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The local people cannot dig sufficient canals to take care of the storm water because there are not sufficient outlets for the water after it has been carried to the Chicot County line, and in turn Chicot County cannot improve its condition until all of the drainage systems have been completed.
Desha County drainage canals have been greatly damaged by the floods, and we are now trying to pay the bonded indebtedness, though the works for which this money was expended have been greatly damaged.
STATEMENT OF G. C. JOHNSTON, A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF
COMMISSIONERS OF THE DERMOTT DRAINAGE DISTRICT AND VICE PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTHEAST ARKANSAS DRAINAGE PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION
Mr. JOHNSTON. My name is G. C. Johnston. I live at Dermott, Chicot County, Ark. My business is banking. I am also a member of the board of commissioners of the Dermott drainage district and am the vice president of the Southeastern Arkansas Drainage Protective Association. I am appearing before this committee in the interest of the project approved by the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, known as the Bayou Macon and Boueff River Basin drainage and flood control project of southeast Arkansas. .
The purpose of this project is to provide outlets for a system of natural streams and drainage canals for an area embracing that part of southeast Arkansas south and west of the Arkansas and Mississippi River levee system, east of Bayou Bartholomew, from near the Jefferson-Lincoln County line to the Arkansas-Louisiana State line. This watershed consists of 1,350 square miles in Chicot, Desha, Ashley, Drew, Lincoln, and Jefferson Counties. The population of the area, according to the 1940 census, was 66,000 persons. Of the total area approximately 1,300 square miles (823,000 acres) are included in organized drainage districts.
Drainage improvements in this area were started in the upper part of the watershed in 1907 and have been continued intermittently until the present date. The Drainage Census of the Bureau of the Census, of 1940, indicated that there were a total of 478,894 acres of improved land and 318,274 acres of unimproved land lying within this basin. Practically all of Desha and Chicot Counties south of the Arkansas River are involved in this basin.
This is highly fertile Mississippi River alluvial soil and when adequately drained the land has as high productive capacity as any within the Mississippi River embayment. The area has a railroad shop and classification yard at McGehee and numerous cotton gins and small industries scattered throughout; however, it is predominately an agricultural section with cotton as a major crop.
Without going into a great deal of detail with respect to the history of the efforts of local people to obtain flood control and drainage, it is important to emphasize a few of the facts in this regard. The Mississippi and Arkansas River levees were originally constructed by the southeast Arkansas levee district with some participation by the War Department prior to the passage of the Flood Control Act of May 1928,
Local interests had expended a total of $3,000,000 in their effort to complete the levee systems when the Federal Government took full charge and responsibility for the systems.
The Federal Government, in its dealing with the local interests, represented by the southeast Arkansas levee district, required the local people to provide rigths-of-way and diversion canals at their own expense. In addition to participation on the part of local people in the cost of the levee system, all of the cost of drainage heretofore has been paid for by the local people. A total of more than $5,300,000 has been spent for the present drainage system. In addition to costs for drainage, many millions of dollars have been expended by local people in the construction of highways, local roads, and improvements to the land.
One situation which is almost unique in the annuals of flood control was the effect the Jadwin plan of the War Department had on this particular area. The Jadwin plan was prepared by the Army engineers immediately following the passage in 1928 of the Flood Control Act and it provided that a floodway for the relief of the Mississippi River should be constructed from a point near Arkansas City to the Arkansas-Louisiana State line and thence through northern Louisiana. This floodway as proposed provided for a fuse-plug levee of lower height and smaller section than the standard levee design for the west side of the Mississippi River. This plan was later modified, first as the Bouef River floodway and later as the Eudora floodway, and was finally abandoned by the War Department in 1941–Public Law 228, Seventy-seventh Congress. Immediately after passage of this act the Army engineers promptly began to work on building up the fuse-plug section of the levee to the same grade and section as previously adopted for the west bank of the Mississippi River.
There existed, therefore, from the year 1928 to the year 1941, inclusive, a threat of the operation of one or the other of these floodways, During that entire period, the Congress failed to make any provision for the payment of flowage rights or otherwise compensate the landowners for the damage resulting from the designation of this area as a floodway. Therefore, a vast acreage of land was under imminent threat of flood and no landowner could obtain a fair value for his land, nor could he afford to make improvements which would be damaged in case the Government determined to use either of these established floodways.
