« PreviousContinue »
if it was necessary, for they could not possibly pay a tax, and I know of instance after instance where that is so.
In my own particular case, it has been a hard task for me to keep up the tax and hold on to my property, but my brother put in about 20 years of hard work developing that and improving it, and I would be a quitter if I let go of it now.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. Do you realize that section 7 of the Flood Control Act was written for that very reason, that the landowners were no longer able to repair these levees, and so that was placed into the law, compelling the Government to step in and do that because the landowners were already so burdened that they could not possibly do it.
Dr. WOLFE. Yes; that is true.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. Is that right, Mr. Wilson?
Mr. RICH. I understood you to say, as to the drainage from that area, that previous to building the set-back, the water flowed into another river, and did not go back into the Mississippi River?
Dr. WOLFE. No; the land is drained to the west. The river is on the east.
Mr. RICH. Do you have any drainage under the set-back levees at the present time?
Dr. WOLFE. No.
Mr. RICH. Would not that be the practical thing to do, since I understand you to say that there is no overflow from the levees in the river, and if you could have a drainage from under the set-back: levees, then your lands would be free from water at the present time.
Dr. WOLFE. It would help us.
Mr. RICH. Has that ever been suggested to the Army engineers, to create that condition for you?
Dr. WOLFE. We have never been able to get an expression of any kind from them.
Mr. RICH. At the present time, and I understood you to say that for a number of years, you have not had any overflow from the levees along the river.
Dr. WOLFE. Never had any.
Mr. RICH. Now, they built the set-back levees, and they seem to keep the water on your property from the storms and rains? Dr. WOLFE. Yes, sir.
Mr. RICH. Would it not be a feasible project for the Army to place under the set-back levee a drain, so that that whole area would drain, and then your property would be as good now as it ever was, because of the fact that you would get drainage.
Dr. WOLFE. Of course, that would help us if we got drainage in that way, just to that extent.
Mr. RICH. I do not know the situation, but from the statements that were made, it seems to me that that would be a sensible thing to do, and a feasible proposition.
The CHAIRMAN. There is one point that Mr. Rich overlooked, because, in setting this levee back, the old levee will be abandoned by the Government, and that leaves all of this property between the new levee and the river.
Dr. WOLFE. Yes.
Mr. RICH. That is liable to happen if the Government ever does give up that levee, but the fact is that it never has happened up to this time.
The CHAIRMAN. That has just been back there for a few years, and when they do establish this set-back levee, they will leave the old levee.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Have you been compensated for the rights-ofway for the levee itself?
Dr. WOLFE. I have.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. But you have not been compensated for the property between the new levee, built in the last 3 or 4 years, and the old levee?
Dr. WOLFE. No, sir.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Of course, as you know, there is no drainage under any levees along the main line of the Mississippi River. That would absolutely destroy the protection for the area to the left of your property, if you had that sort of drainage, as it would destroy other property protected by those levees.
Now, with the pointer, will you indicate on the map there the main channel of the river at the present time?
Dr. WOLFE. It is right there [indicating].
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Is that a cut-off that comes around, apparently close to the old levee?
Dr. WOLFE. The water comes around here [indicating], and the fact that they could not maintain this old levee was the reason for building the new one.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. That is not the main channel at the present time, is it? That is merely a cut-off where the water comes through when it overflows that isle?
Dr. WOLFE. I understand that this is 60 feet deep.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. So the white space is an island at the present time?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes. The reason that they went around here on this high land is because they thought that it was safe to build a levee there.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. What is the location of your property? It is near what town?
Dr. WOLFE. There is a small town called " Quimby Station " practically on the property.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. How far from Newellton?
Dr. WOLFE. Eight miles north.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. What is the location at that point called? What do you call that levee?
Mr. ADAMS. Somerset.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. You call it the Somerset cut-off?
Mr. ADAMS. That is the plantation, but the levee is known as Bayou Vidal-Elkridge.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Where is your residence? Where do you live? Dr. WOLFE. In about this locality [indicating on map].
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Where is your brother's residence?
Dr. WOLFE. That is the same place.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. But you live in Iowa?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. And you have owned this property for 30 years, and your brother has occupied it?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes. My brother is now dead, but he lived on thisproperty.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions?
If not, we will call on Mr. Bland.
STATEMENT OF GEORGE D. BLAND
Mr. BLAND. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I be-lieve that Dr. Wolfe has just about covered almost everything that I can say, except about the location.
I am going to ask Mr. Adams to help me locate my spot on this map. I am not very good on maps.
(The spot in question was at this point located on the map by Mr. Adams.)
Mr. BLAND. Now, except for throwing our property out, the new levee does not enter into it at all. We are about a mile and a half out toward the Mississippi River from the new levee. It is clear back from us. They did not use any part of ours for the right-ofway at all.
This particular property of ours has been in the hands of my family for over 100 years, and a large family has been reared and educated on that property. I was born and reared right on that farm there, except for the time that I was away at school, and I was. born in that house and have continued to live in it for 53 years.
Now, it has been said that the property was not destroyed, and that we still had our property. I have here a letter from the Federal land bank. We made an application for a loan in 1928, just before the levee was started, and our property was inspected by twoFederal land-bank representatives, and the loan was approved-just a small loan on the property, which they put a value at that time on of $26,550.
