« PreviousContinue »
refer to the map and so that you could have the benefit of being able to see the map.
I was born and raised in the Atchafalaya Basin. And before the Civil War, what is now considered a worthless swamp and what is now a floodway was inhabited and cultivated. The act of 1928 created the Atchafalaya spillway. No provision in that act was made for any payments in the Atchafalaya spillway. The Overton Act of 1936 provided payments for flowage rights down to approximately the latitude of Krotz Springs, which is just above where the main Atchafalaya levees end--the small upper part of the Atchafalaya Basin. No provision is made for payments of this big Red River backwater area just at the head of the Atchafalaya Basin. No provision is made for payments from the approximate latitude of Krotz Springs down to the Gulf, which is a very large area.
In the event of a superflood, all the water coming from the upper reaches of the river and the tributaries must meet right here at the top of the Atchafalaya Basin-floods from the Ohio and the upper Mississippi and the Arkansas and the Red and all of the other tributaries must meet at the head of the Atchafalaya River. At that point they have to divide. Under the adopted plan, a million and a half second-feet are supposed to go down the long route to the Gulf, and the Atchafalaya Basin must be prepared to carry the other half—a million and a half second-feet, this short way to the Gulf.
Our lands, which were previously improved and cultivated, along the Atchafalaya River and its tributaries, are now increasingly flooded. Due to the building of levees along both banks of the Mississippi and along the tributaries, the floods in the Atchafalaya Basin have increased to such an extent that our lands had to be abandoned. We consider, down there: "Our lands have been confiscated by floods, and now being in this floodway, they are dedicated to floods”. But we knew that that was necessary, and we did not object.
Changed_conditions have forced us to come back, in 1936, and amend the Jadwin 1928 act. We organized a little steering committee, of which I had the honor to be the chairman, composed of men from Louisiana and representative men from Mississippi and from Arkansas; and we worked along with Senator Overton and the congressional delegations from Mississippi and Arkansas, and with the Army engineers, until we thought we had finally found the solution to the whole problem. And that consisted of a great deal of work in different areas, but principally the construction of a Eudora floodway and a Morganza floodway. At that time the floodways were linked. We need not go into the details of how they were linked, because that has been thoroughly discussed. We did not object to that, because we could see no objection at that time. We thought it would be only a matter of a few months and the options would be obtained and the work would proceed. In that, we have been disappointed.
Now, you will notice that this south Louisiana area is in acreage as large if not larger than that section we have
referred to as north Louisiana. As chairman of the Flood Control Committee of Louisiana, I am just as much interested in protecting the upper half as I am the lower half. At this present time, I know what to do to protect the lower half, but I do not know what to do to protect the upper half. And so, in behalf of the people of Louisiana, I am here to ask this committee to amend the Overton bill so as to permit the construc
tion of the Morganza floodway which would protect the lower half; and I am not objecting to any proposition or any compromise or any solution that we could find to protect the upper half.
The only thing I am objecting to, Senator, is what we consider the unnecessary, dangerous delay involved in postponing the construction of the Morganza floodway." If the members of the committee will refer to the report of hearings before this committee, January 1936, they will find in that report that the Louisianians living in the Eudora floodway very severely criticized me and abused me for testifying here in behalf of the Eudora floodway. My good friend, Ben Young, sitting up there, from the Eudora floodway, made a terrific speech against me for supporting the Eudora floodway. I tried so earnestly and so conscientiously to put over the Eudora floodway, that the Louisianians in the Eudora floodway gave me a nickname: They called me Wade Martin from Mississippi. [Laughter.]
I have not changed my position, Senator; as long as the United States engineers tell us that they have to have the Eudora floodway, I am for it and not against it. Because I am not talking for the Eudora people or any particular section of Louisiana; I am talking for all of Louisiana.
But unfortunately they have not been able to obtain the flowage rights. That is not my fault; it is not anybody's fault. But the fact remains that they have not been able to get the options and they cannot construct the Eudora floodway at this time.
Senator OVERTON. Let me interrupt you, there; I gathered from what you have said that if 75 percent or more of options had been obtained in the Eudora, you would have no objection to the engineers going right on?
Mr. MARTIN. Absolutely not; no.
Senator OVERTON. And if, on the other hand, there were necessary options obtained in the Morganza, you would not take the position that you could not build the Eudora until you built the Morganza?
