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FLOOD-CONTROL BILL OF 1946
MONDAY, APRIL 8, 1946
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. c. The committee met at 10:00 a. m., Hon. Will M. Whittington (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will be in order.
There have been no hearings for authorizations for flood control since the approval of the Flood Control Act of December 22, 1944. The President of the United States, as Commander in Chief, eliminated all flood control and all river and harbor works, except to protect defense installations for the duration.
In October 1942, under War Production Board Order L41, all priorities for materials for dams, flood walls, and other improvements were denied. Floods continued. There were major floods in 1943, 1944, 1945, and there were major floods during the current year thus far. Lives were lost and property destroyed annually. There is usually a major flood somewhere in the United States every year. Flood control sacrificed a great deal to win the war. Now, after the lapse of 2 years, additional authorizations are imperative. Reports have been submitted where projects should be authorized since the passage of the act, approved by the President on December 22, 1944.
Reviews in response to resolutions of this committee and resolutions of the Committee on Commerce have been made in the light of recurring floods. This committee plans to conduct hearings on all favorable reports that have been submitted by the Chief of Engineers as well as on reports that have been transmitted to the Director of the Budget. A schedule of the hearings has been announced and has been published. You will find it in the Congressional Record each day. It is planned to complete the hearings in 2 weeks. All proponents and all opponents of any proposed project or of any proposed authorizations, in accordance with the custom of this committee, will be given an opportunity to be heard on the dates set forth for the consideration of the projects.
Now, at the conclusion of the hearings the committee will determine the amount of the increased authorizations on the projects approved in the previous authorization bills where authorization of appropriations were made for the partial construction of the projects. An adequate shelf of sound projects where the benefits exceed the costs is proposed so that flood control, as among the most desirable and satisfactory of public works, may be expanded in the periods of depression or unemployment to stimulate employment.
This is the first meeting of the committee that has been held during the incumbency of the present distinguished Chief of Engineers of the United States Army. We are to have this morning a statement by Lt. Gen. R. A. Wheeler, the Chief of Engineers, giving us the overall picture, in behalf of the Corps of Engineers. He is present and he will make the initial statement. General Wheeler is accompanied by Brig. Gen. R. C. Crawford, Assistant Chief of Engineers; by Col.
E. G. Herb, Assistant Director of the Civil Works Division; by Mr. George L. Beard, Chief of the Flood Control Section; and by Mr. Kenneth J. Bousquet, engineer, of the Corps of Engineers.
General Wheeler, we are delighted to have you with us this morning and to welcome you for the next 4 years.
We are delighted to welcome Mr. Davis, of Tennessee, who retired · from the Committee on Military Affairs, to become a member of this committee, and he is a member of the Rivers and Harbors Committee, and I believe this is his first meeting for general hearings. The presence of the members of the committee at the hearing this morning and the presence of the members who attend the subsequent hearings, as they come in, will be recorded as having attended the hearings of the day they appeared. The order will be for the hearings to begin promptly at 10 o'clock each morning, and we want, in the course of the hearings, and following our custom, to give every member of the committee a reasonable opportunity to propound questions to the witnesses. The chairman will probably ask a few questions in the beginning, will undertake to identify, and analyze in general, any proposed project in the report in which that is embraced. The ranking majority member of the committee will then interrogate, initially, generally 4 or 5 minutes or less. If he has a project in which he is interested, the committee will accord him, as well as the other members of the committee, more time, and we will alternate to the minority member of the committee so that in general each member of the committee, in the order as they appear on the committee, will have an opportunity to propound questions that are materially pertinent to the matter under consideration, and after each member has been given that privilege, in accordance with our further custom, the members desiring further questions will have the privilege of doing that in the order named.
Now, General Wheeler, we are delighted to have you, sir, and you may proceed and give us this statement that you desire to submit for our consideration as the hearings of this bill begin.
General WHEELER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. I think the members will be glad for you to pursue that course because we want to get correctly the over-all picture. STATEMENT OF LT. GEN. R. A. WHEELER, CHIEF OF ENGINEERS
General WHEELER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure and a privilege for me to appear here this morning and to participate in the opening session of your hearings on the flood-control bill of 1946.
