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in Washington and they have been audited and approved, but here is the question, Senator, that arises in this case. Under the floodcontrol act the Federal Government is not obligated to pay for rights-of-way on the main stem of the Mississippi. It is directed to pay for rights-of-way on the tributaries.
Senator BAILEY. And this is a tributary?
Mr. Jacobs. Yes, sir; and the Attorney General has so interpreted it.
Senator BAILEY. That brings me to another question. Is the $652,736.79 stated in this bill in excess of the assessment valuations?
Senator OVERTON. No, sir; it is not.
Senator BAILEY. This is within the tax valuations of the land referred to?
Senator OVERTON. That is my understanding.
Senator OVERTON. That brings the second question into consideration, which is this: When the Attorney General, in his interpretation of the flood-control act that the Federal Government should pay for the levee rights-of-way on tributaries, the Chief of the Army Engineers then directed the payment to be made, but when it reached the claims embraced in this bill it found this situation, and submitted the question again to the Attorney General in respect to these particular claims: That this local levee board had, at the request of the district engineers, adopted a resolution agreeing to furnish these rights-of-way to the Federal Government without cost, and under this representation, that if the local levee board did not do so, that they were not going to bother themselves about these rights-of-way, and that the money that was appropriated for levee construction would probably be used on other projects, and if they wanted their levees built, they had better “kick in ” with the rights-of-way.
So under duress, as it were, they adopted the resolutions of donation, and that matter was submitted to the Attorney General, and I laid the facts before him in a brief that I will file here in connection with this hearing, and he said that as a matter of law he could not rule that the Secretary of War or the Federal Government was under obligation to recognize the claim that was covered by a resolution of donation; but the Chief of Army Engineers, General Brown, took the position that it was very inequitable insofar as this levee board was concerned, because it had manifested a splended spirit of cooperation with the Federal Government in advancing the flood-control work, it had gone out and gotten these rights-of-way, and it had undertaken to furnish them without any cost, and then, when the Attorney General ruled that on these tributaries the Federal Government should pay, it placed the Federal Government in this positionthat it was going to reimburse the local agencies for all rights-of-way furnished on the Arkansas, for all rights-of-way furnished on the Atchafalaya, for all the rights-of-way furnished on the Bayou Boeuf Basin, but it was not going to reimburse this levee board, which had actually cooperated with the Federal Government, for the reason that it had passed a resolution agreeing to furnish the rights-of-way without cost, and it had passed this resolution at the suggestion of the district engineer, for the reason that if they should not pass such a resolution they would not get any levees.
Senator Bailey. The rights-of-way were for the purpose of constructing levees!
Senator OVERTON. By the Federal Government.
Senator BAILEY. And the levees would protect the lands that were flooded ?
Senator OVERTON., Yes, sir.
Senator BAILEY. Do you have a doctrine in your State of offsetting benefits to the owner as against his claim for damages?
Senator OVERTON. No; we have not. The law of Louisiana in reference to the acquisition of foundations for levee construction or rights-of-way is simply this—that the property owner will be reimbursed not to exceed the assessed value of his property for land actually taken and appropriated and used for levee construction.
Senator BAILEY. And regardless of the benefits to him?
Mr. Jacobs. In leading up to that I was just trying to bring out how the levee boards became a party with the Federal Government in acquiring these rights-of-way. That is the reason for my mentioning these particular things.
Senator BAILEY. The local levee board volunteered to come in.
Mr. Jacobs. No, sir. We came in at the request of the Federal engineers, the Federal engineers stating that they could not acquire these rights-of-way as provided for in the flood bill at a reasonable price. They requested us to come in and operate under our State laws. There is a provision in the flood control act that all inds bought or acquired by the Federal Government in executing the Federal control plan shall be turned over to the local interests after the completion of the plan, so we knew that in a period of 10 years of the completion of the entire work, that after it was all done, that all of this land that was bought and paid for by the Federal Government as authorized would be turned over to the State; so, knowing that the Federal Government would be called upon to pay a great deal more money for these rights-of-way than we could acquire them for ourselves, and knowing that we could acquire them under our State laws, which would eliminate the process of abstracting titles, then, when the Government asked us to acquire them, it would be in reserv. ing the right in our resolutions to submit all claims and ask for the reimbursement in the amount which we paid, those amounts to be agreed upon by the district engineer before they were paid, all of which was agreed upon by the Federal engineers.