Just about that time we lost our mother, and the family delayed a little in getting the necessary papers signed to complete this loan, and finally, when the papers were returned, the property had to be reinspected, and there were 2 or 3 months that lapsed, and when the property was reinspected they turned the loan down-would not. make any loan at all.
In making this application, which was only for $2,800, I asked the inspectors why it was that they were making such a rigid inspection just to make a small loan like that, and one of them said that he was going to answer that with a question, which was, "Why is it that you are asking for such a small loan as $2,800 when we could just as easily lend you $12,000?"
I have another letter here from them, at a later date, for we understood then that they could make loans on such lands as were thrown out up to $7,500. So we took the matter up with them, but they absolutely refused to loan a dime.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. Would you mind putting that letter in the record?
Mr. BLAND. I will do so.
(The letter referred to is as follows:)
FEDERAL LAND BANK OF NEW ORLEANS,
In re Consolidated application no. 33770, Tensas Parish, La.
Mr. GEORGE D. BLAND ET AL.,
Point Pleasant, La.
DEAR SIR: Your joint application for a loan of $2,800 on 810 acres of land located in Tensas Parish, La., has been carefully considered.
From an examination of the information submitted in connection with your application, it appears that the property offered as security is outside of the main Mississippi levee system, between the old and new levees, thereby making the drainage and overflow conditions of such a hazardous nature that it would seem inadvisable to consider this application for a loan. It is not the policy of this bank to make loans where all of the property offered as security lies outside of the main levee system, and in view of this situation, your application is being declined.
You are assured that your application has received every consideration and it is regretted that the bank is not in a position to render you the assistance that you desire under these conditions.
Yours very truly,
SECRETARY'S DEPARTMENT LOAN DIVISION,
Mr. BLAND. Now, there was a gentleman here-I believe that he has moved since-who asked a question about drainage. It would be possible, I suppose, to put drains in the new levee; but I do not believe that the Government, spending this large amount of money to build the new levee and in maintaining the old levee, would attempt any such hazard as that.
We are in the midst of a huge cofferdam. In 1924, I believe, the levee board gave me a contract to build a small cofferdam; and in the overflow of 1927 this cofferdam was built to choke some sandboards that they had there that were a source of annoyance to everybody; and we thought that the sandboards might break a levee; and after it was built, the seepage in there rose to such an extent inside the cofferdam that it became necessary to make a levee in there to keep the cofferdam from breaking.
Now, we are in the same position that that cofferdam was in, except on a larger scale. As the Mississippi rises, if it gets to any stage of the river as high as 1916, 1922, or 1927, over half of the land between those levees would be covered with water, and we feel that our property has been totally destroyed.
In addition to my own property in this same area, there is property owned there by a neighbor of mine, Mr. Hogue, which was recently destroyed in a cyclone; and his property has been turned over to a young son, and, of course, this land is mortgaged. It has no sale value or loan value, and if they have to continue that in its present condition they are going to lose that also.
I am using names, because they are the names of friends of mine. Mr. Ratcliffe, who lives on a property that he bought from his people's family, has something like 1,000 acres there that he has lived on for a number of years. He had a pretty good idea as to the earning capacity, or earning power, of that property, and he bought it from them at a price of $50 per acre. That included the protected area and the land outside of the levee, which made the protected land cost him $75 an acre. He has lost, however, two-thirds of his open land; and had it not been for a close friend he would not have
been able to carry that, because he made application to the Staple Growers Association, and they turned him down because so much of his land was on the outside and not protected, and they did not feel that he had security enough, and also to the Delta Discount Corporation; and, as I said, if it had not been for this close friend he would have had to walk off and leave it.
I believe that that covers about what I want to say. any questions, I will be glad to answer them.
If there are
The CHAIRMAN. Are those distressing situations that you have described as to those landowners, their losses, and misfortunes caused by the Government setting hack this levee and throwing their land between that new levee and the river?
Mr. BLAND. Absolutely.
Mr. RICH. Are you living on this property now?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir; I have lived on it for over 53 years.
Mr. RICH. Do you farm it?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. RICH. Do you get pretty good crops from it at the present time?
Mr. BLAND. Since the new levee has been built we have been very fortunate in not having big overflows, and we have only lost our lowlands. The ridge lands I have been able to cultivate.
Mr. RICH. You say that you are unable to get loans from any bank because of the fact that this levee has been built there?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. RICH. And I also understood you to say that since they built the set-back, the property has been totally destroyed?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions?
Mr. DEAR. Did the Government build that set-back levee because it was impossible to maintain a levee on the main stem where the old levee stood, or was it because of an economic reason? Could they build it cheaper where they did build it, or what was the reason?
Mr. BLAND. I believe that you have hit the question. There was a big saving of money. I think that they built this new levee for about, possibly, a third of the cost of enlarging and maintaining the old levee.
Is not that right, Mr. Adams?
Mr. ADAMS. Yes.
Mr. DEAR. Do you know about how much money was saved by building the levee where they did build it?
Mr. BLAND. In round figures, how much was it?
Mr. ADAMS. About a million and a half dollars.
Mr. DEAR. The Government saved a million and a half dollars and destroyed how much?
Mr. BLAND. How much acreage, do you mean?
Mr. DEAR. No; but in value, how much property was destroyed by it?
Mr. ADAMS. Nineteen thousand five hundred acres.
Mr. BLAND. And we do not know what the value is going to be.
Mr. CARLSON. What is the assessed valuation of land now, approximately?