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I will be very glad to have your application, and see what I can do for you on this property. I am, yours very respectfully,
GERMAN BAKER, Local Correspondent. The CHAIRMAN. Is there anybody else who desires to be heard ? Mr. Kell, do you or Mr. Schneider want to make a statement?
Mr. KELL. My statement would be very short, and I would be glad to give way.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. I would like to make this statement, that, so far as I am concerned, the only question that I am concerned with in regard to the acreage that is between these set-back levees and the river is what the amount of that acreage is, and I understood from the chairman that that had been ascertained to a mathematical certainty; and, so far as I am concerned, with the statements that have been made here by these gentlemen and by Judge Driver yesterday and Judge Wilson, I have no question in my mind as to the justness or the merits of this bill, and I just say that for the mere purpose of saving the time of you gentlemen.
The CHAIRMAN. I think it is important that we should hear from the landowners throughout that country, as to their situation.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. I just make that suggestion.
Mr. Rich. Have we a description of these particular lands, separated as to the lands that are swamp lands, the wooded area, and the lands that are now available, and what the situation was prior to the building of these set-backs?
The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean, as to the land actually in cultivation ?
Mr. Rich. As to the value of any particular land.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean the acreage in cultivation, and the acreage not in cultivation ?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir; that is all covered as to the land which is unprotected and that which is protected, and the various grades of land.
The CHAIRMAN. But Mr. Rich's question was as to the acreage, as to the portion in cultivation and the portion not in cultivation.
Dr. WOLFE. I think that in making out their assessment they make out the different characters of the land, so that they have that in their record.
Mr. DEAR. Does the record show the amount of money that the Government has spent on these set-backs as compared to the amount of damage done?
The CHAIRMAN. I think that that was prepared by the State board of engineers of Louisiana, not by the Government, and I think that it gives the actual cost and that in each levee set-back that portion is measured.
Mr. Jacobs, taking the 74,000 acres involved, do you have the portion in cultivation and the portion not in cultivation ?
Mr. Jacobs. No; not as a whole.
Mr. Rich. The valuation of swampland would be a very small amount in comparison to your value of farm lands, and probably of wooded lands, and if the timber was not of any great value, the value of the wooded lands would be much less than that of the farm lands. The CHAIRMAN. Oh, yes.
Mr. Rich. It is a different classification.
Mr. JACOBS. We have the different classifications of the lands, and the assessed valuation.
Mr. Dear. But that only applies to Louisiana?
Mr. DEAR. But what I am trying to get data on is with respect to the situation from Cape Girardeau up.
Mr. JACOBS. Out of 74,000 acres taken, we have in Louisiana 65,000. The CHAIRMAN. Practically all in Louisiana.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. It seems to me—and I may be in error about this--that so far as the purpose of this committee is concerned, we are being asked to pass a law making payments for these lands which have been taken, and ascertaining the value is a matter to be determined later by the Secretary of War and others.
Mr. DEAR. "The argument that I would like to present to a colleague is how much the Government has saved by destroying our people's land. I think it would be persuasive.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. I agree with you on that point.
Mr. DEAR. But I think that we will have the general proposition when the State engineer from Louisiana testifies.
Mr. Rich. But what I would like to say to my colleague, Mr. Zimmerman, is that I think it would be a good thing if we knew what the value of these lands was before we passed the bill, and we have the engineer of the State of Louisiana here, and if we had something definite from the standpoint of the State of Louisiana, where the greatest amount of these lands is located, it would be a very wise thing, so that we could know what we are passing a bill for, because every time that I pick up one of these Government statements when they come in I see how far we are going into the red, and I wonder where we are going to get the money to pay the bills, and if we just simply close our eyes and pass bills and the deficit increases, and we do not know where the money is going to come from, the situation will not be so good. I never did that in my life, and I do not want to do it here.
The CHAIRMAN. Of course, there would be no way of knowing definitely what it will cost, but according to the estimate which was made when this bill was reported, which is practically identical with this survey made by General Brown, it would be about $4,000,000, and I think from all of the information that I can get that that is somewhere near the limit of it.