During these 15 years, while the landowners and citizens of the area were subjected to the hezard of having a vast volume of water deliberately turned on to their property by the United States Government for the relief of the rest of the people living in the lower Mississippi flood plain, there was no opportunity or hope of building up the economy of this entire region. When the floodway project was abandoned and the fuse-plug levee was closed, World War II had begun and for the past 4 years building activities have been reduced to a minimum. Even so, several hundred miles of rural electrification lines have been installed during the past 2 or 3 years, much new land has been put into productive use, and the entire economy of the area is greatly improved.
The project which you have before you for consideration is a key to further development of this fertile section of Arkansas. Without the improvement to major drainage outlets, which this project would
provide, the people are unable to adequately drain their lands by the construction of lateral canals and farm ditches. In this regard, I speak as a member of the board of commissioners of the Dermott drainage district, which contains 73,740 acres, or about 8 percent of the land in the basin. This district in western Chicot County has expended a total of $190,000 in an effort to drain the lands of the district. There is no proper outlet for the canals which have been constructed and there is no incentive for the people to continue drainage improvements in the district. With my knowledge of the rest of the southeast Arkansas area, I believe that this statement will apply relatively to the lands of all the other districts with which I am less intimately acquainted.
It is my belief, as a banker and one who knows the attitude of the. people of this area, that our people will spend between seventy-five and one hundred million dollars within from 5 to 10 years following the completion of improvement which are recommended in the Chief Engineer's report on Bayou Macon and Bouef River. These expenditures would be for State and local roads; continued extension of rural electrification lines; new homes and farm improvements; clearing and putting into production approximately 320,000 acres of land; new farm equipment; new and enlarged school buildings and hospitals; approximately five airports; improvements to the present and new seryice establishments and retail stores; and the construction of new county courthouses, city halls, libraries, fire stations, and so forth. The project under consideration is a key to the developments which I mention above and, in my opinion, the economy will be sufficiently improved that the added income tax from the people of the district for the first few years after completion would be more than sufficient to pay the Government in full for the estimated cost of this project.
May I thank you gentlemen for your kind and sympathetic attention,
STATEMENT OF G. A. BROCK, COMMISSIONER, DRAINAGE
DISTRICT NO. 4, DESHA COUNTY, ARK. Mr. BROCK. This drainage district was organized under the general drainage laws of Arkansas, by order of the Desha County Court, in 1911. The territory of said district embraces all of Desha County which lies west of Crooked Bayou, approximately 24,000 acres. About 48 percent of said land is in cultivation. Crooked Bayou, which is the eastern boundary of the district, is also the western boundary of Cypress Creek drainage district. The district is locally known as the Black Pond district. · The flat lowlands extend to within a quarter of a mile of Crooked Bayou on the east and Bayou Bartholomew on the west, with higher land between Black Pond slough and Big Bayou slough. The general elevation is from 6 to 10 feet below the high banks of these bayous. The average fall of the land is to the south. The natural drainage channels were Big Bayou slough in the western part and Black Pond slough in the eastern part, and ditches were constructed along the course of each of these sloughs, according to plans laid out and projected by the drainage engineers of the United States Department of Agriculture, and designated on the map thereof as Black Pond drainage district. The cost of this drainage plan to the landowners amounted to approximately $296,500.
The higher portions of the district are in a high state of cultivation. The principal crops are cotton, corn, oats, and hay. Cattle raising is an important industry. McGehee is the principal city within the district, which has a population now estimated at 4,500 and is growing rapidly. This city's outlet for drainage is wholly through the Black Pond ditch of this district.
The area is served by main lines of the Missouri Pacific Railroad Co., and McGehee is an important junction point, having railroad shops. There are improved highways paralleling the railroad and from McGehee. west to Bartholomew, together with other public roads which are unsurfaced.
The ditches of this district and their outlets in Chicot County and Dermott drainage district are greatly in need of improvement, which condition is partially due to silting and washing of the 1927 flood, when the whole area was inundated from the crevasses on the Arkansas River in Desha County.
