« PreviousContinue »
Congress has approved these comprehensive basin-wide plans, but the authorizations thus far granted in the Flood Control Acts have provided only for the initiation and partial accomplishment thereof. These money authorization ceilings are a great deal less than the total estimated costs of the approved plans.
I have here a tabulation summarizing the present status of these comprehensive plans which I should like to present to the committee at this point:
The CHAIRMAN. I don't want to interject into your prepared statement, but the members of the committee will perceive thus far that this statement is most helpful and constructive, and with all deference I suggest I know nothing better than to carry this statement to their offices, because I have frequent inquiries for material, not only by members of this committee but by other Members of Congress in connection with flood-control requests and addresses, and this would be what I would term an excellent textbook.
You may proceed. General WHEELER. I shall not read this table, but it shows that for these important river basins the uncommitted balances of authorization are extremely low; in some places entirely exhausted. For instance, in the Ohio River Basin projects already completed or now under way will use all of the available authority; increase in money authorization is required for badly needed local flood protection projects where the flood hazard is serious and for the large reservoirs so important to the successful control of Ohio River floods. Projects in the Missouri Basin plan for which appropriations have already been made will cost to complete somewhat more than the money authorization now available. Expeditious progress on all of these basin-wide plans throughout the country is the backbone of the flood-control program.
The Flood Control Acts of 1941 and 1944 contain the following item :
Provided, That after the authorization for any flood-control project heretofore or herein adopted requiring local cooperation shall expire five years from the date on which local interests are notified in writing by the War Department of the requirements of local cooperation, unless said interests shall within said time furnish assurances satisfactory to the Secretary of War that the required cooperation will be furnished.
Shortly after the enactment of the 1941 act it became apparent that the construction program on flood-control projects would have to stop
because of the war, and the Department therefore withheld the formal notification contemplated by this proviso, since it was clearly improper that local interests should be required to give assurances for projects for which no prediction as to probable construction date could be given. Now that construction is again under way, we have taken steps to activate the provisions of this item. It is, however, still too soon to know fully what the results will be.
During the war years the Congress was quite liberal with appropriations for the advanced planning of authorized flood-control projects, in order that there would be a sizable shelf of projects all ready for prompt initiation at the end of the war. The foresight of Congress in providing for a backlog of projects has paid large dividends in that we have been able to resume our program on a large scale without loss of time or the inefficiency attendant on the opening up of a large program of this type prior to full engineering preparations.
The Deficiency Appropriation Act approved December 28, 1945, made available $96,859,000 for construction of general flood-control projects and the project in the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River. I am happy to state that this appropriation provides for the resumption. of work on 58 flood-control projects suspended during the war, and also provides for the initiation of 58 additional projects. Our appropriation bill for the fiscal year 1947, as passed by the Senate on March 19, provides the amount of $199,613,500 for continuation of these projects and the initiation of construction of 36 additional new ones.
We are placing this work under contract just as rapidly as feasible, and I am pleased to tell you that we already have a number of projects under way. We had been somewhat apprehensive that the unsettled labor, material, and cost situation at the present time might make it difficult to obtain competition among contractors, and that bid prices would be unduly high. Our experience, however, is very favorable. Of course, prices are above prewar estimates, but we are happily surprised that for the projects on which bids have been taken, they are not as high as was expected. I shall discuss this subject in more detail a little later in my statement.
In the alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River the project for flood control and for improvement of the Mississippi River between Cape Girardeau, Mo., and the Head of Passes is being prosecuted in accordance with the act of May 15, 1928, as amended and supplemented by subsequent flood-control acts. The total authorization for this project is $864,934,000, of which the balance remaining to be appropriated after the fiscal year 1947 is about $315,000,000. Although flood control and navigation work, throughout the United States generally, was suspended during the war emergency, the work on the main stem of the lower Mississippi River and on maintenance projects off the main stem was permitted to proceed. The Congress and the War Production Board recognized the great importance to the war effort and to the security of the Nation of continuing maintenance and main river work on this project.
