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I fully favor this project and earnestly urge that your committee give full approval to the findings of the Chief of Engineers' report.
STATEMENT OF COL. P. A. FERINGA, UNITED STATES. ARMY, RESIDENT ENGINEER, BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Colonel FERINGA. Mr. Chairman, the report on Schuylkill River, Pa., is submitted in response to two resolutions and an item in section 6, Preliminary Examinations and Surveys, in the River and Harbor Act approved March 2, 1945.
The authorizations for the study are very much different from any other type of study, so far as I know, that the Department has ever made before, and I would like to read at length the authority for making the study.
The Committee on Commerce of the United States Senate, by resolution adopted May 20, 1944, requested the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors to review its report on the Schuylkill River, contained in House Document No. 183, Seventy-sixth Congress, first session, with a view to determining the order and manner in which an appropriation of not to exceed $10,000,000 for participation by the Federal Government in the Schuylkill River project should be expended.
This committee, by a resolution adopted March 8, 1945, requested that the Board review the reports heretofore submitted on Schuylkill River, Pa., with a view to determining if the recommendations in the said reports should be changed in any way at this time.
The preliminary examination and survey item in the 1945 River and Harbor Act directed that the Department make a survey to determine whether navigation conditions may be improved, and if the increasing cost of maintenance due to silting in the channels of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers may be lessened, and flood heights controlled, by the construction of impounding and settling reservoirs to prevent the encroachment of mining wastes.
The report which we have submitted to the committee is in answer to all three resolutions and, as always, lives up to the instructions imposed on us by Congress.
The Schuylkill River has its source in Schuylkill County, Pa., and flows southeasterly 130 miles to the Delaware River at Philadelphia. It drains an area of 1,916 square miles. The headwater region is mountainous and lies in the southern anthracite field of Pennsylvania.
An existing Federal project provides for improvement of the river for navigation to University Avenue Bridge, about 6 miles above the mouth.
Below Fairmount Dam, at mile 8.6, the river is tidal, the mean range being 5.5 feet.
Canalization of the river above Fairmount Dam to Port Carbon, all the way upstream, a distance of 114 miles, was completed in 1828 by private interests and served for the shipment of coal to Philadelphia and to markets beyond for many years. Commerce on this section of the river ended in 1932. The structures have been permitted to deteriorate so that now only 15 dams remain of 32 included in the original improvement.
The CHAIRMAN. Those dams were built by the State of Pennsylvania?
Colonel FERINGA. By local interests. I doubt whether the State participated at that time. They may have.
The CHAIRMAN. It was a big program in the early days.
Colonel FERINGA. I think you undoubtedly know more about that than anyone else.
Mr. RANKIN. Are these dams earth dams, Colonel ?
Colonel FERINGA. I think there were some earth dams, but they were mostly made out of lumber, logs, and stone fill. Dams used to be made out of timber, about that time.
Mr. RANKIN. They have been washed out?
Colonel FERINGA. Over half of them still remain, the others have been washed out. On this map, in connection with every dam you see, the black line means that there is still an old dam in place. If you look at the bottom of the map you will see that black line, and there is indicated in green the amount of culm that has been deposited in back of the dam.
Mr. Rankin. How long is that project from there to the last dam?
Colonel FERINGA. On an economic basis it is doubtful, sir, although navigation will be partially possible in these upper pools.
Mr. RANKIN. What you are proposing to do is to clean out a large portion of it?
Colonel FERINGA. Under the directive for making this study we were asked to find out what improvements were necessary in the interests of flood control, pollution abatement, navigation, and also how should $10,000,000 be expended. We came to the conclusion that a greater expenditure is justified. Navigation comes into the picture in that the culm goes down into the navigable part of the river to a tremendous extent.
Mr. RANKIN. What about power possibilities on that river?
Mr. BENDER. Local interests, I understand, would contribute toward this improvement about $23,000,000!
