Page images
PDF
EPUB

and resulted in long drawn-out litigation such as that in the Boeuf Basin, known as the Kincaid case; that in the Bonne Carre spillway; that in the New Madrid floodway; and that in the Atchafalaya Basin-thus delaying construction with the results of the experiments conducted at the hydraulic laboratory at Vicksburg, proved that the 1928 act had to be amended; and

Whereas in 1935 the Chief of Engineers submitted to the Committee on Flood Control a report recommending certain changes in the Flood Control Act of 1928, and this report was chiefly responsible for the passage of an amendment in 1936 known as the Overton amendment to the Flood Control Act of 1928; and

Whereas this amendment provided for engineering changes in the original act, the chief of which were the substitution of the Eudora floodway for the Boeuf floodway, the Morganza floodway for the East Atchafalaya floodway, and the addition of the Charenton Outlet project-and, further provided that before any work could be done in either the Morganza or Eudora floodways, satisfactory options on 75 percent of the values of easements in both floodways must be obtained by the United States; and

Whereas after almost 2 years of elapsed time, it was reported by the Government engineers that they have acquired satisfactory options for 90 percent of the value of the easements for the area in the Morganza floodway and only 25 percent in the Eudora floodway, of which latter, probably half of that acquired will not be acceptable; and

Whereas a feeling of genuine alarm now prevails because of the failure to commence work upon the desperately needed Morganza project, in spite of the fact that an additional $272,000,000 was authorized for the purpose of carrying forward, in a period of 6 years, this project and the others concerned; and

Whereas the State of Louisiana requests that the Morganza floodway be constructed without further delay and recommends that the pending Overton amendment be modified by Congress to permit the Government engineers to use their discretion in the revision of plans of the Morganza floodway in such way as to additionally lower flood heights and to be extremely beneficial to the State of Mississippi, as well as to the State of Louisiana; and

Whereas it is known to the Federal engineers in charge, as well as to State engineers in both Mississippi and Louisiana, that unless the Morganza project is immediately constructed, that a great loss of lives and property will occur upon the occasion of the next major flood in the alluvial valley; and

Whereas in view of existing conditions meetings with large and representative attendances were held in Louisiana and in Washington by the Louisiana Flood Control Association, the Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association, and the National Rivers and Harbors Congress, which meetings endorsed, without equivocation, expressions of the pressing necessity and vital importance of immediate construction of the Morganza floodway, and prevailed upon Senator Overton to introduce the following amendment:

(S. 3354, 75th Cong., 3d sess.)

"A BILL To amend the act entitled 'An Act to amend the Act entitled “An Act for the control of floods

on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and for other purposes" approved May 15, 1928', approved June 15, 1936

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Act entitled 'An Act to amend the Act entitled "An act for the control of Hoods on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and for other purposes,” approved May 15, 1928,' approved June 15, 1936, is hereby amended so that the construction of the Morganza floodway is authorized to be undertaken as soon as options at reasonable prices on 75 percent of the value of the lands, easements, and rights-of-way (as estimated by the Chief of Engineers) for that floodway along have been acquired; provided, that the total of such options is not greater than $1,500,000.00”; and

Whereas the President of the United States, in his message to the Congress on March 10, has said:

“Our knowledge of the Nation's water resources and our ideas on their best use and control change rapidly in the light of new investigations and of dynamic economic conditions. Water plans should be flexible. The history of floodcontrol plans for the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River affords many examples of plans once considered comprehensive, which soon were replaced by others. Water plans should be revised annually."

Therefore, be it resolved, That the State of Louisiana, with the support of Hon. Richard W. Leche, Governor thercof; Hon. Robert S. Maestri, mayor of the city of New Orleans; the presidents and commissioners of the 21 Louisiana levee districts, presidents, and members of police juries of the 41 parishes affected, the chambers of commerce of New Orleans, Alexandria, Shreveport, Monroe, Baton Rouge, and all towns within the State, together with State, parish, and municpal officers, and civic organizations, does hereby petition Congress and the President of the United States for support in securing, without further delay, the enactment into law of the amendment S. 3354, introduced by Senator John II. Overton on January 5, 1938; and that it be further amended so as to permit the United States engineers to make such modification in the design of the Morganza spillway as the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army may deem necessary; and, that the position of the State of Louisiana be properly presented to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the l'nited States Congress, and they be each individually urged to inquire with open mind into the facts in regard to the advantage and necessity of the passage of said amendment; and, that the position of the State of Louisiana, and the justice of such position, in reference to the passing of such amendment be brought to the attention of the President of the United States.

JAMES L. MCCARTHY,

Secretary of Meeting. 1 hereby certify that the above is a true and correct copy of a resolution unanimously adopted at a meeting held the State Capitol at Baton Rouge, La., on March 17, 1938, of levee board members, parish, and municipal officials, members of civic and commercial organizations, and other interested citizens, pursuant to telegraphic call issued by Gov. Richard W. Leche under date of March 14, 1938.