Senator BAILEY. Has your levee board paid the sums in this bill!
Mr. JACOBs. Yes, sir; we have issued certificates or paid all of them. In this particular case the Government had let a contract in good faith.
Senator BAILEY. What do you mean by this particular case?
Mr. Jacobs. One of these levees. There are a great many levees there that go to make up that sum. It is not all one particular levee. It is a number of levees that have been constructed along the Red River that go to making up the total amount of the application for reimbursement. This particular case was that the property owner was trying to hold up the Federal Government for amounts that we thought were in excess of the actual value. The Government engi
neers realized that also. In discussing this with General Brown, he told me if I should go back down to New Orleans and talk to the district engineer and agree with the district engineer on a price that would be fair, that he would be willing to pay it and reimburse the levee board if we would acquire it under our State laws, as he recognized that we could acquire it far cheaper than he could.
For instance, I know for a fact of a quarter of an acre of land that was acquired by the Federal Government, that the Government paid about $12 for, and that cost the Federal Government over $70 to abstract the titles for it. There are lots of other cases similar to that. We know that the Government in letting their contracts for abstracting these titles had taken over a year and a half and still had not finished, and all of that time our flood-control work was being delayed and we were being deprived of our protection.
Senator BAILEY. Why wouldn't you have to abstract the title?
Mr. JACOBs. By appropriation proceedings, as authorized under the Constitution. In other words, the levee board merely appropriates and pays an amount not to exceed, as Senator Overton said, the assessed value of the preceding year for the land that is actually destroyed or damaged or taken. The Federal engineers, recognizing all of this and knowing that we could acquire them for that amount, and knowing that these lands were to be turned back to the State after completion, said—they asked the levee board to acquire these lands for them, and we started out and did so by passing ordinary resolutions at meetings of the levee board. In this particular case of the Red River we drew up a resolution at a meeting of the Red River, Atchafalaya, and Bayou Boeuf Levee Board which we thought was just and fair and sent it down to the district engineer. A copy of it is in the minutes, which we have here with us.
The district engineers sent it back.
Senator BAILEY. Well, let me see if I get your case. According to your statement, the local levee board, upon the invitation of the Government of the United States, acted as its agent, in order to get these lands for a less sum than the United States itself would have gotten them.
Mr. JACOBS. Correct.
Senator BAILEY. And you contracted these debts in your capacity as agent of the United States.
Mr. Jacobs. Yes, sir.
Senator BAILEY. Why weren't you paid right away by the War Department ?
Mr. JACOBS. For this reason: On the south bank of the Arkansas it was a question of title. The Attorney General held that in an organized levee district there were also drainage districts in there, and outstanding bonds of those drainage districts, which had not been paid, and therefore the title could not be clear. That was the Arkansas case.
Senator BAILEY. If the money had been paid out and the title was not clear, then you have to find the parties in proper interest yet, haven't you?
Mr. JACOBS. So far as the Arkansas case is concerned.
Mr. JACOBs. This bill refers to actual rights-of-way that the levee board acquired at the request of the Federal engineer.
Senator BAILEY. And no question of title is involved?
Senator Bailey. Let me go back to my question. Why, passing that state of facts, did not the War Department pay this sum, just as it pays other sums, upon purchase or condemnation or appropriation?
Mr. JACOBS. For this reason: That after the levee board passed the resolution appropriating this right-of-way and sent that resolution to the district engineer, the district engineer sent it back and said, That is not the kind of a resolution I want. I want you to include in that resolution without cost to the Federal Govern
We then applied for a hearing
Senator BAILEY. You mean the appropriation was to be without cost to the Federal Government?