Colonel FERINGA. Much more than the Government will, because, after all, it is mainly a local proposition. 'I do not have the figure before me at this moment, but I think likely it is about twice as much as the Federal Government's expenditure proposed. It would have to be about twice as much, because the Federal amount comes to about $13,000,000
The CHAIRMAN. The culm is from mining operations in the anthracite region?
Colonel FERINGA. Yes, sir. That is mine waste. Incidentally, when I was a young boy going to school I noticed up and down some of those smaller rivers that they were reworking the coal dust and pressing it into briquettes for sale.
The CHAIRMAN. Suppose this river is cleaned out: what will be the condition in the future? Will the culm not accumulate again?
Colonel FERINGA. That is taken care in this report. In our recommendations we state that this work will not be done until the requirements have been fulfilled whereby the State and local interests will no longer dump this culm near the river. That will be done by having a settling basin which will catch whatever flows down, and it will be pumped out every so often, by returning some of this waste into worked-out mines and removing the culm heaps on the side of the river to where they have a place to put it.
Local interests also will have to remove the culm all the way down the river, up to this point [indicating on map]. That will be their share of the work. That amounts to about 19,000,000 cubic yards that the local interests will have to remove, whereas the Government's share will be 9,000,000 yards.
The CHAIRMAN. Did they have any difficulty in determining what character of local interests will be required to do that?
Colonel FERINGA. It will undoubtedly be sponsored by the State.
Mr. McGLINCHEY. The State has passed a law to take care of that, asking private interests to take care of their own portion of it.
Mr. BENDER. Some of this water is used for drinking purposes, is it not?
Mr. McGLINCHEY. That is right. Philadelphia gets some of its water from this river. In the summertime, in the dry season, it is polluted, and the city has to use a lot of chlorine to kill the bacteria. The State passed a law and asked them to take care of the matter so far as the coal mines and industries were involved.
Colonel, what about the industries up at Norristown, and so forth; what is being done to take care of that situation?
Colonel FERINGA. When this river channel is cleaned out it will again furnish a channel for floodwaters, and there will be an alleviation of flood conditions, which have been bad in the past. I am told that during a recent flood this culm, which is a very fine material and practically goes into suspension, went over the banks of the river and into Fairmount Park, in Philadelphia, to a thickness of 4 or 5 or 6 inches and covered lawns and streets and everything. Those conditions will be prevented by this project; and of course, as to the drinking water, there will be normal pollution abatement.
The CHAIRMAN. What method would be used in taking this stuff out of the river?
Colonel FERINGA. The Department would use suction dredges, and the local interests will have to provide spoil-disposal areas—and they have already been staked out--so we can deposit this culm onto lowlying ground. Whether it will be possible upstream to remove some of this stuff, I cannot say at this time.
Mr. ANGELL. Why does the project cover such a small area when the whole stream is affected in the same way!
Colonel FERINGA. The local interests will take care of this part [indicating on map]; the Federal Government, to the falls. We feel that is proper, because this culm will be carried down into the navigable part of the waterway, so we feel that that is the proper part for the Federal Government.
Mr. ANGELL. Is fish life able to exist in the stream as it now is?
Colonel FERINGA. I do not believe so. This will be a great benefit to fish life, and the effort will be to restore this stream to its normal condition as nearly as possible.
Mr. AUCHINCLOSs. What are the depths of the channel?
Colonel FERINGA. I do not have that information immediately at hand, sir.
Mr. ANGELL. Were those dams originally constructed for navigation purposes?
Colonel FERINGA. Yes, sir. They were constructed away back in 1820. Coal could be brought down by barges. The project was not maintained, and, of course, it went into disrepair.
Mr. ANGELL. What is the depth
The CHAIRMAN. None of those early canals had that much that I know of.
Colonel FERINGA. I will look it up and put the information into the record.
(The requested information follows:) Canalization of the river above Fairmount Dam to Port Carbon, a distance of 114 miles, was completed in 1828 by private interests. The project depth was 612 feet.
Mr. BENDER. You are not advocating this project because of fish life, but on account of its navigation purposes as well as water consumption ?
