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Mr. Chairman, I am only making reference to the amount of money which has been spent by the local interests through drainage districts and otherwise to establish the fact that we are not asking the Federal Government to pay all of the costs for relief in these problems, but on the contrary, our local people have expended millions of dollars of their own, and the projects and improvements and other work covered in the authorization which we are seeking here is necessary to tie in with the plans and recommendations of the United States engineers and the Department of Public Works of the State of Louisiana.
I could present facts and figures and take much of your time by discussing these projects further, but in view of the fact that we have the representative of the Chief of Engineers and Representatives from the State of Louisiana, the Mermentau Basin Association, and others, who wish to appear, I feel that they should be given an opportunity to present testimony from an economic and engineering standpoint.
At this time I think it would be well to hear from Mr. Pyburn. Mr. PETERSON of Florida. Mr. Pyburn.
STATEMENT OF DEWITT PYBURN, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF
PUBLIC WORKS, STATE OF LOUISIANA Mr. PYBURN. Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the committee, this is a very important project in southwest Louisiana.
It drains half of the ricelands of the State, which means one-quarter of the ricelands of the United States. Although its upper tributaries rise in the low hills of central Louisiana, almost the entire courses of the river and its tributaries lie in the gently sloping prairie lands of the rice country and the coastal marshes. The divides between the Mermentau Basin and adjacent watersheds are poorly defined because of the general flatness of the area; in fact, these divides are cut through by irrigation canals, and in the marsh area by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. In the marsh area the Mermentau River runs through Grand Lake, a large shallow body of water, which now connects by a small channel with White Lake, an adjacent similar body of water, which is also connected with Vermilion Bay, a large, shallow arm of the Gulf.
We have made detailed surveys and have filed with the Corps of Engineers engineering information and also economic information on this project. Indeed these briefs run about 200 or 300 pages, and I do not think it is necessary to take this committee's time to quote all of them.
I have this statement here that I wish to file with the committee at this time.
(The statement filed by Mr. Pyburn is as follows:)
STATEMENT OF JUSTIFICATION FOR IMPROVEMENT FOR NAVIGATION OF THE MERMENTAU
RIVER AND TRIBUTARIES
(Prepared by the Department of Public Works, State of Louisiana) The Mermentau River is located in southwest Louisiana. It drains half the ricelands of the State, which means one-quarter of the ricelands of the United States. Although its upper tributaries rise in the low hills of central Louisiana, almost the entire courses of the river and its tributaries lie in the gently sloping prairie lands of the rice country and the coastal marshes. The divides between the Vermentau Basin and adjacent watersheds are poorly defined because of the general flatness of the area ; in fact, these divides are cut through by irrigation canals, and in the marsh area by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. In the marsh area the Mermentau River runs through Grand Lake, a large shallow body of water, which now connects by a small channel with White Lake, an adjacent similar body of water, which is also connected with Vermilion Bay, a large, shallow arm of the Guif.
At the preesnt time the lower Mermentau and the connection between Grand Lake and White Lake are very much restricted so that drainage coming into Grand Lake cannot get out as fast as it gets in during high rainfalls, which causes flooding of the adjacent marsh area and restricts the slope and rate of run-off from the drainage area above. Flooding destroys crops and cattle stops transportation, and creates unhealthful conditions on the prairies. It also prevents trapping and grazing in the marshes.
The Mermentau River not only serves as a drainage outlet, but also with its tributaries serves as the principal soruce of rice irrigation water for its basin.
The average rainfall of the area is high, being 57 inches per annum, but the rainfall is very varied, ranging from 35 inches to 98 inches per annum. During the rice-irrigation season-from April to: August--rainfall has varied from 12 inches to 57 inches, with a normal demand of 22 inches. The Deficiencies in rainfall have caused tremendous losses to rice growers, although normal deficiencies have been met by the existing storage in Grand Lake. The effectiveness of this source has been seriously lessened since the construction of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway through which salt water is drawn into the Mermentau River from the Calcasieu ship-channel project. For this reason the Grand Lake Reservoir cannot now be fully utilized.