I think that maybe we could get from the State engineer the assessed value of the property, and that would be the nearest way that we could settle definitely on the value of the property.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I would like to say that I see Mr. Rich's point, and, as you probably recall, we have had at least two extensive hearings on this proposition, and I am speaking from memory, but I have in mind the cut-off opposite what they call “Davis Bend"
The CHAIRMAN. That is Wilson Point.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. At all events, in that connection, and in the case of Australia, in the territory between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and in other similar cases, including cut-offs in Mississippi, as well as in Arkansas, General Brown testified, and the district engineers testified, and they were asked as to what it cost to build the cut-off, and asked as to what it would cost to revet the property, and as to the value of the property, and that you will find in the previous hearings, where we went into details, taking examples in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, here and there along the river, and the savings were shown to be, in the aggregate, around $4,000,000.
Mr. Rich. The thought that I had in mind was that specific projects have been mentioned here, but I thought that we might have the recapitulation of it; and if we have the engineer from Louisiana
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I understand that, and, having given the recapitulation for Mississippi-and there is no guess about it; we know exactly what the valuations are, because they have been advanced in practically every case up to date, and I gave you the figures in dollars and cents.
Mr. JACOBS. We have the same thing for the State of Louisiana, a completed list from 1928 down to the present date.
The CHAIRMAN. Could you make that a part of the record at this point, a summary of how much you have saved and how much it will cost; that is, on the basis of the assessed value?
In the other hearing we had that practically complete, and it showed about $4,000,000, as Mr. Whittington said.
Mr. Schneider, do you now desire to make a statement?
STATEMENT OF F. H. SCHNEIDER, REPRESENTING LANDOWNERS
OF THE FIFTH LOUISIANA LEVEE DISTRICT
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Gentlemen, these various shaded areas on these maps give you a general idea about what land has been taken for set-back levees. That is what it means to you, gentlemen; but to me each shaded area reminds me of heart-rending incidents which have occurred in my experience in acquiring rights-of-way for those levees. At that time I was president of the levee board. I was contact man with the property owners and had to thrash out with them any differences which arose.
At this point, designated as the Duck Port set-back, I had a very trying experience. One evening as I drove along the levee, looking over the proposed location for the new levee, I stopped at the house of an old friend who was going to be seriously affected by the new levee. He immediately began talking about the location of the levee. I told him that it would throw out all of his property. He said, “My God, Schneider! All that I have is invested in this property. My land is well drained, my cabins for my tenants are in good repair, and I have a comfortable home, where my wife and I are expecting to spend the balance of our lives. What am I going to do? Can't you pay me for it?
I said that there was no way to pay for it, because we were going to take it under the law of servitude. I left him cursing and his wife crying, and I felt as mean and guilty as a dog for taking property for public benefit without paying for it. That is just one instance right there, and there are many others.
At this point, known as the “ Bayou Vidal-Elkridge levee ". I had a different kind of an experience. When we went to locate the right-of-way, and to contract for moving the houses, we were met by the son or the brother of Dr. Wolfe. He had a double-barreled sħotgun, loaded with buckshot, and he said, “ I am going to shoot the
first man that comes on the ground.” Those were not his exact words, but I am sure that the chairman would not let the words go in the record, but they were convincing enough to us not to ask him his name, or to argue with him. We backed up, and we reported the matter to the district attorney, who sent the sheriff down ihere, and the sheriff told this man, You will have to let these people build the levee, and if you don't, I will put you in jail until the levee is built ”, and he finally agreed to let us build it.
Further down, at the Kempe levee, I had a very trying experience. We went down there, and a young man lived there with his wife and three children. He had a nice farm, and he was making a living for his folks there, and raising a family. We located the levee, and it threw out all of his property.
He said, “What am I going to do? You have taken everything that I have.” We told him that there were eight or ten cabins on there that we had to move, and his home, and we asked him where he wanted to go. He said, “I have no land to put these houses on; you have taken all of my property.” That was just another instance where we robbed a man of everything that he had for the public benefit, and did not pay him for it.
