« PreviousContinue »
M. L. Miles, secretary, chamber of commerce.
The CHAIRMAN. The first report that we have individually on a tributary is the Bayou Pierre. Representative Brooks is here in behalf of that project.
As I understand it, Mr. Brooks, you are familiar with the project and you favor it?
Mr. BROOKS. That is correct.
Commissioner Mitchell is here from the city of Shreveport especially in reference to that project. We are very much in favor of the project and it is very badly needed.
The CHAIRMAN. We will be very glad to have you and the witnesses when we reach the individual project.
The next item before the committee is the La Fourche project in the vicinity of Monroe, La. We have Mr. Charles McKenzie, the very able and capable Representative from that district.
Mr. McKenzie, state whether or not you advocate this project.
Mr. MCKENZIE. I very much favor it. At the proper time we would like to be given the opportunity to make a statement in detail.
The CHẢIRMAN. We will be delighted to have you. That will probably be tomorrow.
We are very glad to note the presence of Senator John Overton, a · very distinguished member of the Senate committee in charge of all of our work.
The next individual project is the so-called Lake Pontchartrain project in New Orleans, La. The very able Member from Louisiana will be here later, Representative Paul Maloney, the author of the resolution, in connection with the project.
The next individual project on a tributary that has been reported to us is the project for protection of Oklahoma City. We will hear the witnesses in connection with that project when we reach it.
Then there is under consideration the extension of the adopted project on the Boeuf and Tensas Rivers and Bayou Macon, Ark., and La. I understand several of the representatives are interested in that project and they expect to make statements later.
Finally, we have under consideration the matter of improvements in connection with the Big Sunflower and other streams.
Now, the principal tributary under consideration, and the major project that will be considered by us, is the report on Red River, fostered by the distinguished ranking member of this committee, Mr. Allen of Louisiana.
Mr. Allen, you will be permitted to go into that and handle that at the proper time. However, if you desire to say anything at this time, I will be glad to have you do so.
Mr. ALLEN. I will not make any statement at this time. I prefer to wait until we get down to Red River.
The CHAIRMAN. Members will recall that in the construction of reservoirs there is involved in the Tennessee' and others rivers the matter of displacement, and under the existing law provision is made
for compensating by paying to the local interests one-fourth or 25 percent of local rents.
My valued colleague, Representative Whitten, has been most vigilant, together with my colleague, Representative Abernethy.
Mr. Whitten, if you desire to make a statement now we will be glad to have a few words, which you may supplement later. STATEMENT OF HON. JAMIE L. WHITTEN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI Mr. WHITTEN. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity to appear before your committee in behalf of certain projects and in the interest of some changes which I believe should be made in the present laws providing payments to counties in which flood-control projects have removed lands from the tax rolls. «
First, Mr. Chairman, I am deeply interested in making provision for road repairs and the raising of levees in De Soto and Tate Counties, Miss. As the members of this committee know, Arkabutla Dam was constructed on Coldwater River and has required the raising of many miles of roads in De Soto and Tate Counties. The War Department allotted some money to each of those counties for the purpose of raising the roads below the Arkabutla Dam. These moneys were expended for the purposes for which they were paid. In the meantime, however, prices had gone up tremendously, and as I understand and unprecedented rains of the past winter caused the reservoir to be kept at almost full capacity, the wave wash, caused by the high winds prevailing in the area resulted in the road levees being covered, the roads were washed out and many miles were under water for some months. The district engineer's office at Vicksburg has, made a survey of this area and they have prepared an estimate of the cost of placing these roads above the high-water mark and in such condition that they can be usable. This condition has been brought about by the construction of this reservoir. These counties are not financially able to meet this expense and I certainly hope that these projects will have the attention of the committee and that these repairs will be made at the earliest possible moment from funds available and if additional authorization is needed that this committee will provide them.
