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MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLOOD CONTROL-MORGANZA
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 1938
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a. m., pursuant to adjournment on Tuesday, March 29, 1938, in the Commerce Committee room, the Capitol, Senator John H. Overton presiding.
Present: Senators Overton and Bilbo.
Senator OVERTON (presiding). The subcommittee will come to order.
I will ask Mr. Summerlin to come forward and make a statement.
STATEMENT OF J. W. SUMMERLIN, PRESIDENT, TENSAS BASIN
LEVEE DISTRICT, RAYVILLE, LA. Mr. SUMMERLIN. My name is J. W. Summerlin. I live at Rayville, La., and am president of the Tensas Basin Levee District.
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Summerlin, how long have you held the position of president of the Tensas Basin Levee District?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Since 1922.
Senator OVERTON. Were you connected with the board of commissioners of that district prior to 1922?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. I was secretary for 4 years prior to that time. Senator OVERTON. Have you had occasion to make a study of the Mississippi River in the lower valley?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir; I have made observations since my connection with the levee district, and I have closely watched the different heights of the rivers since 1887.
Senator OVERTON. Are you familiar with the levee work that has been done by your district in Louisiana and also in Arkansas?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir; we built our levees entirely in Arkansas.
Senator OVERTON. I wish you would make a statement particularly in connection with the levee work that you have done in Arkansas.
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Our levee district is one of the oldest in the State outside of the city of New Orleans. We were organized in 1886, and we have been cooperating with the southeast Arkansas-Louisiana levee district on a 50-50 basis until after the 1927 flood, when that district lost quite a lot of money in bank failures. In 1932 they went into the hands of a receiver. Senator OVERTON. What do you mean by a 50–50 basis?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Half and half, you might say, on the cost of rightsor-way, on levee construction, on ordinary maintenance, and such as that.
Senator OVERTON. Your district contributed to the construction of flood-protection works in Arkansas? Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir. Senator OVERTON. As much as Arkansas itself did? Mr. SUMMERLIN. Oh, more. Senator OVERTON. Fifty-fifty would mean matching dollars.
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Ever since that time and before we began on a 50-50 basis we were constructing almost all of the levees.
Senator OVERTON. Where did that money come from?
Senator OVERTON. The taxes were paid by the people in your district?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir; levee taxes.
Mr. SUMMERLIN. It takes in parts of eight parishes—the alluvial section of eight parishes-in northeastern Louisiana.
Senator OVERTON. It is just west of the Fifth Louisiana District? Mr. SUMMERLIN. It is just west. The dividing line between the Fifth and the Tensas Basin is Mason Ridge. Our district has about 222,000 acres in the Eudora spillway.
Senator OVERTON. Was it through your district that the proposed Boeuf floodway was to be constructed?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir.
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Since our organization our records show that we have spent more than $13,000,000 in levee construction work in the State of Arkansas. Our line begins just about 20 miles from Pine Bluff-what is called the Lincoln-Jefferson County line-and extends to the south bank of the Arkansas River, connecting with the Mississippi River levee at Cypress Creek and running thence on the west bank of the Mississippi River to the State line between Arkansas and Louisiana.
Senator OVERTON. Was that levee work done on both the Arkansas and the Mississippi or only on the Arkansas?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. On the Arkansas and on the Mississippi. The fuseplug section in that area was supposed to have been 35 miles in length, extending from Cypress Creek south to a point called Luna Landing—just aboveembracing about 35 miles, but there are 17% miles from Yancopin levee on the Arkansas River to Cypress Creek that have been left in the fuseplug height and in the 1914 grade.
At one time General Brown, during his incumbency as Chief of Engineers, promised to bring that line of levee up to the 1928 grade and section. Just before that was reached and approved, he was retired.
Recently we have asked that the lower part from Luna to Vaucluse levee, a distance of about 8 miles, be brought up to the 1928 grade and section because it was not originally in the fuseplug area.
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Summerlin, let me ask you a few questions in reference to controversial matters that have arisen in the consideration of this bill.
Have you any objection to the enactment of this bill that would separate the Morganza floodway from the Eudora floodway?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. No, sir. We are heartily in support of it. Our entire district is heartily in support of it.
Senator OVERTON. Have you any objection to having the fuseplug levee, to which you referred in your statement, built up to the 1914 grade and section?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. No, sir, we have been requesting that it be done for some time.