Now gentlemen, you may think that I am trying to work on your sympathy, and that is exactly what I am trying to do. We do not care how we get you fellows to support this bill, whether it is by sympathy, conviction, or coercion. That does not make any difference to us, for we want these people paid for their lands.
I would like to go into detail on the subject of this one levee, the Bayou Vidal-Elkridge levee, as shown by the shaded area on this map, to show you what saving there has been to the Government, and why we feel it is so unjust that our land should be taken in building a great national project, and not have the lands paid for. I got these figures from the district engineer in charge at Natchez, Miss., Mr. D. L. White.
To build the front-line levee with a slight set-back for a better foundation, it would have cost $2,000,000, but if the levee was built it would have necessitated the building of 8 miles of revetment at a cost of two and a half million dollars, and, in addition, as set forth in Mr. White's statement, it would have cost $200,000 a year to maintain this revetment. This $200,000 a year for 30 years, which was the proposed life of this set-back levee, would have made the maintenance cost $6,000,000. It only cost $1,300,000 to build the setback levee, and, deducting this from the total cost of the front-line levee, it shows a saving of $9,200,000 on this one levee alone. With such a saving, we feel that they ought to have been paid, and our people do not understand why they should be discriminated against and why we should be required to contribute 20,000 acres of land, and all the way up to 65,000 acres in the State, for public benefit where every time they set a levee back almost invariably they save money to pay for the land that they throw out, and still have a big saving
They do not see why our Government should permit that law of servitude, handed down to us from Spain, I believe it was, to abridge and nullify our rights under the Constitution of the United States, why our land should be taken in carrying out a project like this without paying for it. It just looks like it is unreasonable, unjust, and unfair to us, and we just cannot understand it, and we plead with you gentlemen here to pass this bill, restoring our constitutional rights to us, and paying us for the land of which we were so unjustly deprived. It is just illegal robbery, and why the Government should permit I cannot see, for, as I said, they make a big saving every time they set a levee back, and it is for the benefit of the whole Nation, and not for us alone. We do not want it; we fought every set-back that they made, and we finally had to give in, because we we were told that if we did not the money that they had to spend there would go elsewhere, and that is one hammer held over our heads all the time—“ if you do not give us the right-of-way we will spend it somewhere else.” In connection with this particular levee, we would not give it to them, and finally the Major came to us and told us that if we did not give the right-of-way he would take the money over to Mississippi.
Mr. Rich (now presiding). You are on the levee board from the State of Louisiana?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. I was at that time president of the board.
Mr. Rich. When you went to these people to acquire the land for these levees, set-back levees, were you acting for the Federal Government?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. No, sir; I was acting for the levee board. We had to furnish the rights-of-way.
Mr. Rich. Then it was a matter for your State to furnish the rightof-way, rather than the Federal Government?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir; the State furnished the foundation of the levee, and the borrow pit.
Mr. Rich. According to the law under which you were working, you were acting for your own State of Louisiana, and not for the Federal Government?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. In acquiring the rights-of-way for the levee only. We did not acquire the land that was thrown out; we took it away from them.
Mr. Rich. I am thinking of where you had to move the fellow's property, and take all that he had in acquiring that land. Did the State of Louisiana ever pay that fellow?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. Not a nickle. We have a law of servitude, under which that was done.
Mr. Rich. And, in your State, you can take a man's property and do not have to pay him anything for it?
Mr. SCHNEIDER. That is it. We do not take the land that the levee is on, but we pay him for that.
Mr. Rich. That is the question that I asked.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. We pay him for the location of the levee line, maybe 500 or 1,000 feet wide, but all of the land beyond that we do not pay anything for. We move the houses out of the right-of-way, and locate them generally where the planter wants them located.
Mr. Rich. I was thinking of the instances that you spoke of when you first addressed the committee, in connection with difficulties in getting people to give up their property for the purpose of these setback levees.
Mr. SCHNEIDER. We just go in there and take the land away from them, and they do not know anything about it.