The project which the Chief of Engineers has recommended for Mermentau River and its tributaries will go a long way toward solving all of the problems with which the Mermentau Basin is faced. Enlarging the lower Mermentau River and the connections between rand Lake and White Lake, and between White Lake and Vermilion Bay, will prevent drainage water from piling up in Grande Lake during periods of heavy rainfall and thus prevent flooding of marshes and cutting down the slope and discharge capacity of the river above Grande Lake. The gates in the Lower Mermentau and the White Lake-Vermilion Bay Channel will control salt-water intrusion through the improved channels during low flows which would otherwise destroy the value of the storage for rice irrigation in the lakes; the large channels between Grand Lake and White Lake, and between White Lake and Vermilion Bay, will greatly increase the freshwater storage available for rice irrigation; and the lock in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway west of the Mermentau will eliminate the salt-water intrusion from the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
The Department of Public Works of the State of Louisiana, and the police juries of the parishes, are planning programs for local drainage and flood control totaling several millions of dollars, which cannot be constructed without seriously damaging the lower country until the outfall channel improvements included in this project are accomplished. Money is available for this drainage work at the present time. The State Department of Public Works also has sufficient funds to take care of the local responsibilities set forth in the recommended project.
Mr. PYBURN. We figure that it will take at least $450,000 in local contribution to provide the rights-of-way and other items to carry out this project if approved by Congress. We have the funds on hand at this time to do that, and we have an organization set up that is ready to do it.
Mr. PITTENGER. You are in wholehearted accord with the Army Engineers, on this project, are you not?
Mr. PYBURN. Yes, sir, on this; we surely are. We are together on this statement.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. I note that the local interests have put up $250,000 cash in order to do their part. This is certainly a very fine showing
Mr. PYBURN. We have had hearings before; and unless this committee would like to go further into it, that concludes my
statement. Mr. PITTENGER. Is there any objection to this project?
Mr. PYBURN. Not at all. We have a Mermentau Basin Association which all these people belong to, and they have approved of this 100 percent, as Congressman Larcade will tell you.
Mr. LARCADE. Is it not a fact that all of these communities have gotten together on this project and worked in connection with the division engineers and the Chief of Engineers of the United States Corps of Engineers ?
Mr. PYBURN. Yes, sir.
Mr. LARCADE. Is it not a fact that the Louisiana legislature appropriated the sum of $5,000,000 which will be met by an equal sum contributed by various authorities of the draining districts and other public bodies authorized to issue bonds for the purpose of drainage projects which will be connected with this program which you have worked out?
Mr. PYBURN. That is right.
May I say one other word on this? There are several hundred small drainage districts in this drainage area here [indicating on map], and those people have become convinced that they cannot solve their dranage problems in those small areas unaided, and they are abolishing those districts and putting their drainage plans in connection with this Federal project into the hands of the Corps of Engineers and putting the matter on a broader basis, if possible, on a watershed basis. In this case it is the Mermentau River Basin. In addition to the local contribution required we will have approximately $3,100,000 to carry on interior drainage work that fits in with this project. If it were not for this project the little people could not help themselves.
Nr. LARCADE. In other words, besides local interests providing rights-of-way and all the other requirments, they will also contribute over $3,000,000, and that has been worked out in Louisiana in connection with the Board of Engineers?
Mr. PYBURN. That is correct.
Mr. LARCADE. I would like to ask permission for Mr. Harry G. Chalkley, a very prominent citizen of southwest Louisiana, who just recently came out of 4 years' service with the United States Navy, to be heard by the committee. Just before he returned, the Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce elected him as president of that body. He served in that capacity formerly, and when the Chamber of Commerce learned that he was going to be released shortly, they reelected him as president of the Chamber of Commerce. He is also president of the Association of Commerce of Lake Charles. He is very well versed in flood-control and navigation problems in southwest Louisiana ; and at this time I would like to ask Captain Chalkley to testify.
It is my pleasure to present to the committee Captain Chalkley.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia (presiding). The committee will be very glad to have you make your statement at this time, Captain Chalkley. STATEMENT OF HARRY G. CHALKLEY, PRESIDENT, CHAMBER OF
COMMERCE OF LAKE CHARLES, LA. Mr. CHALKLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think one point should be brought out in connection with this project, if I may use this map. Originally there was a privately
owned waterway which ran from Calcasieu Lake and connected this waterway. At that time they had locks installed on this canal to prevent the infiltration of salt water. This canal was originally built by private interests in 1910.
