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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 there, 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.
Mr. RICH. You ought to have some better laws down there. Mr. DEAR. We have to protect ourselves against the floods. Mr. SCHNEIDER. In every other State of the Union they are protected by the Constitution of the United States, but we are not. We are the only State in the Union, we think, whose people are not protected by the Constitution of the United States; and, not only that, but they just take our constitutional rights away from us, and, like I said before, we are Spanish citizens when it comes to taking lands away from us, but if we commit a crime, then they put us in jail just like any other 100 percent American citizens.
Mr. RICH. On the instructions of our chairman, when you conclude your discussion, we will adjourn until this afternoon at 2:30. Mr. SCHNEIDER. If you gentlemen have no questions, I am through.. (Thereupon, at 11:45 a. m., a recess was taken until 2:30 p. m., at which time another recess was taken until 10:30 o'clock Wednesday morning, May 1, 1935).
SET-BACK LEVEES ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 1935
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C.
The committee met at 10:30 a. m., Hon. Riley J. Wilson (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. This will be Pennsylvania day, but Mr. Rich has been kind enough to agree with me that Mr. Jacobs might conclude his statement relative to H. R. 7349. He has certain data that we believe would be very valuable that he wanted to submit to the committee.
Mr. MORGAN. Mr. Chairman, I should like to have a few moments to speak on this at the convenience of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Morgan, at the close of the hearing on this Pennsylvania matter, you will be given an opportunity to be heard. Mr. MORGAN. Thank you. At the close of the Pennsylvania hearing?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. These people have come here under a special agreement made a week ago, so they should be given an opportunity to be heard first. However, we are willing to give you some time after they have concluded.
Mr. MORGAN. Thank you, sir.
STATEMENT OF HARRY JACOBS, ASSOCIATE ENGINEER, STATE BOARD OF ENGINEERS OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
Mr. JACOBS. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, supplementing my remarks of the other day, I would like to call the committee's attention to a levee that was built in 1931 and 1932 by the Government as one example that stands out in the State of Louisiana and refer to it as to the way in which it was built, why it was built, and the result of it, and the condition existing today. The map here before you shows the river in gray, as it is flowing through today. In 1928 when the Flood Control Act was passed, the river at that time went around this bend I am pointing to [indicating], and came back to the east and circled around [indicating], and came on south. However, at the same time, there was a certain flow through Lake Palmira, and on old arm of the river. In the flood of 1928, realizing the condition on the existing levee around the Lake Palmira section, I appeared before the commission and the district engineer and requested that they build a low-water dam at the head of Lake Palmira in order to prevent any scouring from the river
going into the lake, which had it been filled would have resulted in the lake silting up and closing itself off completely. That levee was built as shown on Bayou Vidal, flooding out about 20,000 acres of fine land in there. Before the levee was put under contract, the Government had requested a right-of-way for this seepage known as the "upper section on the Bayou Vidal. They requested the levee board to furnish them additional right-of-way to proceed with their work, making three allocations on this, one of which was to change the existing levee, another one called "B", about 1,000 feet back, and another called "C", about a mile and a half back, and then finally a round line was run around this bayou bank, which is over high land. The difference in elevation in the ground on the bayou bank and that above the two lines between is anywhere between 6 feet and 10 feet, thereby showing that if they constructed that part of the allocation of the levee on the high ground it would very much reduce the levee cost to the Government.
The district engineer requested the levee board to furnish rightsof-way on the back lane, and that held the work up for some 6 or 8 months. We requested, at the same time, that they build it on the front lane, but we were told by the president of the Mississippi River Commission that the money was there to be put under contract and unless we took advantage of it that they would be forced to take that money and spend it over in the State of Mississippi, thereby forcing the levee board to furnish the rights-of-way as they wanted them. There is absolutely no question about bank revetment that entered into this question. The reason for those big set-backs was because of the caving of the banks, and that is the cause in many cases, although in some it is not. However, I can point out to you that of over 1,000 new levees built in the State of Louisiana since 1928 that there are a great many of them where the question of revetment never entered into the picture in any way whatever. The custom under the Flood Control Act of 1928 was to make an allocation of the levee based on a 30-year life of the levee. This levee here has a 150- or a 200-year life. The reason it was located there was because it made for cheaper construction, cheaper for the Government, and they saved money. The result of all of this is that the levee board has been bankrupt and they have not the money to pay these people for the lands they have thrown out. The old levee line existing at that time, which had been built by this levee board, took this on a location approved by the Federal engineers under the 1928 act based on the 1914 grade.
There is no case on the Mississippi River which is any more outstanding than this one as an example of affording a saving to the Government. Judge Driver pointed out the other day a point that is similar to this. In other words, I am trying to show you that this is a case whereby they have actually saved money at the cost of the property owner. The property owner has not been paid, and the levee board is bankrupt and cannot make the payment today. Mr. RICH. May I ask you a question at that point?
Mr. JACOBS. Yes, sir.
Mr. RICH. As stated by the gentleman yesterday, on account of the rains, water was withheld between the two levees as now constructed. Would it be possible to reduce the amount of damage if underground piping were put into the set-back levee in order to