Mr. MARTIN. No, sir; never. Now, in 1927 we had levees—a levee on the west side of the Atchafalaya Basin. The levee had been built by the Atcbafalaya Levee Board--much smaller, of course, than the present levee. We made a terrific fight, and held our levee. But the levees broke above us, at Ferriday and other places, and on the south bank of the Arkansas. The whole territory was covered with water from the Arkansas to the Atchafalaya Basin. And then the levees broke up here [indicating] and went through the Atchafalaya Basin on the outside of the levee system.
I do not want the committee to think that the Atchafalaya Basin is a swamp. The Atchafalaya Basin runs through the richest part of Louisiana, the most highly assessed portion of Louisiana. It runs right through the "sugar bowl” of Louisiana, through the very middle of it. That is the most highly improved and highly assessed section of Louisiana. And we are in much greater danger now than we were in 1927; because all of the magnificent work done by the engineers so far is going to prevent the water from scattering all over the country as it did in 1927. We are not going to have any breaks above the Louisiana line. The water from the 31 States drained by the Mississippi is now bridled and confined between powerful levee lines, and it is going to be conducted to the head of the Atchafalaya Basin and is going to be brought there with the river improvements prescribed by General Ferguson, very much more quickly than it has been in the past. And if the water piles up at the head of the Atchafalaya Basin, gentlemen, and we have a break in those fuse-plug levees, there is then no telling what is going to happen to the people on either side of the Atchafalaya Basin. The calamity is going to be so much worse than in 1927. And since we have the opportunity of building the Morganza, and with the possibility of permitting the engineers to design the Morganza at their own discretion, if they want to they can take enough water out at the Morganza to eliminate any possibility of a major flood ever going down the Mississippi River past Baton Rouge, Plaquemine, Donaldsonville, and New Orleans. With the outlet they have at the lower end of the Atchafalaya Basin, provided by the Overton Act, they can keep a proper proportion between the intake and the outlet here sindicating to take any quantity of water they want to, out of the Mississippi River, without doing any damage to anybody at all.
They can absolutely protect all of south Louisiana now; and they are ready to do so. And all we ask is to let them go. Let this work start. Ănd then we shall fight and work and discuss among ourselves and see if we cannot find some solution for the upper haif.
It is not the fault of Arkansas; it is not the fault of Mississippi; it is not the fault of the majority of the people in Louisiana, if the engineers have been unable to get flowage rights in the Eudora. It is just up to us to work together to try to find something that we can do for the other half.
But I really think it would be ridiculous, it would be unfair, to force south Louisiana to continue to be threatened with such a devastation as would happen if we had a superflood, if it can be avoided. And I am willing to work and talk and cooperate with the delegates and friends from the other States, to try to find a solution up there where none of us knows just what to do.
But I ask the committee to amend this act so that the Morganza spillway can be constructed, to give protection to all of that immense territory from the Red River south, which is more than half of the State of Louisiana, and the richest part of it.
Thank you. Have you any questions?
STATEMENT OF B. F. YOUNG, PRESIDENT, BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, FIFTH LOUISIANA LEVEE DISTRICT, ST. JOSEPH, LA.
Senator OVERTON (presiding). Mr. B. F. Young. Mr. Young, will you please state your name?
Mr. Young. B. F. Young, St. Joseph, La.
Senator OVERTON. Are you connected with any levee board in Louisiana and, if so, what?
Mr. Young. Yes; I am president of the board of commissioners of the fifth Louisiana levee district.
Senator OVERTON. How long have you been connected with that board?
Mr. YOUNG. Thirty-three years.
Senator OVERTON. Thirty-three years?
Mr. YOUNG. Yes, sir; I have been a member of the board for 33 years. I have been president of it, I think, for just a little over a year.
Senator OVERTON. What territory does the fifth Louisiana levee district embrace?
Mr. Young. Our territory extends from the Louisiana-Arkansas line to the mouth of the Red.
Senator OVERTON. It is the territory through which the Eudora flows?
Mr. Young. It is the territory through which the Eudora flows, from the upper portion of it to the end.
Senator OVERTON. As proposed?
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Young, are you familiar with the bill that is now pending before the Senate, in reference to the Morganza?
Mr. YOUNG. Yes, sir; I am quite familiar with it, sir.