Mr. JACOBS. Yes. That was the district engineer's opinion. We then asked for a meeting with the district engineers in New Orleans. The president of the levee board and the secretary, both of them are here, and myself, went to see the district engineer. We told him that we had passed a resolution up there acquiring these rights-ofway for a far cheaper amount than they could get them, and there would be a saving of at least 2 years of protection to that country by getting it done that way, and we could not understand what else he wanted.
He said, “Well, I want you to write in this resolution 'without cost to the Federal Government.'"
Senator BAILEY. If that had been written in the resolution and you had a contract whereby it was done in that way, this proposed bill would have been precluded, would it not?
Mr. JACOBS. If the first resolution would have been accepted, it would have been all right, and they would have paid it, but he would not accept it.
Senator BAILEY. You would not accept?
Senator BAILEY. And you would not accept his proposition “without cost to the Federal Government”?
Mr. Jacobs. The United States district engineer would not accept the resolution. You see, the resolution of the levee board
Senator BAILEY (interposing). Who suggested that clause?
Senator OVERTON. You misunderstood the Senator's question. The district engineer would not accept the first resolution, which would in effect make it obligatory upon the Federal Government to pay for the rights-of-way.
Mr. JACOBS. Yes.
Senator OVERTON. He suggested that in the resolution the expression include “ without cost to the United States." What happened to that?
Mr. JACOBS. That was the second resolution.
Senator OVERTON. What did he say would happen if you did not adopt the second resolution?
Mr. JACOBS. He turned the first resolution out.
Senator OVERTON. What did he say, if you did not adopt the second resolution !
Mr. JACOBS. If you do not adopt the resolution and write in there, “Without cost to the Federal Government we will take this money and spend it over in the State of Mississippi, which is across the river from Louisiana, which means that by putting that money over there, and strengthening over there, if we should have a high water, and it is a safe bet that Louisiana would, we would overflow. That was his threat.
Senator OVERTON. I shall introduce in evidence a little later a letter written by W. H. Holcombe, district engineer. He is the gentleman you are referring to?
Mr. JACOBS. And in that letter he makes the statement:“ If rightsof-way can be secured promptly none of this money will have to be transferred to other work. The United States has great difficulty in securing land at reasonable prices. Negotiations are extremely slow, and have now reached the point where the United States is unable to secure the necessary lands."
Senator BAILEY. If I should tell you that if you did not sell me your land, I was going to build my house on another piece of land, would you consider that that was a threat or duress?
Mr. JACOBS. That is not a good comparison.
Senator BAILEY. I will agree with you as to the comparison, but will you answer the question?
Mr. Jacobs. Let me get the question straight, Senator.
Senator BAILEY. If I should say to you, in a bargain, that if you do not sell me your land, I am going to take this money and buy some land next door to you, would you consider that a threat or duress?
Mr. JACOBS. In that particular case, I do not think it has any bearing on this case, but--no. It might not be a threat, and then again it might be a threat. It might be a question of intimidation, or it might be a question of trying to force me to do what your intention was.
Senator BAILEY. Aren't you still at liberty either to sell or not to sell?
Mr. JACOBS. Yes.
Senator OVERTON. Let me ask you this question. If, as the case here is, that the Congress had imposed the obligation upon the Federal Government to acquire these rights-of-way, and then a district engineer in this work said, “ If you do not go contrary to what Congress has stated, and do not acquire the rights-of-way locally, the levees will not be built as required by the act of Congress” and where the district needed the levees very badly, would you consider that you operated under duress?
Mr. Jacobs. Without a doubt; yes, sir.
Senator BAILEY. Well, let us see about that, Senator. Every man is presumed to know the law, and if the bargainers in this case acted under a theory that the agent of the Government would disobey the law, then they were not under duress.