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There are other instances similar to the one I have mentioned, where there are landowners and farmers who have come in from other States in the Union and bought that property.
Under the act, I do not see how there is any legal construction to the effect that the local interests should pay for it. They have had to pay for the levee foundations, and since the passage of the act they have spent $41,000,000 for that purpose.
It is a matter for Congress to determine, in the construction of the act, whether these people are to lose their property and homes, or whether we will pass legislation giving them compensation.
We have some of the landowners here.
Mr. DRIVER. I have conditions in my district that you are familiar with.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. I would like to ask the chairman one or two questions.
Judge Wilson, the Government made these changes on its own initiative; that is right, is it not?
The CHAIRMAN. As to where the levee line should be?
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. As to the men back of the levee, it means that they are subject, from experience, to an overflow at least in 2 out of 5
The CHAIRMAN. That is the general estimate--that in 2 out of 5 years the river would get high enough to flood the lands.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. They are placed in the same position as a man who lives along the Mississippi and has no levee protection against floods?
The CHAIRMAN. In some instances their condition is a little better than that, because the old levee in some places is still there. But as the bank caves away the old levee line will go out.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. If you are below the line, you are without any levee protection.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes; and that man's property has been taken for that type of construction. I do not dispute the engineering features of it at all, but whatever the obligations are they should be discharged, and these people should either be protected or paid for the land.
Mr. MCCLELLAN. In reality, it has been the taking of private property for public use?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. McCLELLAN. It amounts to that; and now the Government is taking property and destroying the protection it formerly had in order to economize in the building of the system for flood control.
The CHAIRMAN. In the execution of the Federal project, it was acknowledged to be a Federal obligation in the act under which that was done.
Mr. CARLSON. You have said that this amounts to a total of about $4,000,000. This bill says " may be acquired." It is not definite as to what it may be in the future. Is that the theory of the bill?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes; because there might be some change in the levee line in the meantime.
Mr. Carlson. This bill, if enacted, is legislation that would be permanent, and the Federal Government would be required to pay
for these particular parcels of land that might be taken in the future; is not that it?
The CHAIRMAN. Where they set back and change the levee line and put the homes and farms between the old levee line and the Mississippi River. But the work is practically completed on what they term the 30-year basis.
They did this to get permanent locations.
For instance, take the land in which Dr. Wolf, of Iowa, is interested. He will probably explain that to you.
Say you go back 15 miles and make the levee permanent, you leave his plantation out between that and the river, and the Government fixes it on a more permanent basis.
Mr. Rich. If we were to pass a bill of this kind, would there be a probability of people who live along the river desiring to keep the set-backs as far from the river as possible, and if so, might not this bill create a sentiment to have the set-backs as far away from the river as possible so the Government will buy the land!
The CHAIRMAN. No; because sentiment would not cut any figure. Every one of the levees is located by the Chief of Engineers of the Army where it is for the best interests of the Federal Government, considering economy and efficiency, in carrying out this project under his direction.
In many places people have appealed and plead to avoid a setback in the levee because it was placing so many farms and homes between the new high levee and the river.
But this is on a practical engineering basis for permanent flood protection.
Mr. Rich. This is my point. As to the people who have opposed these set-backs heretofore, possibly this bill might create a sentiment in their minds that the thing to do is to set it back because they will be paid for the land taken by the Army engineers, and they might consider that that is the thing to do. The CHAIRMAN. I do not think that that will have any influence
. on the engineers.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Your bill provides for the reimbursement of State and legally constituted local agencies. What provision is made, for instance, for compensating a landowner like Mr. Wolf, who has been paid by no State or local agencies!
The CHAIRMAN. The bill says that the Government shall pay it or reimburse the State and local interests.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I wondered if the bill would provide for the payment of citizens who had not been paid by local interests.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes; it says "purchase from or reimburse.”
Mr. WHITTINGTON. There is no occasion to purchase from an owner where you have already constructed a set-back levee.
The CHAIRMAN. But if he is entitled to compensation for the use of his land, then of course they could deal with him or with the local agency. I suppose that the War Department would take that up with the local agencies and in making contracts to acquire flowage rights that they would deal with them.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Is it your idea that the language in this bill providing for the purchase from such local agencies is broad enough to cover individuals?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I am doubtful about that.
The CHAIRMAN. The proposition is to leave the acquisition to local authorities and local agencies.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Personally, I think that language ought to be changed to protect the individual.
The CHAIRMAN. If it becomes necessary to do that; in the consideration of the bill, we can amend the bill.
Mr. Rich. May I ask you this question for information? Is not the present law such that if they have these set-backs it is necessary for the States to acquire that land
The CHAIRMAN. No.
The CHAIRMAN. No. It is necessary for them to acquire the foundation on which the levee is to be built. The individual is left out.
Mr. Rich. There are no arrangements under the present law whereby there is some restitution to the farmer whose lands may be used?
The CHAIRMAN. Not except for the rights-of-way and the levee foundations. The constitution of Louisiana provides that for the levee foundation lands actually taken and destroyed shall be compensated for.
Here is a man with 9,600 acres of land, and a very small part of it is taken for the levee foundation. Perhaps it is half a mile wide, or it may be only 300 feet wide. There is no compensation provided for that.
