did or should.
Senator OVERTON. Now, you speak of modifying the plan for the Eudora so that it will serve to prevent an emergency. Do you mean by that to lower the intake of the Eudora?
Mr. BLAKE. Senator, that is an engineering question that I do not feel competent to pass on.
I do not know whether it is going to mean lowering the intake or, if lowering it, how much. I think they should both operate. In other words, when you get water within a foot of the top of the levee you are in trouble. You can have a tremendous flood without ever getting wet from the backwater.
Senator OVERTON. That is all. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF J. S. ALLEN, CHIEF ENGINEER, BOARD OF MISSIS
SIPPI LEVEE COMMISSIONERS
Mr. ALLEN. My name is J. S. Allen. I am chief engineer, Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners.
Senator Bilbo. I wish you would state, for the benefit of the record, how long you have been connected with the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners.
Mr. ALLEN. I came to work in June 1890. I was a young engineer with the levee board.
Senator Bilbo. Forty-eight years?
Mr. ALLEN. No; for 1 year. I came there in June 1890 and was with the levee board for 1 year, when they transferred me over to the Mississippi River Commission, and I was with the Mississippi River Commission nearly 10 years. Then I went back in association with the levee board, and in July 1922 I was elected chief engineer and still occupy that position, a total term of service in that district, in that portion of the river, on both sides, of 48 years next June.
Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would like to present a statement.
Senator OVERTON. That is perfectly agreeable.
Mr. ALLEN. As a result of the disastrous flood of 1927 in the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River two reports were submitted to the first session of the Seventieth Congress.
First, the report of the Chief of Engineers, Maj. Gen. Edgar Jadwin; and second, one by the Mississippi River Commission, through its president, Col. Charles L. Potter. On May 15, 1928, the report of the Chief of Engineers was enacted into law at an estimated cost of $325,000,000.
Both of these reports are fundamentally sound, in that they both recognized that the floods of the Mississippi could not be carried between levees to the sea and therefore they both provided for diversion from the middle section of the river. The adopted plan is a comprehensive one, providing for the maximum flood predicted as possible, and for future expansion to meet changing conditions. Owing to legal difficulties nothing was done to carry out the diversion through the Boeuf Basin; however, the levee enlargement and other terms of the act were vigorously prosecuted.
On February 12, 1935, the Chief of Engineers, Maj. Gen. E. M. Markham,
made a report in response to a resolution by the Committee on Flood Control of the House of Representatives, dated Januar 28, 1932, requesting the Chief of Engineers toexamine and review the present status and condition of the works now in progress, as authorized by the Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928; the provisions of the said Act and the engineering features of the projects therein adopted, with a view to determining if changes or modifications should be made in relation to the project and its final execution.
Section 43 of this report recommended that the project for the flood control of the Mississippi River in its alluvial valley and for its improvement from the Head of the Passes to Cape Girardeau, authorized by the Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928, be amended substantially as recommended in the Mississippi River Commission Report dated January 19, 1935, to provide:
1. The abandonment of the Boeuf floodway and in lieu thereof the construction of the Eudora floodway.
2. A back-protection levee and extension from the head of the floodway north to the Arkansas River, so located as to afford adequate space for the escape of floodwaters without endangering the levees on the east side of the river.
3. The maintenance of the present river levees between the head of the Eudora floodway and the northern junction with the protection levee at the 1914 grade and section, except in front of densely populated areas as a part of a ring levee.
4. The construction of a floodway extending from the Mississippi River north of Morganza to the Atchafalaya backwater.
7. The construction of additional outlet to the Gulf of Mexico west of Berwick.
8. The improvement of the discharge capacity of the levee channel of the Atchafalaya River and its outlets.
9. A 6-year program for the improvement and regulation of the Mississippi River, including the continued maintenance of the navigation channel provided in the present project.
10. The flood control of the Yazoo and St. Francis Rivers, as set forth in this report.
Despite the objections of the local interests of northeast Louisiana to the transfer of the spillway from the Boeuf to the Eudora, on June 15, 1936, this report was enacted into law, with the unanimous support of the congressional delegation of the three States most vitally concerned-Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.