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I want to endorse what has been said.
THURSDAY, MAY 7, 1953.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLOOD CONTROL IMPROVEMENTS
HON. HENRY 0. TALLE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM
THE STATE OF IOWA
Mr. Davis. We are glad to have with us our colleague from Iowa, Mr. Talle, and we will be pleased to hear you, Mr. Talle.
Mr. TALLE. There are three items to which I would like to address myself this morning. The first is the Mississippi River itself. As you know, my district is bounded by Minnesota to the north and the eastern boundary is your State of Wisconsin, Mr. Chairman, and Illinois; I have 5 counties running down the river and 7 counties inland. My district is served by the St. Paul office of the Army engineers down to Guttenberg and from there by the office at Rock Island.
The overall flood control report on what I call the stem of the river has been completed, according to a letter I received from the Army engineers yesterday, and it is presently being considered by the Bureau of the Budget. The report is comprehensive, and embraces recommendation for improvements in the most critical areas—that is, from Guttenberg, Iowa, to Hamburg Bay, Ill. In February, many people from that area came down to call on Members of Congress—I know there were 25 people at one time in my office—they were very much interested in the problem, in planning a comprehensive program of improvement of the river, and I agree with their view point. It is a good idea to consider the tributaries, to go back to the source, and try to hold the water back. I have seen it operate on a small scale, but I will not go into further details on that at this time.
But I do want to register my approval of what is attempted in that connection, and as a member of the Joint Committee on the Economic Report, I have thought about this a great deal, because it is our responsibility as the Joint Committee on Economic Report to maintain, if we can, full employment, and I have thought that construction of public works might well be utilized as a means for avoiding unemployment when the war ends. We can utilize our manpower for constructive purposes when we are rid of the curse of war. I want to register my approval of planning for the future, and the latest report from the Corps of Engineers that came to me yesterday indicates a favorable attitude on the part of the Corps of Engineers.
CLEARING OF MOUTH OF UPPER IOWA RIVER Now, may I take up the second point, which has been troublesome for a long time, and that is what to do with the mouth of the upper Iowa River. The upper Iowa River is quite a long stream; it starts not far from the Minnesota line many miles west of Decorah and moves in a serpentine manner eastward. It has a rather sharp fall, but as it approaches the Mississippi River it slows down very much, and at its outlet to the river, near the Minnesota line, there are two bridges, one a highway bridge, and another a railroad bridge, and the silt that has been carried by the river so long has filled the bottom of the river under those bridges to the point that, whereas the clearance should be around 15 feet, it is now less than 7 feet. If that is permitted to continue, the bottom of the river will be level with the two bridges.
The engineers have used some emergency funds for clearing away debris, large trees that have been carried downstream, and so on, so that the highway and railway have been maintained, but the channel from those two bridges to the Mississippi is completely filled. The very good land in that area—and it is good land-has been in disuse to a considerable degree for several years because the channel has been filled and the flood waters have fanned out over thousands of acres of good land, which is now so overgrown with brush that it cannot be utilized for farming purposes, unless the channel is reopened.
The engineers have looked at it sympathetically; they have gone over it very carefully, and their latest report, which I got yesterday, says they will recommend that the channel be opened. The cost, I understand, will be approximately $900,000 to do the job properly. That will restore to property owners the land that has been in disuse for many years, and I do hope that that can be done.
Of course, the property owners appeal to me constantly, and I understand their problem. I have visited the area many times and I have walked over the land after it was frozen in late fall. From actual and repeated observation, I know there are thousands of acres of good farming land that has been so waterlogged and overgrown with underbrush that it is impossible to make use of it. It is most unfair to the property owners.
Mr. Davis. When you refer to the $900,000, you are referring to the overall cost for the Federal Government's portion of it!
Mr. TALLE. That is the Federal Government's portion of the cost, and may I amend the statement by saying that local interests will have to bear certain costs and they are prepared to bear them.
If there are no questions about those two items, then I would like to turn to the third.
REMEDIAL WORKS AT CLINTON, IOWA Mr. Davis. I think I can guess what it is.
Mr. TALLE. I know you are quite familiar with it, and believe me, it is a critical problem.