Mr. Chairman, there is another matter before your committee regarding which I have introduced several bills. This has to do with the 25 percent of land rentals which is paid back to the counties in which lands are taken for flood control for the use of roads and schools. This sum so paid is wholly inadequate in many cases. I have a number of school districts and road districts in Tate, De Soto, Lafayette, and Panola Counties which have lost a great percentage of the total lands in the district to the Federal Government for flood control. The same situation will later exist in Yolobusha County. A great part of the lands so lost are under water and are not rented. Of course, there is no income from such lands. The outstanding bonds are then a lien against the remaining lands in the district. It may be said, of course, that the district is relieved of caring for the roads in such area, but here the same amount of equipment must be kept and additional roads around the reservoir area usually must be built. With regard to school districts, the same plant must be kept up, the same number of
teachers paid, and the same number of classes taught, whether there are 100 pupils or 200. It was my first, impression that the best way to alleviate this condition was to increase the percentage of the total returns to such counties for school and road purposes. I introduced a bill, now before this committee, doing this. On talking to members of the committee, however, I found that in some areas of the United States, due to recreational activities and concessions, that the present 25 percent was ample to replace the tax loss, I therefore have introduced another bill which is before you, under the terms of which, either 25 percent of the sum collected is paid to the county affected or the amount of the tax loss whichever is the greater. This strikes me as a reasonable approach to the problem and at the same time would not affect those areas where the present 25 percent is ample. I hope that the committee will see fit to include such provision in the present bill. It is vitally needed in my district where two reservoirs have been built and two more are being built. Practically all the benefits from this construction go to other counties. Most of the counties above the dam had no way to prevent these dams being built and receive no benefits from the construction. I believe in such cases the committee would want the returns from the lands taken from such counties to go back to such counties for the use of schools and roads at least to the extent of the tax loss to such counties.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, there is another problem which I think I should call to your attention and which I think can be straightened out by the committee in your hearings with the Corps of Engineers of the War Department perhaps without additional legislation.
The lands above the Sardis and Arkabutla Dams, in some cases a great distance above the dams, are being seriously damaged because of the filling of the drainage ditches and natural drains with sediment caused by the retarded flow of the water through such drains. The War Department and the Department of Agriculture, as you are aware, · have a somewhat joint jurisdiction of the over-all problem, that is if I
understand the statute correctly the War Department is charged with the problem of the main streams and the main tributaries and how much further I am not sure, and it was intended that the Department of Agriculture through its soil-conservation service was intended to have jurisdiction and to be charged with the responsibility from the point where the War Department's job quit to the headwaters of the drains. The problem seems to be this and I have conferred with both the War Department engineers and with the Department of Agriculture. The War Department takes care of the main streams, the main tributaries and straightens them out and removes debris and keeps them open. There they quit. The Department of Agriculture, under its views of their rights and duties under the law, does not take up where the War Department quits but holds to the view that they have jurisdiction only of area above the foothills. This leaves a sort of no man's land between the point where the War Department quits and where the Department of Agriculture takes over. This area is the small bottoms, the richer part of the lands that are left to the owner whose lands were taken for flood control.
It appears that each department is a little too nice and draws back a little too much in its efforts not to encroach on the jurisdiction of
the other. The landowners suffer then from having the natural outlet stopped up by the dam below, the flow of water retarded, a natural filling of his drains through no fault of his own, brought about by his government for which he has had no pay. I hope the committee will clarify this law so that the War Department and the Department of Agriculture will each know where the dividing line comes and make sure that where one ceases the other will take over. I am sure that it was and is the intent of this committee and of the Congress that these landowners should not be damaged without provision being made to take care of their problem by the Government which has caused the damage by retarding the flow of water in the tributary drains and ditches.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, again I thank you for the privilege of appearing before you and respectfully urge your consideration of the problems that I have discussed.
The CHAIRMAN. We will be delighted to hear you and Representative Abernethy further in connection with the two bills you have introduced, on which reports have been submitted and are available to the committee. We will also be glad to hear you on any other matter that you are interested in involved in the construction of the works.