With the recent removal of wartime restrictions it has been possible to resume construction off the main stem of the river and to set up work along the main river with a view to making better progress toward the completion of the adopted project. The most recent modification of the adopted project on the lower Mississippi River is that made in
the Flood Control Act of 1944, which authorizes a navigation channel 12 feet deep and 300 feet wide between Cairo, Ill., and Baton Rouge, La., and the execution in the interest of navigation and flood control of a channel improvement and stabilization program at an estimated cost of $200,000,000. . The present status and prospective progress on the lower Mississippi River project will be covered in detail by the President of the Mississippi River Commission on the day of these hearings scheduled for this project. However, there are two points that I would like to mention briefly in this statement. The first is that a reasonable rate of progress on the channel stabilization work involved in the 1944 authorization plus continuation of satisfactory progress on the construction and maintenance of features adopted prior to 1944 will require establishment of an annual program almost double that undertaken in recent years. The second matter is that there are several small projects located within the physical limits of the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River that are individually authorized under the so-called general floodcontrol legislation. It may be appropriate at this time to make these items a part of the comprehensive project for the alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River.
A few moments ago I spoke of the wisdom of Congress in providing for a large backlog of fully planned projects. It is prudent to continue the practice of having plans ready for prompt initiation of a large-scale public-works program. Our own staffs of experienced people are returning from the armed services and from other wartime activities, and our district and division offices are now better prepared than they have been for many months to pursue this planning work and also to undertake on short notice any sized public-works program desired by Congress.
Another matter which I mentioned earlier and would now like to discuss with you in greater detail has to do with the changes in costs of projects subsequent to submission of our formal survey reports and authorization of the improvements by Congress. A considerable amount of attention has been focused on this subject in recent months, and the suggestion has been made that if costs exceed project document estimates by more than a fixed percentage, the projects should be reconsidered by the legislative committees before appropriations are granted to initiate the work.
Changing costs are the result of many factors, among which are three of particular importance. One of these is the fluctuating level of prices and values in general. The present level of construction costs is at least 25 or 30 percent higher than the corresponding costs in the immediate prewar years, which was the latest period of fairly steady prices. It is impossible to forecast where price levels will be 2 or 5 years or even 6 months from now, but it is probable that they will not be materially less in the next few years. However, not only have prices of new construction risen, but increased values of property protected have paralleled rising prices of construction, thus compensating for higher costs and tending to maintain the favorable ratios of benefit to costs on which the projects were authorized.
The CHAIRMAN. There isn't an unnecessary word there. We know what has been said during the deficiency appropriation bill as well as during the pending appropriation bill with respect to the increased
costs of some of the projects, but that statement is but half of the facts. The costs have increased, but the benefits are likewise increasing. General WHEELER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Go right ahead with your statement, General. General WHEELER. Another factor influencing costs is the advances in the science and art of flood-control engineering. Flood control is a comparatively new subject, and the techniques and concepts of flood-control engineering are constantly being improved. We are learning by experience and through laboratory experimentation and research. We are sometimes able to improve plans of authorized projects so as to provide greater benefits of protection and security. Sound procedure dictates that we should build to the best of our knowledge, the most up-to-date engineering projects even though somewhat higher costs are necessary.