Mr. Davis. The gentleman is a diligent advocate of it, we know. What is happening at Clinton now? My recollection is that you have had all the funds that we consider to be properly authorized for that. Is my recollection correct in that respect?
Mr. Talle. That is in line with what the Engineers say in the letter I received from them yesterday—but I entertain the hope that you, Mr. Chairman, and your committee may agree to approve the additional funds needed to complete the job.
This is the situation there: There is a 9-foot channel, which was built not long before I came to Congress, and had I been in Congress at the time, I would have voted for the channel, because I know that eventually much greater use than now will be made of the Mississippi River in future years. It is a very, very important stream, and I am personally fascinated with the river.
But, the building of this channel, to that depth, brought on some problems that have had terrible consequences to the people and to the owners of property on the two banks. Clinton has been hit
hard because of the fact that by elevating the water level of the river in order to get the 9-foot channel, the sewage outlets in the city were left something more than 2.5 feet below the water level of the river. And, as silt is carried down the river, it tends to settle in the sewer outlets. And then of course, when the terrible flood of 1951 came, the force of the high water caused the sewage to back up so that the underground of the city of more than 30,000 people was a veritable cesspool. At this point, I would like to read just a brief paragraph from the mayor of Clinton describing at the time what happened during the flood of 1951.
Under heavy flow conditions, the accumulated contents of our sewers are spewed out of the main manholes into the streets and low vacant lots and on the lawns and gardens of householders. In 1 district comprising 11 square blocks the excess overflow finds its way into basements, windows, and doors, creating grave health menaces. The basements of over 4,000 homes are either partially or completely filled with sewage. We are now administering typhoid fever inocu. lations to every inhabitant of this city. Over 30,000 inhabitants are protected from disease.
Actually, fish and snakes and rats, believe it or not, came up through the plumbing in homes. So they inoculated all of the people, and fortunately there was not an outbreak of typhoid. It was horrible. I have pictures that were shown to the committee in 1951. Mr. Davis. Was there not some $300,000 appropriated? Mr. TALLE. $257,770.
Mr. Davis. It is my recollection that no more than that could be, and at the time we felt that was all that should have been properly appropriated under the authorization. Is my recollection correct?
Mr. TALLE. That was the view the engineers took. Here is the situation as to that: Considerable time passed between the date of authorization and the date of appropriation. To begin with, the engineers were slow to admit that the Federal Government was responsible; they did not like to admit it, and I can understand that; I suppose if I had been on the Corps of Engineers I would have hesitated, too, but I may briefly quote from their report, and this is contated, too, but if I may briefly quote from their report, and this is where they do admit the responsibility, and this is contained in document No. 197, Senate document, of the 80th Congress, where they say:
An equitable measure of the damages caused to Clinton by the operation of pool No. 14 is the cost of remedial works required to eliminate the adverse effect of the pool on those sewers.
So they did admit that it was the responsibility of the Federal Government, and to the extent of "the cost of remedial works required to eliminate the adverse effect of the pool on those sewers."
That was the recommendation of the Corps of Engineers in the 80th Congress and it was their estimate at that time that the cost would be $257,770. But it was not possible to proceed with construction of pumping stations before money was made available through appropriation.
Then, when in 1951 the appropriation matter came up, Mr. Chairman, you will remember the President issued an order about stopping everything that did not have anything to do with national defense.
I contended that the health of a city so large as this or any other town, for that matter-certainly had a relationship to national defense, and the appropriation granted was $257,770. That sum, however, was based on the Army engineers' cost index used at the time of the authorization. Now, their report is that it will cost $418,000, so the difference between the appropriation granted which was based on the old cost index, and the cost index as of now, is $160,000, roughly.
I assume that the engineers felt that they were obliged to say what they did in their recent report; I can understand them. But there was one sentence that was put into the Senate report, No. 631, 82d Congress, 1st session, in 1952, which I do not think should have been inserted, but it was done, and may I take time to read a paragraph from it?
Mr. Davis. Yes; go right ahead.
This project (Clinton, Iowa) for installation of remedial works, consisting of pumping plants and gated outlets necessary to permit complete operation of the city's sewerage system, now affected by the regulation of pool No. 14, which has caused damages and for which compensation has not been made. The affected portions of the sewer carry both stormwater and sanitary sewage and their inverts range from 3.2 to 6.4 feet below average pool elevation, and as a result backwater extends up these sewers for distances of 700 to 3,600 feet.