JAMES L. McCARTHY,

Secretary of Meeting. Governor LECHE. We have with us Mayor Robert S. Maestri, of the city of New Orleans. Both Mayor Maestri and I feel that the argument on this matter should more properly come from our engineers and those who are in close contact with this situation. At this time I ask permission of the committee to offer and file for the record the written statement of Mayor Maestri of the city of New Orleans.

Senator SHEPPARD. That permission is granted.
(The letter of Robert S. Maestri is as follows:

CITY OF NEW ORLEANS,
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR,

March 25, 1938.
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FLOOD CONTROL,
SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE,

Washington, D. C. GENTLEMEN: I ask the privilege of having recorded at this hearing the position of the city of New Orleans with regard to the proposed Overton amendment to the Flood Control Act, a position which can be summarized very briefly in the statement that we appeal to the Congress to pass this amendment and untie the hands of the United States engineers so that they may proceed without delay in the construction of the Morganza floodway in line with a policy their judgment has convinced them is proper, practical, and equitable.

In taking this position, the city of New Orleans feels sincerely that its attitude is largely an unselfish one, but one, nevertheless, that is dictated by what it considers a solemn obligation:

1. To emphasize with every means at its command the vital interest which a great section of the State of Louisiana has in the building of these floodworks as well as the justice and the equity which underlie its request that the construction of the Morganza floodway go forward without delay.

2. To publicly support the position taken by the United States Engineers favoring the plan of proceeding without delay with the Morganza floodway because the experience of the city of New Orleans in connection with its own flood-control problems has convinced us that, without question, their judgment is sound and entitled to consideration above any technicalities of procedure in dealing with an undertaking that means as much to a large portion of the Mississippi Valley as does this one.

In assuming this position in the controversy which has arisen and which the Overton amendment to the Flood Control Act seeks to straighten out, the city of New Orleans is convinced that there is nothing in its attitude or in the amend

ment itself which jeopardizes the interest of our good friends in Mississippi. As a matter of fact, it is our belief that it is to the advantage of Mississippi in many ways to have the Morganza Floodway constructed as quickly as possible.

This statement is made because the controversy between Louisiana and Mississippi interests on this point involves no vital or important change in the floodcontrol plan already adopted and agreed to by the State of Mississippi.

The differences have developed simply because of a proposed modification in the order in which work is to be undertaken in the Morganza and Eudora floodways. The Flood Control Act stipulates that no work is to be undertaken in either floodway until options on 75 percent of the rights-of-way and of the flowage rights have been obtained in each of the floodways--and while this requirement has been fully met in the instance of the Morganza

floodway, some delay and difficulty is being encountered in the instance of the Eudora floodway.

The obstacles that are responsible for this delay are not necessarily insurmountable. The situation requires perhaps adjustments to be made between the landowners and the Government.

The working out of a satisfactory basis of agreement may take a longer period of time than was originally contemplated within which to obtain the necessary options.

In the meantime it certainly does not appear to be the correct thing to do, to halt the prosecution of this great project until these differences are ironed outyet that, in effect, is what the objectors to the proposed amendment will do by invoking a technicality of the law.

If this amendment is passed and work is begun on the Morganza floodway, no harm can come thereby to the State of Mississippi, but a great good can be accomplished for the State of Louisiana. The Morganza floodway will afford an auxiliary channel to the Gulf for the quick removal of excess flood waters for all that portion of the river south of Natchez. As a result, Mississippi itself will share in the benefits to be obtained, although admittedly not to the same extent as Louisiana.

Even if judged merely from the practical, common-sense standpoint of successfully carrying out a great flood relief undertaking, the immediate construction of the Morganza floodway would seem to be, without question, the logical and proper course to pursue.

But there are other factors which must be taken into very serious consideration.

One of these is the lives, the safety, and the economic security of the people of a great section of the State of Louisiana who in the past have known the shattered lives, the broken homes, the financial ruin, and the frightful devastation of the floods that have swept in upon them from that dangerous stretch of the river, a situation from which they are looking for protection through the construction of the Morganza floodway.

It is a section that has long been held back in the march of progress by the threat of floods and one that cannot go forward as it should until that menace has for once and always been disposed of.

Certainly from the standpoint of both logic and justice, it does not seem proper to permit technicalities of procedure to interfere with a work project which is so vital to the welfare and the progress of a great section of a State which is called upon to bear the burden of the waters that pour down upon it from other areas, and which asks for, in a way of protection, only that to which those who are in the best position to judge admit it is entitled.

There are other angles to be considered also.

I understand that some 20 million dollars of flood-control work will be tied up unless this amendment passes. This is not a time to have money tied up which should be used in carrying on important public work.

Besides, there is an old saying, “Delays are dangerous.” It applies particularly well to flood-control work because the period between great floods is not a fixed or known period. It may be 10 years, it may be 5 years, and it may be as little as 2 years. Advantage must be taken of every day in such period to hasten completion of those important projects which promise effective safeguards against the recurrence of flood disasters.

Therefore, we urge Congress to pass the Overton amendment to the Flood Control Act and unshackle the hands of the United States engineers so that they may proceed as they desire to do and finish this vital undertaking quickly and without interruption, thereby giving to the great parish sections of Louisiana the protection and safety to which, under every consideration, they admittedly are entitled. Respectfully submitted.