During the war years while I was overseas I thought a great many times of the civil-works program and of my many good friends and the
pleasant associations made through my previous assignments on river and harbor and flood-control work. I can hardly express to you how gratifying it was to return and find that although the actual construction of flood-control projects had necessarily been suspended during the war, the over-all program had been steadily moving forward, and that even a few short weeks after VJ-day an appropriation bill had already been passed by the House to provide funds for resumption of the urgently needed food-control and river and harbor construction work.
Two years ago, in the spring of 1944, when this committee last held extensive hearings on a general flood-control bill, the United States was engaged in winning a great war which had engulfed most of the world. We could not predict its end but we knew that its end could come in only one way-victory for the Allied Nations. Hostilities have now ceased and the victory is ours. I am proud to head an organization which had so large a part in carrying this war to its successful conclusion—the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army.
In our wartime operations we were fortunate in being able to obtain the services of thousands of able men and women who joined our organization for the emergency. I wish to pay tribute to them for their aid; without them we could not have functioned. But the nucleus of the vast organization that made this accomplishment possible is the Nation-wide organization of the Corps of Engineers which has been built up and kept during peacetime by work on flood-control and river and harbor work. Practically without exception the directors and key staffs of our wartime supply and construction operations gained their experience on these same flood-control and river and harbor projects.
It so happened that the war years were also years of severe and widespread floods. The flood-control projects, the completed and partially built dams and levees, prevented stoppages of work due to floods in many war industries, and prevented the flooding of railroads, freight yards, and other installations, thereby holding to a minimum the consequential loss in transportation time. The power generated at some of our dams that had been designed primarily for flood control, but which included power installations as directed by Congress, furnished electricity to many war plants.
Now that the war is ended, this country can ill afford to allow the flood-control program to lag. We have gained a victory over the Axis, but we still have a vicious enemy that strikes with the regularity of the seasons. Floods, which may come at any time but which are more prevalent in the spring when the melting snows of winter combine with seasonal rains to fill river channels beyond capacity, annually inundate thousands of acres of croplands and destroy valuable urban property, and occasionally, also cause loss of life.
As part of your extensive hearings in 1944, General Reybold reviewed the flood situation up to that time. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I shall confine my remarks on that subject to a brief review of floods and flood damages which have occurred since then.
During April, May, and June 1944, record high stages were approached numerous times on rivers from Wisconsin and Minnesota south to Texas, and new records were set on many streams. In April the Neosho River in Kansas exceeded its previous maximum stage re
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corded in 1943. The Mississippi River at St. Louis crested at a stage of only 2.2 feet below the crest of the historic flood of 1844 and 0.2 foot above the crest recorded in the severe flood of 1943. The St. Croix River in Wisconsin, the Skunk and De Moines Rivers in Iowa, the Elkhorn River in Nebraska, and the Sabine and Neches Rivers in Texas set new records of high stages during the year 1944.
The first major flood in 1945 came about February 1 and was caused by a succession of very heavy rains in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Basins in California. Approximately 272,000 acres of land were inundated, 29 breaks occurred in levees built by local interests and the direct damages have been estimated at $3,000,000; the indirect damages were about $1,00,0000. It is estimated that had the authorized projects in this area been constructed and in operation; these damages would have been reduced by 87 percent.
The flood on the Ohio River in February and March of 1945, was the result of rainfall centered over the Ohio Valley and concentrated close to the main river. The flood was therefore more sévere on the main stream than on the tributaries, none of which was in extreme flood. However, highway and railway traffic throughout the entire valley was virtually suspended for several days and severely handicapped for weeks. This flood was unusual for its prolonged and steady crest. Important freight had to be rerouted far to the north, 188 important industrial plants were shut down completely and the production of 93 other plants was seriously curtailed. Damage, however, was considerably mitigated by reason of emergency protection, by the reduction in flood stages accomplished by the reservoirs completed previously in the upper part of the basin, and by completed and partially built local flood-protection projects. Nevertheless, direct damages in the Ohio Basin amounted to over $34,000,000. The flood-control works prevented additional damages of about $29,400,000. Twenty-four lives were lost in this area.