The authorized payment to the city of Clinton is $257,770, provided for in the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1950, while the estimated cost of this work is $418,000. The committee is recommending the appropriation of the full amount of the authorization, $257,770. If further money is to be provided, it will be necessary to have additional authorization.
When I read that last sentence I thought of the days when they planned the Pentagon Building, and when Congressman Woodrum of Virginia, who at that time was the ranking member on the Appropriation Committee, in the House that the plan of the Pentagon Building would result in a cost of about $35 million. It came finally to a cost of $85 million. And then I thought too, of another project, which was estimated at the start to cost $600,000, and subsequently it involved a much larger sum than expected, because of the long delay between the authorization and the appropriation of the money. The value of the dollar, as you know, has been declining for years.
So, the people of Clinton—and I don't blame them—can point to numerous projects which have been completed at costs much above the estimated costs. Much time passed between the time when the Clinton project was authorized and the time when money was appropriated. Therefore, the old cost index is out of line with the new cost index, and to complete the job the Engineers say that it will cost more money.
And Mr. Chairman, it is not the fault of the people in Clinton that this condition has come to pass.
Mr. Davis. How far are they on the way to completion of the work?
Mr. Talle. Work is proceeding well. Three pumping stations must be built. All of the money is being spent. One station has been completed, and it is working very well. Construction of the other two is going on, but there is a money shortage of about $160,000 to complete the project.
It is a long time-consuming operation to get further authorization. I do not know whether an omnibus bill will come out of the Public Works Committee this year or not. I should like, of course, to see this thing completed as soon as possible.
Mr. Davis. Have you discussed this with the people on the Public Works Committee as to whether they are planning to take any corrective action on this authorization?
Mr. TALLE. I have spoken to the chairman, Mr. Dondero, about it. A few days ago he could not give me any assurance that an omnibus bill would come out; so that it is a matter of uncertainty.
Mr. Davis. This is a recognized Federal responsibility; there is no question about that.
Mr. TALLE. Yes, indeed.
Mr. Davis. It is a question of whether we, in view of the legislative history here, are properly authorized to make appropriation.
Mr. Talle. I am hoping that, inasmuch as other projects have been dealt with in the manner I have suggested, this one might be, too.
Mr. HAND. Have you considered whether it might be practical to introduce a special bill, as has been done so many times, to obtain special authorization?
Mr. TALLE. I have thought about that, also. I spoke to Mr. Dondero about that, too, because I know that in the case of an omnibus bill so many things are included in it that, obviously, it takes quite a lot of time to get it completed. I did not get any assurance that made me feel optimistic. He did not refuse consideration; he said he would see to it that it would be referred to the proper subcommittee. But I have had some experience with these things, and I know that it would take quite a long time, and I feel rather confident there would not be any hope this year of getting that done. I do not see how it could be done before your bill comes up. And I fear, if we have to wait, we may have another repetition of the disastrous floods of 1951 and 1952. It was horrible in 1951, and in 1952 it was repeated, but the people by that time had had the experience of the previous year to go on, and some industries located near the river had gone about the business of building concrete walls to save their machinery and in order to prevent stoppages of operation, and they have spent a lot of money.
And we have tried to deal with these matters locally as much as possible.
For instance, in the city of Dubuque, Iowa, just in these last few days, an election was held. The purpose was to issue bonds, and the city would take over the responsibility of flood control, insofar as it affected the city. I believe Dubuque is the oldest city in Iowa on the Mississippi River. They are very patriotic people, and they want to do all they can locally. The leaders did all they could to get 60 percent of the people to agree to a bond issue, and to assume the responsibility for building levees and so forth.
Of course, this is getting away from Clinton now, but the best they could do in Dubuque was to get 40 percent of the voters to favor the issue; the majority said flood control on the Mississippi is the responsibility of the Federal Government. The leaders did try. And, inasmuch as the Clinton sewer project is by admission of the Army Corps of Engineers the responsibility of the Federal Government, I am hoping the committee may see its way clear to put the tag end to this thing and carry it through to completion. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee for hearing me.