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and 125 feet wide for the Plaquemine-Morgan City route from the Mississippi-Atchafalaya section of the waterway, in the vicinity of Morgan City, through lower Atchafalaya River-Berwick Bay—and the borrow pit of the east Atchafalaya protection levee to and through Bayou Sorrel Lock-to be constructed under the existing project “Flood control, Mississippi River and tributaries”,—thence via the present waterway through lower Grand River to India Village, and thence by way of Bayou Grossetete and a new land cut to and through a new terminal lock and entrance channel to the Mississippi River in the vicinity of Port Allen opposite the lower limit of the port of Baton Rouge.
The improvement is recommended subject to the provision that local interests give assurances satisfactory to the Secretary of War that they will furnish without cost to the United States all lands, easements and rights-of-way, and spoil-disposal areas that may be required for initial construction and subsequent maintenance as and when required; bear the cost of alteration or replacement of existing highway bridges and utility crossings; maintain and operate all bridges and utility crossings; provide adequate terminal and transfer facilities, open to all on equal terms; and hold and save the United States free from damage due to the construction, maintenance, and operation of the improvement.
The cost to the United States for the new work is $8,000,000; annual cost of maintenance, and operation, $100,000, interest and amortization, $370,000; total Federal annual carrying charges $470,000. Cost to local interests, $450,000; nonfederal annual carrying charges, $57,000.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Do you have any figures to show the ratio of costs to benefits?
Colonel FERINGA. The drainage benefits equal the entire cost. The convenience and added accessibility of navigation are velvet. We have not tried to evaluate the additional benefits to shipping, because it is an improvement of an existing waterway. We could evaluate them, but inasmuch as the project is economically justified based upon drainage benefits, we did not go any further.
Prospective commerce may be expected to exceed 2,500,000 tons, with resulting savings in transportation costs due to the distance-65 miles by the proposed route as compared to 225 miles via New Orleans--amounting to a differential of 32 cents per ton. These savings are now available for “small” barge equipment adapted for negotiating Plaquemine facilities but not for equipment normally used on the New Orleans-Corpus Christi route. The Board concludes that the estimated savings in transportation costs on prospective commerce are substantially greater than the estimated annual charges.
The Governor of the State is heartily in favor of this project.
Even if time is short, Mr. Chairman, I hope you will listen to Mr. Pyburn for a few minutes, because I think he is heartily in favor of it.
Mr. PYBURN. I will make my remarks very brief. We have been working with the Baton Rouge Port Development Association on this project and with the people west of the river on their drainage prob
lems. We have already filed detailed statements of engineering information and economic justification. Mr. Leonard undoubtedly will go into some of those points; but I do wish to point out that we have already let contracts amounting to $1,150,000 to carry on their major interior drainage works. We believe that this canal will furnish benefits equaling $500,000 a year as a major outlet for the drainage of the two parishes. Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Is it farm land all through there?
Mr. PYBURN. I think it is the most fertile farm land in the nation. I do not think that is exaggerating it at all. This [indicating on map] is principally a cane-producing section.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. This improvement will furnish drainage that will make that land more valuable for farm purposes?
Mr. PYBURN. That is correct.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. You have two waterways to the Mississippi with this canal properly deepened ?
Mr. PYBURN. That is right, sir.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. How much distance will it save going through this canal rather than going through the Mississippi? Do you have those figures?
Colonel FERINGA. I have the figures right here. The traffic may be expected to exceed 2,500,000 tons with resulting savings in transportation cost for a distance of 65 miles by the proposed route as compared with 225 miles via New Orleans. That means the savings between this route (indicating on map] and the alternate route via New Orleans.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Does this project deepen the entire route down the waterway, or only this 65-mile portion of it?
Colonel FERINGA. It is generally 9 feet deep and this extension would be made 12 feet and also be made wider. It would remove the existing obstruction of the Plaquemine lock and also come out at a more advantageous location right west of Baton Rouge.
May I point out that the Intracoastal Waterway traflic, as indicated by our graph No. 11, has increased from 65,000,000 ton-miles in 1927 to 5,919,000,000 ton-miles in 1944. This traffic will make use of that channel, sir.
Mr. LARCADE. We have only one more witness on this project, Mr. H. C. Leonard, chairman of the Baton Rouge Port Development Association. I presume the gentleman will probably want to file a brief and say a few words.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. The committee will be very glad to hear you, Mr. Leonard.
STATEMENT OF H. C. LEONARD, CHAIRMAN, BATON ROUGE PORT
DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION, BATON ROUGE, LA. Mr. LEONARD. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I am here as chairman of the Baton Rouge Port Development Association.
I appear in support of the proposition, which has been favorably recommended by the engineers, to enlarge the existing alternate route of the Intracoastal Canal from 9 feet by 100 feet to 12 feet by 125 feet—the approved dimensions of the main intracoastal—and to extend it to and through a new locked entrance into the Mississippi River opposite Baton Rouge, La.