The lower Mississippi rose in flood through March and April of 1945, owing to the combination of high-volume flow on the Ohio, excessive run-off in the upper Mississippi Basin, and severe floods in the Arkansas-Oklahoma-Missouri-Kansas area.
The storm of April 12 to 14, 1945, produced heavy rains in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. The maximum rainfall reported, was at Seminole, Okla., which had 12.1 inches in 24 hours. The general storm resulted in floods on all rivers in this area, among them the Arkansas, Verdigris, Neosho, White, Black, and Sabine, and it caused the inundation of over 8,000,000 acres, property damage of about $51,000,000 and the loss of 21 lives. Fourteen of these casualties occurred in the Arkansas Basin. In that same basin the property damage was over 18144 million dollars, and the flooding covered 2,000,000 acres.
The maximum flood of record occurred on the Red River at Alexandria, La., on April 17 and 18, 1945. This flood exceeded by 1.6 feet the previously recorded maximum which occurred in 1932. Inundation of 4,500,000 acres and property losses of $12,600,000 occurred. In the 2-month period, February 12 to April 12, a total of 1,720,000 acre-feet of water was stored in the Denison Reservoir. If Denison Dam had not been in operation and this water had been allowed to flow freely, the crest at Fulton, Ark., and for some distance downstream would have been at least 2 feet higher, and the area flooded
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and losses suffered would have been correspondingly greater. It is also probable that the loss of 13 lives would have been greater. Although Denison Dam was holding back a sizable flood, the rains which fell below the dam were so heavy as to cause the greatest flood yet recorded on the Red River..
There were many "flash floods” throughout the summer of 1945 in widely scattered areas in Vermont, Connecticut, Michigan, West Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Colorado.
My department has compiled records which indicate that between January 1 and August 1, 1945, 15,800,000 acres had been inundated, damages had totaled $103,800,000, and 58 lives had been lost.
Thus far in 1946 the widespread floods of the last few years have not been repeated, although some regions have again suffered heavily. A very serious flood struck the Willamette River Basin in late December and early January and caused damages estimated at about $6,000,000 and inundated about 360,000 acres. The damage was primarily to winter crops and orchards. The reduction in damages credited to the operation of the completed Cottage Grove and Fern Ridge Reservoirs is estimated at $1,200,000. The total damage would have been reduced by an additional $3,000,000 had the Dorena, Lookout Point, and Detroit Reservoirs been in operation.
The Yazoo River has been visited twice this year by floods which closely approached the all-time records for that stream. It should be pointed out that only two of the four reservoirs authorized for headwater protection in the Yazoo Basin have been completed, and that the benefits from the two completed reservoirs were substantial. It is contemplated that the two reservoirs remaining to be constructed in the Yazoo Basin will be placed under way this summer. When all four reservoirs are completed and in operation, the frequent floods in the Yazoo Basin will be controlled so as to eliminate substantially all of the damages now suffered with distressing regularity.
Now, may I turn from discussion of floods to a few remarks on flood control, particularly the authorized flood-control program?
Beginning with the Flood Control Act of June 22, 1936, which marked the start of general flood control throughout the United States, and including the authorizations contained in the acts of 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, and 1944, the total of authorizations for general flood control amount to $1,680,400,000. Appropriations made against these authorizations total $788,434,000, including the $159,513,000 appropriated in the War Department Civil Functions Appropriation Act for fiscal year 1947 as passed by the Senate. The unappropriated balance of authorization, therefore, amounts to $891,966,000.
At first glance, this figure of $891,966,000 would seem to constitute a very sizable backlog of authorization, and it might appear that further authorization at this time is unwarranted. I should like, therefore, to analyze this situation in a little more detail.
The costs already incurred for work in place plus the present estimated cost of completing projects now in progress or included in the pending appropriation bill for 1947 fully commit all of the available authorization,
In the cases of the approved comprehensive plans for flood control and other beneficial water uses in our large river basins, the situation is more acute. As you know, this committee recommended and the