The third factor, namely, increased cost of projects by reason of changes in the scope of improvement, is probably the most frequent cause for exceeding original estimates. It is rare, except in the smallest local protection projects, for a project to be constructed exactly as planned in the beginning. Opportunities appear for improving or expanding the protection originally planned and almost always justify the construction of a more expensive project than originally contemplated. The Flood Control Committee and the Congress have recognized the fact that changing conditions often make plans obsolete and to avoid undue rigidity they have given the Secretary of War and the Chief of Engineers the authority to modify plans as may be found necessary or desirable. In fact the Congress has instructed the Chief of Engineers to supplement authorized surveys by such additional study or investigation as the Chief of Engineers finds necessary to take into account important changes in economic factors as they occur, and additional stream flow records, or other factual data. We recognize this latitude and directive as a great responsibility, and we administer it carefully. We make modifications only in such ways as are clearly within the purview of the established policies of Congress. For instance we believe that Congress desires that dam sites be developed to their greatest and best uses. Suitable sites for major dams are rather scarce and to commit such sites to less than their best uses would appear to be undesirable and not in the best interest of the Nation. Therefore in designing such projects we make full provision for the fullest uses, either in the initial construction or by means of suitable foundations and other adjustments so that full potential use can be added to the projects later when warranted. Such provisions inevitably cost money, and sometimes large amounts of money. However, the investments are clearly justified though returns may be deferred for several years. The increased investments are not recommended unless the returns, in our best judgment, warrant such increases.
Throughout this entire process of designing projects and estimating costs our cardinal principle is always that each project must be sound from standpoints of economic justification and general welfare. Along with our studies of costs and engineering design, we keep a sharp eye on expected benefits. I consider that we have an obligation to report back to Congress on projects that for any reason become unsound and, in effect, to ask for further instructions before undertaking construc
tion. But where projects are clearly sound and within the scope of the authorization, it is my view that Congress expects us to proceed even though cost estimates may have risen considerably.
Mr. Chairman, in conclusion may I mention, that the 1914 floodcontrol bill added a new provision which in my opinion adds considerably to the indirect, but nevertheless important, values of our program. "That act provides that our reservoir areas be used as public parks and for recreational purposes where practicable. Actually, the Secretary of War was authorized to construct, maintain and operate public park and recreational facilities in these areas under the control of the War Department and the bill provided further that the water areas should be open to the public, without charge, for boating, swimming, bathing, fishing, and other recreational purposes. This provision will make available many new recreational areas. particularly in several sections of the United States where lakes are scarce at the present time, and it provides also an excellent means of keeping the public constantly aware of the benefits of flood control.
The CHAIRMAN. General Wheeler. I am sure that I express the sentiment of this committee as I voice my personal sentiments when I say that I have been a member of this committee for many years, and I indulge in no flattery when I also say that no more constructive or comprehensive statement has ever been submitted by any Chief of Engineers to this committee than the one you have just given us.
I should like to ask you for the record at this time to give us just briefly your qualifications and experience covering from your graduation, the date of it, from the Academy, and the substance of work that you have done up to the beginning of the war, and then I will ask you about your war services for the record.
General WHEELER. Yes, sir. I graduated from the Military Academy in June 1911, and was sent with the rest of the Engineers of my class for 2 years of field work on the upper Mississippi River, lower Mississippi River, Panama Canal, Ohio River, and the Kanawha River. Thereafter I went to the Engineer School. Then I went to troop duty, including the expedition to Vera Cruz, Mexico; service in the Hawaiian Islands; and then to World War I when I went overseas with a combat-Engineer regiment. I was then on duty for 3 years as an engineer instructor at the Infantry School and had an assignment after that as Assistant Engineer Commissioner of the District of Columbia. I had district duty at Newport, R. I., which was then an engineer district, Wilmington, N. C., and Rock Island, Ill. I was resident member of the River and Harbor Board for 4 years and I graduated from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College. I was on duty with the Panama Canal just before going overseas in World War II.
The CHAIRMAN. And what were your assignments, and what theaters were you engaged in in World War II ?
General WHEELER. I went overseas in November 1941 as the Chief of the Mission to the Persian Gulf area to improve the supply lines to Russia through the Persian Gulf. When the China-Burma-India · theater was formed I became chief of supplies for General Stilwell and served in that capacity until October 1943 when the southeast Asia command was formed. I then went to that command as the principal administrative officer and later as the deputy supreme commander.
Hafter that is had district duhen, na eu, and