Colonel FERINGA. We were told to make a study as to whether or not it was a profitable thing for the Federal Government to undertake. We say, definitely, yes. We know our field very well, and we take most of our benefits from navigation and also from flood control.
Mr. ANGELL. The jurisdiction of this committee is over navigation.
The CHAIRMAN. All river and harbor improvements. We have everything except flood control under the jurisdiction of this committee.
Mr. ANGELL. We do not have protection of fish life, do we?
Mr. AUCHINCLOSS. I notice in the report something about flood control. Where does that come in?
Colonel FERINGA. It comes in up and down the entire river. The river is now filled up with culm. It is now a relatively small, shallow stream, whereas it originally was a deep river. The channel cannot now carry the floodwaters; consequently, when there is a flood the culm goes into suspension and in some places comes out like a thick soup and spreads all over the country. In Fairmount Park one of our engineers, who was there at the time, said that the culm was deposited over the entire park. Possibly Mr. McGlinchey, from his own experience, has seen that. Therefore the benefits from flood control come from preventing that kind of damage to the communities of Philadelphia, Pittston, Reading, and so forth.
Mr. AUCHINCLOSS. It is expected that this improvement will dispose of that situation ?
Colonel FERINGA. Yes. We never recommend anything to the committee unless it is justified.
Mr. ANGELL. Are the mining interests willing to cooperate ?
Colonel FERINGA. The State will see that the mining interests cooperate; and I think they are willing in their own right. It means that instead of disposing of the waste material in a place that is dangerous, they will have to dispose of it somewhere else. I think all
the country is becoming acutely conscious of the need of pollution abatement; and this is curing it at its source.
Mr. ANGELL. Culm is sort of a fine coal dust, is it not?
The CHAIRMAN. Something was said about the possible depth of the channel. I find that it was 61/2 feet.
Colonel FERINGA. Judge, you were right, as always.
Mr. McGLINCHEY. I can say that the culm has done considerable damage to property along the Schuylkill River. At Fairmount Park we have boats for rowing, and the river is being dried up and this culm has settled there, and now they have to dredge the channel to get the boats out of the boathouse. Some people have found that they can use this culm for heating purposes. They make it into briquettes, and it can be burned in furnaces. It is actually coal. As it comes down from the mines it is a fine powder-like substance. They have been dredging for the past 2 or 3 years, but about 2 or 3 miles of the Schuylkill at Fairmount Park has been the worst part. They are trying to keep the culm from going down there and drying up the river.
Colonel FERINGA. The culm which is carried in suspension over the dam is washed into the Delaware River and even goes upstream, because it is tidal. At Camden our dredging spoil is 10.9 percent culm. At the confluence of the Schuylkill River and the Delaware River it amount to 59.4 percent culm. That is the dredging spoil in the maintenance dredging we have to do. A little bit upstream from that point it amounts to 58 percent, and in the vicinity of Chester it amount to 13.6 percent. That is the kind of maintenance dredging we do year after year to get that material out of the river.
Mr. McGLINCHEY. As far as fish life is concerned, that is killed. The Izaak Walton League has protested seriously about the streams in Pennsylvania because of this condition.
Mr. BENDER. Your principal reason for advocating this, as you have all during this session of Congress, is to emphasize the purification of the river; but you are interested in navigation as well, I understand?
Mr. McGLINCHEY. That is right. The most important thing is the purification of the water.
Colonel FERINGA. The commerce on the Schuylkill is confined to the tidal portion of the river, below Fairmount Dam. This commerce which consists principally of petroleum and its products increased steadily from 5,073,000 tons in 1920 to 14,577,000 tons in 1941. Approximately 2,700,000 people live in the Schuylkill watershed, according to the 1940 census figures. Seventy-two percent of the population live in the city of Philadelphia.
At the headwaters of the river lies the country's largest anthracite coal-producing region. During the period of 1932 to 1941 a yearly average of 52,000,000 tons of coal was produced.