Senator OVERTON. As I understand it, you wish a fuseplug levee, if there is one to be there, only 35 miles in length?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes.
Senator OVERTON. The fuseplug levee is now 60 miles in length, is it not?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. About 60 miles.
Senator OVERTON. You desire the portion of the fuseplug levee both north and south of the 35-mile fuseplug proper to be built up to the 1928 grade and section?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir.
Senator OVERTON. Do you have any objection to a back protection leveee being built west of the fuseplug levee and extending from the Arkansas River down to the Louisiana line, if that back protection levee were built to the 1928 grade and section?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. No, sir. Really that would give us absolute protection in our particular district but would possibly give the lower district of Louisiana a little greater volume of water, and we do not want to damage it in order to benefit ourselves. Our district, of course, protects that district.
Senator OVERTON. Why would a back protection levee give a greater volume of water to the south of it?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Well, engineers believe that it would pile the water up somewhat from about the State line or farther below and might endanger the levees of the Fifth Louisiana District unless they were brought up to a height considerably greater than they are now.
Senator OVERTON. In cases of major floods there would be a reservoir between the fuseplug levee and the back protection levee, would there not? Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes; that would give greater space for the water
. to pass through.
Senátor OVERTON. I do not see how it will increase the stage below the reservoir.
Mr. SUMMERLIN. I do not know, but I have understood that from talking to the engineers.
Senator OVERTON. In the event a back protection levee is constructed, do you think it should be tied in with the 1928 grade levee at its south end?
Mr SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir.
Senator OVERTON. That is, it should be tied in with the Mississippi River 1928 grade levee?
Mr. SUMMERLIN. Yes, sir, at about the point shown on that map, from Yancopin to the proposed Eudora.
Senator OVERTON. Do you have any further statement to make?
STATEMENT OF STEVE BARBRE, POINTE COUPEE PARISH, LA.
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Barbre, where do you live, and what is your occupation?
Mr. BARBRE. I am a farmer and live in Pointe Coupee Parish on the Atchafalaya River.
Senator OVERTON. On what part of the Atchafalaya?
Mr. BARBRE. Barbre's Landing is where I was born and raised. I am now living at what is known as McCrea, which is 15 miles down the river from Barber's Landing. It is right at the junction of the Red, Old, and Atchafalaya Rivers. They call it Three Rivers, now. It is at the head of the Atchafalaya River. That is where the Government gage is kept and has been kept for years and years.
Senator OVERTON. Are you connected with any levee board?
Mr. BARBRE. No, sir. I was a member of the Louisiana flood control body at one time until that body was dissolved.
Senator OVERTON. Have you had occasion to give consideration to the flood-control problems in the Atchafalaya Basin and on the Mississippi?
Mr. BARBRE. Yes, sir, all my life. I have lived right there on the Atchafalaya River all my life, and since I was a child I have been studying it. The prophesies I have made concerning this river and statements I made 25 or 30 years ago have been borne out.
Senator OVERTON. We have before us a bill the object of which is to separate the Morganza from the Eudora. Have you any objection to the enactment of that bill?
Mr. BARBRE. None whatsoever; we are wholeheartedly in favor of it. The only kick that has ever been raised at all in there was raised by me. That was that 49-foot Angola stage. That was on account of counter-drainage in the ring levee.
Senator OVERTON. It has been suggested that the bill be amended so as to leave it to the discretion of the engineers to determine what the intake should be in the Morganza floodway. Have you any objection to that?
Mr. BARBRE. Not a bilt in the world. Having heard Brigadier General Ferguson testify here, I feel he has given us the best plan for flood control that we have ever had.
Senator OVERTON. You may proceed with your statement, Mr. Barbary.
Mr. BARBRE. Well, the statement that I want to make, Senator, is this: We live in what is known as a ring levee up there. As you were told yesterday, its population is about twelve hundred farm families, and I am among them.
Under the old Jadwin plan we were promised the 1914 grade and section of our levees. General Jadwin really condemned our land. He thought we ought to give up those lands for nothing. We were then in what is known as the East Atchafalaya floodway. We asked for a hearing before General Jadwin and the Mississippi River Commission, which was held at Smithland.
We left there with the impression that General Jadwin thought that we should be highly elated because he was going to flow this water over us. He said he was not going to pay us anything because these waters would only come every 15 years and a superflood once every 200 years. He could not see how it would damage us any but thought it was going to do us plenty of good. We could not see it that way.