ROBERT S. MAESTRI, Mayor.

Governor LECHE. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, Senator Overton has so admirably stated the case that I think it is useless for me to go into any lengthy discussion and argument, inasmuch as our engineers and the witnesses whom we have here will cover the matter in detail.

As we understand the situation, it is simply this: In order to facilitate the emptying of the Mississippi River during floods and flood seasons, engineers have devised certain floodways. In the State of Louisiana two floodways are provided, the Morganza floodway and the Eudora floodway. Under the law those floodways are tied together to the extent that neither one of them may be constructed until options on a certain percentage of the land in each of the floodways are obtained.

Those floodways take within their borders thousands of acres of what is perhaps the most fertile land in the world. Naturally, the State of Louisiana does not want to relinquish from the tax rolls of the State or deprive its citizens of any more of that land than is absolutely necessary. We are here neither to condemn the Eudora nor the Morganza floodway nor to prefer one or the other.

We understand that there is no engineering question involved and that there is no financial question involved in the separation of these floodways. The construction of any project or any floodway that helps to take any of the water out of the Mississippi Valley renders a service to all areas that are affected by the Mississippi River.

As Senator Overton has stated, and to use a common expression, everything is ready to shoot on the Morganza floodway. I understant that 90 percent of the flowage rights have been obtained and that some of the guide line levees are already constructed, and if the signal is given by this committee and by Congress, by means of the passage of Senator Overton's bill, that floodway can proceed at once.

This does not mean that the Eudora floodway will not be built; it simply means that the Morganza floodway will be built as quickly as possible and will thereby give relief to that extent. If the Èudora floodway is desirable, if it is engineeringly and financially feasible, and if it can stand on its own bottom, then there is no sound reason why it should be tacked onto the coat tails of the Morganza floodway. That tie should be severed. The Morganza floodway, which is ready to proceed, should be started at once, and if the Eudora floodway in the opinion of the Army engineers and in the opinion of the Congress of the United States is necessary and feasible, then there is no logical reason why the two should be tied up.

Mr. Chairman, I repeat: It has been a pleasure to appear before this committee, and I appreciate the attention which you have given. I am now going to turn our part of the meeting over to our engineers and the witnesses who have come up with us for this purpose.

Senator BILBO. If you and the good people of Louisiana are not opposed to the construction of the Eudora floodway, in what way will this legislation affect the tax rolls?

Governor LECHE. To this extent: If you get a job for 1 month, you get a certain amount of money; if the job lasts 6 months, you get six times as much money. If the Eudora floodway is to be delayed in the obtaining of these options, the land remains on the tax rolls of the State that much longer, and that much more revenue comes into the treasury of the State.

Senator Bilbo. It is then to your interest to delay it as much as possible from the standpoint of taxes?

Governor LECHE. If it affects the taxes of the State of Louisiana, I favor delaying it as long as possible. [Laughter.]

Senator MILLER. Mr. Chairman, with your permission I should like to ask the Governor a few questions.

Senator SHEPPARD. Certainly, Senator Miller.

Senator MILLER. The Eudora floodway proper starts, as I understand it, north of the Arkansas River. Here is the State line [indicating].

Governor LECHE. Yes, sir.

Senator MILLER. Nearly 800,000 acres in Louisiana are contained between these levees here [indicating]

Senator OVERTON (interposing). A little over 600,000.

Senator MILLER (continuing). And 195,000 acres from the Louisiana State line north to the Arknasas River, as I understand it. Then, down here is the Morganza, below the mouth of the Red River [indicating].

Governor LECHE. Yes.

Senator MILLER. Under the law, as you have well said, the two floodways are tied together, but it appears to be impossible to obtain or make much progress in obtaining options on the Eudora in your State, does it not?

Governor LECHE. Yes.

Senator MILLER. As a matter of fact, Governor Leche, you men have canvassed the situation, know the sentiment of the people and the landowners, and know as a matter of fact that it will probably be utterly impossible to obtain options on this unless you resort to condemnation in Louisiana, do you not?

Governor LECHE. Well, I would not say that, Senator.

Senator MILLER. I mean options on flowage rights at a reasonable figure. Governor LECHE. It may be necessary to resort to condemnation, Senator MILLER. That is, if the Eudora is built through Louisiana? Governor LECHE. Yes.

Senator MILLER. That is really the situation that has arisen down there. There is not any desire on the part of anybody to stop this construction except on the part of some people who just simply do not want to give up their flowage rights, thinking that probably it will not be necessary.

Governor LECHE. Naturally, Senator, there are people who live within the confines of the Eudora floodway who have lived there for years and years and whose fathers and forefathers lived there before them. They have cleared the wilderness and have fertile farms in there. Naturally, they do not want to be uprooted unless they get a proper price for their property; and some of them do not even want to move if a reasonable price is offered. That is perfectly natural and human.

Senator MILLER. Yes. There is no doubt that the Morganza would serve a useful purpose after the water got down here [indicating) and in taking care of the Red River water. However, the problem which we will be interested in later is getting the water down here. Arkansas, you know, is right under the gun.

« PreviousContinue »