Senator OVERTON. The committee would be very much pleased for you to make a statement in reference to it.
Mr. Young. Well, Senator, first I want to state my position in reference to the Eudora spillway.
When the Eudora spillway was first under discussion before the Flood Control Committee, of which Mr. Riley Wilson was then chairman, I opposed it. And I opposed it before a hearing, I think, before this committee.
When the bill was adopted and became the law, I accepted the law; and my board accepted the law, and ceased its opposition to it. When the proposed contracts for the easement came out, the board adopted resolutions opposing the contracts, because they thought that they were just not exactly fair to the landowners.
They thought that in a matter involving the expenditure of a great many millions of dollars the landowners ought to have been represented in the preparation of the easement rights.
I think there is a letter from me to you, Senator, in which I state my opposition to that contract. But further than the opposition to the contract, I have opposed the Eudora spillway since it became a law, but I do not oppose it now if it is necessary.
I have lived on the Mississippi River and owned property on the river for 75 years. There is only a street between my house and the public levee, and it has been that way all of my life. I have been acquainted with the river since even before I went off to school. I went off to school in 1879, and I thought at that time that we were overflow-minded. We had floods not every year, but very, very often; and necessarily I was very much interested in it. I was interested in it even before I went off to school. I came back from school, I think, in 1884, in January 1884, and I began my first work on the levee in February of that year. I have been continually on the levee ever since.
We have heard a good deal of discussion of the Morganza floodway, just as though it had not been heard of at all, within the last few years. Gentlemen, the Morganza floodway as a floodway, and not a benevolent one, either, was under discussion before I went to school, and after I returned and long before the question came up at this time
There was a levee in Tensas Parish known as the Kent levee. Now I believe they call it the Cottage Home. It was the old Kent levee years ago; but was always a race as to whether there would be a
floodway there or at Morganza, and generally Morganza beat us to it. Whenever Morganza broke the relief to the upper river, my territory, and lower Concordia was almost complete because so much water went out of Morganza. Therefore it was not new to us to hear Morganza discussed as relief. At that time there was not a beneficial relief. It was a very injurious one, because it spread over all of those parishes that Mr. Jacobs and others have been telling you about. Any break at Morganza was a very disastrous break.
Now, Congress has adopted this plan of putting a spillway in at Morganza, carrying that water through, into the Atchafalaya, carrying it to the Gulf in a controlled way; and I believe something like two-thirds of the distance, or it may be one-third
Senator OVERTON (interposing). One-half, I think. Mr. Young. If they had to go around through the Mississippi River.
I have the greatest respect in the world for the gentlemen who are opposing the divorcement of these two projects, but I do not believe they can give one single, solitary reason why the Morganza and the Eudora should not be divorced and the Morganza constructed. I have tried my best to think of some good, honest, logical reason in opposition to that, and I can not think of a one, while, on the other hand, there are many reasons why they should be divorced and Morganza constructed at this time. Το go
back a little: they have been trying for 2 years to get options in Eudora. There is a very strong organization that has been formed in that section, in my territory, known as the Association to Oppose the Eudora Floodway. I had nothing to do with this organization; I have never joined it; I have never affiliated with it; I have never attended a meeting, and I do not think any member of my board has. But they have been powerful and they have had a very marked effect in bringing before the people what the Eudora spillway would mean to them.
Senator OVERTON. Let me interrupt you. Was that association formed after the passage of the Overton Act of 1936?
Mr. YOUNG. I was trying to think a while ago, Senator. Mr. Henley can tell you. I don't know whether it was before or after.
Mr. HENLEY. It was after. Mr. Young. I did not have anything to do with that organization. I have never in any way affiliated with it. But I think I know my people in that territory, and I do not think there is a chance of ever getting 75 percent of the property owners within the Eudora Spillway ever to agree to the options. After 2 years they have probably got all or practically all who would be willing to sign; and to my certain knowledge, many of them who have signed have signed such preposterous propositions that I do not think a very large proportion of them would be acceptable to the Government. The prices have been put very high, I am told. I am not prepared to say it is a fact that some of them have been permitted to write their own options. I do not think it is possible ever to get 75 percent of the options in the Eudora spillway.
The question confronting us now is: Shall we stop? You cannot construct the Eudora. Shall we let Morganza go because of the fact that you cannot get options in Eudora ? It looks to me like that is rather preposterous.