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SET-BACK LEVEES ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
MONDAY, APRIL 29, 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. We have for consideration this morning H. R. 7349, a bill 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, as amended.
(The bill referred to is as follows:)
[H. R. 7349, 74th Cong., 1st sess.]
A BILL 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, as amended
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the first paragraph of section 3 of 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, as amended (U. S. C., Supp. VI, title 33, sec. 702c), is hereby amended to read as follows: "SEC. 3. The Secretary of War is authorized and directed, out of any money available under the provisions of said Act or amendments thereto, to purchase from or to reimburse the States or legally constituted and empowered local agencies for the cost of flowage rights over all lands including compensation for damages to improvements thereon at the time of the taking; that have been or may be acquired and paid for by States or such agencies in connection with the flood-control project herein adopted; embracing those areas which were protected by the main Mississippi River Levees on May 15, 1928, but which have since been left or may hereafter be left, on the river side of the main river controlling levee lines constructed on new locations under the 'flood-control plan: Provided, That after careful investigation the prices are found to be reasonable: And provided further, That except when authorized by the Secretary of War, upon the recommendation of the Chief of Engineers, no money appropriated under authority of this Act shall be expended on the construction of any item of the project until the State or levee districts have given assurances satisfactory to the Secretary of War that they will (a) maintain all flood-control works after their completion, except controlling and regulating spillway structures, including special relief levees; maintenance includes normally such matters as cutting grass, removal of weeds, local drainage, and minor repairs of main river levees; (b) agree to accept land turned over to them under the provisions of section 4; (c) provide without cost to the United States all rights-of-way for levee foundations and levees on the main stem of the Mississippi River between Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and the Head of the Passes."
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen of the committee, in order to call the committee's attention to this particular measure we have before us, H. R. 7349, I desire to make a brief statement.
This is a matter that has been pending before our committee for some time. Bills providing for the relief sought in this measure have been on two occasions, after hearings, reported favorably by this committee.
The first bill, H. R. 17074, of the Seventy-first Congress, third session, was reported by Hon. William F. Kopp, of Iowa, then ranking member of the committee when Hon. Frank R. Reid, of Illinois, was chairman,
A bill involving the same question that is presented in this bill, H. R. 4668, Seventy-second Congress, first session, was reported by your present chairman. A rule was granted for its consideration by the House. An unfavorable vote was given for the consideration of this rule, which, in my opinion, was because of lack of information and exaggerated statements as to what was involved and the costs. I think those members who were here then will recall that.
Statements were made that the passage of the bill would burden the Government with the purchase of flowage rights or easements over lands running into more than hundreds of thousands of acres, and involving, according to some statements, as much as $100,000,000.
Regardless of the justice of the appeals of the farmers and landowners whose property has been taken in the execution of the project, without their consent or consultation, the rule was voted down and the consideration of the bill postponed.
It may have been our fault in not having more definite data in the report, but we have it now.
The lands, farms, homes and property involved are not alone those of the citizens of the alluvial valley in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi; but a great portion of it is owned by citizens of Iowa, Illinois, New York, California, and I think some in Pennsylvania and other States.
What is the acreage involved? In the entire alluvial valley all the way from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Gulf, as shown by a close examination by the Chief of Engineers, the total acreage is 74,678 acres. That is all of the acreage from Cape Girardeau to the Gulf.
Now, what is the total cost? In an approximate estimate given by Gen. Lytle Brown, the Chief of Engineers, it would be about $4,000,000, and the figure is still around that amount.
Every agency of the Government, National and State, has acknowledged and admitted that these landowners, homeowners, and farmers, should be compensated for the losses and damages sustained by reason of the taking of their property in the execution of a national project for the general welfare. Yet it has been contended by some that the compensation should be paid by the States and local interests. However, the Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928, undertaking the execution of this project as a national obligation, said:
No further local contribution is required; except that the States and local interests shall provide rights-of-way for levees and levee foundations on the main channel of the Mississippi River.
All the lands in question are on the main stem or channel of the Mississippi River.
At that time this national obligation was accepted because of the fact that the States had already spent some $292,000,000.
Since the passage of this act, and to meet the requirements thereof, as called for by and in cooperation with the Government, the local interests have contributed up to date $41,403,680.66, according to the report of the Chief of Engineers, which I have.
The resources of the local interests are exhausted, and unless we provide by legislation this relief to our fellow citizens whose property has been taken for public use, their situation is hopeless. We might just as well acknowledge that.
The land area involved in the 1,200-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Cairo to the Gulf is small, only 74,578 acres. The cost is not great, even it if should be 6 or 7 million dollars.
Furthermore, in these extensive set-backs and changes in levee lines, the Government has saved several million dollars by shortening the levee lines and avoiding the necessity of bank revetment. We have a number of very striking examples of that.
Now, gentlemen of the committee, I desire to make that statement in order to give you the theory on which this bill is based. As I stated, in the changes and set-backs in the levee line which have cost the farmers and landowners large amounts of money because of the loss of their property, the Government has saved many millions of dollars.
For instance, I will give you an example.
Here on this map is shown one of the set-backs and one of the changes in the levee line [indicating on map]. The red on the map shows the area that was exposed. For instance, here [indicating on map] is the levee line that goes down to the main channel of the Mississippi River at Wilson Point. Down here, where this levee was when the Flood Control Act was adopted, there is a distance of 152 miles. These are plantations and farms containing a little over 9,600 acres of land. The old levee line was 151/2 miles around. To maintain that and protect this land, which the Government accepted the obligation to do, would be very expensive, of course.
So they decided to abandon that and build a levee line 31⁄2 miles long, saving something over $900,000 to the Government. That was done, and the landowners were not consulted. The levee line was built, and this land is exposed to the flood waters of the main channel of the Mississippi River.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. When was that 311⁄2 miles built?
The CHAIRMAN. In 1932.
What we are asking for is this: Inasmuch as the land is to be used whenever an emergency arises, which is estimated to be in 2 years out of 5, when it is necessary to carry the flood water in the main channel of the Mississippi River, we are asking that the Government require the use of and pay for the use of that land to the landowners and farmers. That is what is involved in this
This committee has made a favorable report upon such a measure twice. I do not believe that any Member of Congress would want to be unfair about it, and yet it was said that it would involve hundreds of millions of dollars. But as I have already said, it is estimated that the cost is around $4,000,000, and the entire acreage involved in all the set-backs and changes in this levee line is only 74,678 acres. For that reason I am asking favorable consideration
of this measure.