The existing alternate route from Morgan City to Plaquemine, La., is authorized for maintenance to a width of 100 feet and a depth of 9 feet. The main Intracoastal Canal now has a width of 125 feet and a depth of 12 feet. These new dimensions, accomplished during the war, have greatly increased the speed, safety, and ease of towing in the main canal and therefore have substantially reduced the cost of water transport.
The alternate route, with which we are concerned here, now enters the Mississippi River through the lock at Plaquemine, La., 20 miles downstream from Baton Rouge. This lock was completed in 1909. It was located and designed for the then existing trade carried on largely by small river and bayou packets. The West or Plaquemine Bayou approach to the lock is through two drawbridges on a short and sharp curve which is difficult for even a single large powered vessel to navigate with safety. The operation of the drawbridges in the city interferes with surface traffic. The Mississippi River entrance to the lock is in the bight of Plaquemine Bend, one of the sharpest bends on the lower river and current velocities at the entrance are excessive. The lock dimensions—260 feet by 55 feet by 10 feet-are inadequate for modern barge tows. When the Mississippi River stage exceeds 38 feet the lock cannot be operated. Maximum river stage of record is 43 feet.
In the high water of 1945 the lock had to be closed from March 30 to May 14, a period of 45 days, and during that period all barge business to and from points west of Morgan City had to go around via the Harvey lock at New Orleans. The Plaquemine lock is not in the best of condition, and it will have to be replaced at no far distant date by a modern structure at a more suitable location if the alternate route is to be expected to carry a large volume of business.
In spite of the inadequate widths and depths of the alternate route and the difficulties of navigation at Plaquemine lock, over 3,000,000 tons of commerce per annum have been handled. The high year was 1942, during which nearly 3,500,000 tons were moved.
The distance from Baton Rouge to Morgan City via the route proposed in the engineers' report is 65 miles. The distance from: Baton Rouge to Morgan City via the Harvey lock at New Orleans is 225 miles. All barge business between points on the Mississippi River and its tributaries upstream from the vicinity of Baton Rouge and points west of the vicinity of Morgan City will use the improved alternate route. The Intracoastal Canal Association estimates the commerce through the route at 5,000,000 tons per annum. The improvement is of great interest to Texas and western Louisiana, as it will afford a shorter water route between the industries on the Ohio, upper Mississippi, and Illinois Rivers with those in the Southwest.
It will give the industries at Baton Rouge and those which we expect will locate there a direct water route to and from the Southwest. It will make it possible to transfer freight brought down the Mississippi by barge from the barges to rail at water-front properties located on the canal west of the lock where water levels will be constant and transfer costs therefore moderate. This should give certain inland points to the west of the river lower transportation costs for commodities capable of shipment to Baton Rouge by barge from the upper valley.
We believe that a strong case for the improvement has been made by the engineers, by the Department of Public Works of the State of Louisiana, the Intracoastal Canal Association, and by the organization which I have the honor to represent. We urge that you give it your approval.
I wish to file a brief prepared by our association covering a portion of the canal from Indian Village to Baton Rouge.
(The brief referred to was fled with the committee.)
Mr. LEONARD. I would also like to mention one fact that was not brought out previously, and that is, one of the very good reasons for having the improvement of the canal at Baton Rouge is due to the fact that we have a 35-foot channel from the Gulf to Baton Rouge and only a 12-foot channel from Baton Rouge north. Consequently, this is a very logical place for the transfer of commodities at that particular point.
Furthermore, the river is straight and stable at that point to provide an ideal location for the new lock.
I shall be glad to answer any questions that you care to ask me. Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Is there any opposition to this project. Mr. LEONARD. Not that I know of.
Colonel FERINGA. Mr. Muller calls my attention to the fact that I said that it would have a 9-foot depth. It will be 12 feet. I am glad to correct it, and I am sorry I made the misstatement.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. It will be 12 feet deep down to the inland waterway?
Colonel FERINGA. Yes, sir. The whole inland waterway is 12 feet, and this would be 12 feet also.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Is the whole lower portion of this route now 12 feet deep?
Colonel FERINGA. I think the lower portion is 9 feet. This whole thing will be increased to 12 feet.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. That was my impression. This project, then, provides a new 12-foot canal, instead of the 9-foot depth it has now, down to where it will join to the old canal, and will make the entire canal 12 feet deep?
Colonel FERINGA. You are completely right.
Mr. LARCADE. Not only is this project economically justified, but it saves a tremendous distance.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Thank you very much, Mr. Leonard. Since it is almost 12:30, we will take a recess until 1:30 this afternoon.
(Thereupon, at 12:25 p. m., a recess was taken until 1:30 p. m. of the same day.)
(The committee reconvened at 2 p. m.)
At this point the committee held hearings on the projects for the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico; barge channel through Devils Swamp in the vicinity of Baton Rouge, which are printed in this volume under the proceedings of May 3, 1946.)
The committee thereupon adjourned.