In the recommended plan for drainage improvement in southeast Arkansas the proposed work stops at the junction of Big slough and Bland Pond slough, about 4 miles below Dermott.
We urge that the plan be extended up Big Bayou slough and Black Pond slough to include the area of this district. Such extension of the proposed work will drain 30,000 acres of land and the cities of Dermott and McGehee, bringing great benefits to said lands and cities, and to approximately 12,000 people in the area, insure future development and growth, provide additional homes for people, and will promote the general welfare of the country; and we think this work could be extended from Big Bayou north through this district, along both ditches, at an additional first cost of $200,000, and will result in annual benefits of more than $50,000 to farm lands, in additions to the benefits accruing to the cities of McGehee and Dermott. This is a most favorable ratio of benefits to estimated costs, and is therefore economically sound.
STATEMENT OF HON. FAY JOYNER, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF
MCGEHEE, ARK. Mr. JOYNER. McGehee, Ark., is a city of the second class, with a population of around 4,500, and is situated in the southern part of Desha County, on United States Highways 65 and 165, and on State Highways Nos. 1 and 4, in the heart of the Delta section in southeast Arkansas. This was primarily a railroad town, and is now a division point on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. An enormous amount of freight is handled through its yards daily for points north, east, and south. But for several years McGehee has been going forward with rapid strides as an agricultural trade center. We are located in the Delta section and some of the most fertile land along the Mississippi River is located in Desha and Chicot Counties. With adequate drainage much more of these fine lands could be placed in cultivation, and the production on the lands now in cultivation could be increased 50 percent or better.
This city is built along the banks of Crooked Bayou, for a distance of some 2 miles, and for drainage we depend entirely upon the Black
Pond slough ditch (of drainage district No. 4). Crooked Bayou is connected by ditch with said district's ditch, on the south boundary of the city. Drainage district No. 4 was formed some 30 years ago, but now is wholly inadequate to carry the water. During periods of excessive rainfall, which are frequent, some of our streets are flooded to a depth of a few inches to 2 or 3 feet. And this same condition prevails on the lands adjacent to this ditch over its entire length.
Black Pond ditch merges with Big Bayou in the northern part of Chicot County and on into Boeuf River. It is my humble opinion that this drainage problem and the providing for outlets is much too large to be handled by local interests, and that there is justification for inclusion of Black Pond slough and Big Bayou slough as major drainage, in view of the benefits accruing to the cities of McGehee and Dermott and their environs, and to more than 30,000 acres of farm lands. We urge approval of the recommended plan for drainage improvement in southeast Arkansas and that it be extended to include the Black Pond slough area.
STATEMENT OF I. N. MOORE, SECRETARY OF DRAINAGE DISTRICT
NO. 5, DUMAS, ARK. Mr. MOORE. I live at Dumas, Ark., in Desha County, and have lived here for many years. Am an attorney at law, secretary of drainage district No. 5 in the Dumas area; and am now mayor of the city. When the ditches were first put in it was my understanding that ditch No. 19 was not intended to carry the water from such a large area to the north as it now does; water from above, toward Pine Bluff, was supposed to be diverted into Bayou Bartholomew, but later on ditches were opened into No. 19 of the Cypress Creek system, and we now have six or seven ditches in this area and above us emptying into No. 19. We didn't suffer from water from 19 until after ditches were opened into it, which gave us more water, and the ditch began to fill up and the water to back up. During excessive rains No. 19 overflows its banks and a large area, and instead of the ditches of district No. 5 carrying the water off, it flows up these lateral ditches and spreads over the land. In other words, canal No. 19 is not large enough to carry the water, and excessive rains will and do cause several thousand acres of land along said ditch to be overflowed.
I wish also to say that in the last 4 to 6 years about 600 families moved into those lands from the hill country of this State, trying to improve their condition in this rich land area. Some homesteaded; some bought lands; some opened up new land from the wild state; but after clearing the land and building houses, the water overflowed their lands and many moved back to the hills. That is what is happening to our country as a result of rain water mostly. That is the situation. Of course we have a malaria condition brought about by water, just like similar places.
Our people strongly favor the plan for enlargement of our drainage outlets, and will cooperate in the matter of furnishing rights-ofway and in maintaining the works after completion.