Our position is—and I do not think the fairness or justice of it can be disputed by anyone—that in the execution of this national project, when the State meets its obligation to furnish levee rightsof-way and a levee foundation, and the owner of the property is left between the new levee and the main channel of the Mississippi River, which carries the flood waters from 41 percent of the territory in the Union, where the Government has undertaken a national obligation, the Government has saved sufficient money by making this cutoff to pay for that. I do not see where there can be any question as to the justice of the cause. It does not need any new appropriation or authorization.
Mr. Rich. You spoke of the State of Louisiana. Are the laws in the other States the same in that respect!
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Driver and Mr. Whittington can answer that question. In some States I think it is different. But practically all of it is in the State of Louisiana. There are only two or three instances in Arkansas and Mississippi. Mr. WHITTINGTON. It is true in every instance in my State.
The CHAIRMAN. I mean the major portion of all these setback lands taken are in the State of Louisiana.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Let me ask you one more question. This bill we have under consideration now, H. R. 7349, is in the identical language of the bill reported previously, for which a rule was granted; is that true?
The CHAIRMAN. It is practically the same.
The CHAIRMAN. There are none, except that I think probably it is a little more definite as to the approval and acceptance by the Chief of Engineers of the Army.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. That was the Kopp bill?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, there is some difference between those two bills. There was an error in the other bill, which is corrected here.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. There is no difference between this bill and the previous bill reported by this committee and approved by the Committee on Rules?
The CHAIRMAN. Practically, you might say, they are identical.
The CHAIRMAN. Here is the report on it, with a statement by Mr.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I am speaking of the bill reported on by the Committee on Rules.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the one; it was in the Seventy-second Congress.
Mr. Driver is here, and we will be glad to have a statement from him in reference to the matter pending before the committee at this time.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM J. DRIVER, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. DRIVER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, the background for this legislation is to be found in the alterations under the adopted project of 1928, known as the “Mississippi River Flood Control Project.”
You gentlemen are aware of the fact that the construction of the necessary flood works on the river was assumed as a national obligation under the provisions of that law, with this exception. Local entities were required to provide the necessary rights-of-way on which the structures were to be located; that is, the levee structures, which has been done, and at the locations mentioned by Judge Wilson in his statement to the committee.
In making an estimate of the cost of the necessary works under the provisions of that project, the engineers recommended the enlargement of the entire levee system along the Mississippi River, in accordance with the number of miles of existing levees then on the river.
In 1914 the Corps of Engineers provided a grade and section for the levees along the river which, in their judgment, would be sufficient to withstand the amount of flood water flowing through the river. And in accordance with that established grade and section levees were located within a distance from the bank of the river that, in the judgment of the engineers, would maintain the integrity of that system for a period of 20 years. And by that I mean that a levee located under the grade and section established would be placed on foundations, which, according to the opinion of the Army Engineers, considering the character of the banks of the river and
the amount of erosion that would ordinarily occur within that period of time, would make those levees safely located for that length of time.
Now, to obviate the necessity of revetting the banks to protect that location, the engineers frequently, at places where the erosion was a little heavier than ordinarily, would build what we term “ loop levees in order to avoid the expense of revetting the banks, and stabilizing these locations for the protection of the levees.
The difference between the cost of levee construction and revetment construction was about $200,000 per mile for levees, and about $400,000 per mile for revetment, and therefore it would be cheaper to build the loop levees than to revet the banks.
For that reason frequently erosion was permitted to occur in a way that would threaten the integrity of the levee and of that eroded bank, and require the building of a loop levee rather than stabilize the bank in front of that danger point.
Those things were all known to the engineers, and they exercised their judgment, based exclusively upon the question of the economies of the situation.
The levee boards at that time were involved. They were required to secure the rights-of-way for these loop levees. And when I say rights-of-way, that does not mean only as to the question of the value of the land on which these levee structures would be placed. It meant the incidental damages involved, such as crop damages, and the removal of houses along the new projected land. They would compensate the landowners for the interference with their tenant structures and the inaccessibility of the property when it was divided by building a levee through it.
Now, as to the price of the contribution, under the old 1917 law, which was renewed in 1923, the Government contributed $2 for every one that the local levee districts expended, but plus the rightsof-way and damages, so that the levee districts and the Government expended an equal amount of money.
În accordance with the statement made by the engineers, the amount of that expense was a little in excess of 50 percent on the part of the local districts.
When the 1928 grade and section was placed in operation, which it is testified is not a definite one yet, the engineers agreed on the size of the structures necessary to protect against the floods under the 1928 project. They agreed, because of the larger cost involved in the structures under that new definition of the grade and section, that they would locate all new construction of levees on the basis of a 30-year period of protection. That did not mean that they were going to rectify all of the levee lands on the river, but it meant this, that wherever it became necessary to change the location of an existing levee on the river, it would be set back sufficiently to afford that 30-year protection for the structure.
That, in itself, has brought into the picture an enormous expenditure on the part of those local levee districts.
I am going to give you just this one illustration of the meaning of that. Under the 1917 and 1923 operations where it was a case of a $2 contribution to one, plus the damage and levee rights-of-way, and so forth, the expense to the local districts of providing additional