When the Intracoastal Canal was put through, the lock, of course, were removed and the entrance to the Calcasieu River moved inland approximately 12 miles. When this canal was put in without the locks the water level in this area which had furnished a natural reservoir for the rice irrigation interests was lowered approximately 12 inches, and the water was allowed free drainage into the Calcasieu River and also into the Mermentau River.
That lowering of the water level in this area (indicating on map] by means of this drainage and the infiltration of salt from the Calcasieu River as well as from the Mermentua was much more rapid than it had been in its normal state. The lower end of the Mermentau became shoal, and at certain points the silt was deposited. As the fresh water which carried the silt struck the salt water it dropped the silt in the Mermentua River, which caused a drainage problem.
I wanted to get before you gentlemen the fact that this project is in a way correcting a condition which has been brought about by the installation of the Intracoastal Canal, which all of us know is very valuable to the United States.
I shall be very glad to answer any questions, but I did feel that that point should be brought out in connection with your study of this problem.
Mr. PITTENGER. There is no objection to this project, is there? Mr. CHALKLEY. No objection at all, sir. Mr. LARCADE. I think it should be brought out at this point, Mr. Chairman, that part of this project which is under consideration this morning was originally included in what was known as the TecheVermilion-Mermentau project which was authorized about 2 years ago. At that time there was made available some $1.390,000 for improvements of the Mermentua River, with the building of a dam to control salt-water intrusion in the Mermentua River. At that time we had approval from the Flood Control Committee. I do not remember how it came to be before the Flood Control Committee; but the Flood Control Committee was the one that authorized it, and we were able to get the Appropriations Committee to approve an appropriation, and it was passed by the House and $1,390,000 was appropriated for the building of a dam to take care of the matter that the captain has referred to in his testimony.
After that authorization we had to get authority from the War Production Board to undertake the project. Unless we could show the War Production Board at that time—that was in 1943— the necessity and emergency of a project, it was next to impossible to obtain priorities for the materials necessary for such project. At that time we were able to convince the War Production Board that the amount of food would be increased to such an extent that it would be of such value to the country from that standpoint that they issued priorities for the project.
However, after all of this had been done and we had secured the appropriation and priorities from the War Production Board, the people found that that would not give the relief that was anticipated and that was desired, and this project that we have under consideration this morning is the result of that. The sum of $1,390,000 which had been appropriated by the Congress was unused, unexpended, and was returned to the Treasury. As a matter of fact, this project is an extension of the project which had already been authorized by the Flood Control Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and the House, after the project went through the regular channels and we were able to convince the War Production Board that this project was essential in that area.
Do you have any other witnesses on this project?
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. I see Congressman McKenzie, of Louisiana, is present. I wonder if you have any statement that you desire to make to the committee.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES E. MCKENZIE; A REPRESENTATIVE
IN THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES FROM THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
Mr. McKENZIE. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, as you well know, I am heartily in accord with this proposal. I have been following it through my colleague who is a member of the committee, and through the Department of Public Works. I think it is very important to that area. I think it fits right into this picture. I came here this morning primarily to get some detailed information from the engineers. I got here after Mr. Pyburn's testimony, but I will talk to him about that later.
I am in hearty accord with the project and will suport it.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. I am sure these gentlemen appreciate your interest.
We will take up the next project.
CALCASIEU RIVER AND PASS (LAKE CHARLES DEEP WATERWAY), LA.
STATEMENT OF COL. P. A. FERINGA, UNITED STATES ARMY,
RESIDENT ENGINEER, BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Colonel FERINGA. The next project on the list is Lake Charles Deep Water Channel, La.
The report on Lake Charles deep water channel, ship channel, and Calcasieu River and Pass, La., is in response to a resolution adopted on April 17, 1944, by the Senate Commerce Committee.
Calcasieu River flows south in western Louisiana and empties into the Gulf of Mexico through Calcasieu Lake and Pass about 30 miles east of Sabine Pass. Between 36 and 38 miles above the Gulf the river flows through Lake Charles on the east bank of which is the city of Lake Charles. A short cut-off across a loop of the river channel about a mile below the lake forms Clooney Island. Adjacent to this cut-off is located the principal public terminal of the city, owned by the Lake Charles Harbor and terminal district.