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Devils Swamp comprises 5 square miles of low bottom land lying adjacent to the left bank of the Mississippi River. Its southern edge is approximately 1 mile upstream from the Baton Rouge bridge across the Mississippi River.
Existing projects provide for a navigation channel in the Mississippi River 12 feet deep and 300 feet wide from Cairo, Ill., to Baton Rouge, thence 35 feet deep and 500 feet wide to New Orleans.
There is no existing project for improvement of Devils Swamp for navigation.
Commerce of the port of Baton Rouge for the 8-year period ending with 1944 ranged from a minimum of 6,540,000 tons in 1937 to a maximum of 8,150,000 tons in 1941, and averaged 7,454,000 tons annually, of which 55 percent or 4,063,000 tons was barge traffic. Mississippi River traffic, Baton Rouge to but not including New Orleans, during the same period averaged 12,532,000 tons annually. Barge traffic of the port of Baton Rouge during 1944 consisted of 1,872,000 tons of receipts and 4,010,000 tons of shipments.
The tributary area comprises the city of Baton Rouge and its environs lying a few miles downstream. The city had an estimated population of 42,000 in 1945, with 68,000 additional residents in adjoining suburbs. It is the capital of the State of Louisiana and contains many important industrial establishments, including a large oil refinery and installations of Consolidated Industries, Gulf States Utilities, and of the E. I. Dupont de Nemours, Ethyl, Solvay Process, Aluminum Ore, and Copelymer organizations. The principal manufactured products are petroleum products, soda ash, chlorine, caustic soda, hydrofluoric and sulfuric acid, ethyl fluid, butadiene, synthetic rubber, synthetic alcohol, and pig lead.
Local interests desire construction of a barge channel in Devils Swamp 12 feet deep below mean gulf level, and 300 feet wide extending from the Mississippi River 5 miles in a northerly direction along Scot Bluffs, to provide water frontage free from river currents for industrial expansion on upland not subject to flooding, and for a new municipal barge wharf. They state that all available upland with water frontage suitable for industrial sites is now taken up and the desired channel in Devils Swamp would provide additional desirable industrial sites, as well as a superior location for a new municipal barge wharf which they propose to build.
The Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors recommends that the existing project for Mississippi River, Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico, be modified to provide for a channel 12 feet deep and 300 feet wide extending in a northerly direction from the left or east bank of the Mississippi River at or near mile 234.5, a distance of 5 miles, through Devils Swamp near its eastern edge; provided that the Chief of Engineers be authorized to construct 212 miles of the proposed channel initially with provisions for extending to 5 miles when and as needed.
The improvement is recommended provided that responsible local agencies give assurances satisfactory to the Secretary of War that they will (a) provide, without cost to the United States, all lands, easements, rights-of-way, and spoil disposal areas necessary for the construction and subsequent maintenance of the project; (6) hold and save the United States free from damage due to the construction and subsequent maintenance of the project; and (c) provide, maintain and operate adequate terminal facilities which shall be open to all on equal terms. Cost to United States for new work..
$2,000,000 Annual cost of maintenance to United States.
25, 000 Amortization and interest.
Total annual carrying charges--
112, 000 Estimated annual savings of $115,000 in transportation costs on anticipated additional commerce gives a cost-to-benefits ratio of 1 to 1.03. Additional benefits to the large volume of water-borne commerce would make the economic ratio much more favorable.
Scot Bluffs, along the easterly side of Devils Swamp, would provide additional desirable sites if provided with water frontage by construction of the proposed Devils Swamp channel. The proposed channel would also provide a desirable off-river barge harbor.
(The proceedings of April 15, 1946, are as follows :)
AFTERNOON SESSION, MONDAY, APRIL 15, 1946
(The committee reconvened at 2 p. m.)
MISSISSIPPI RIVER, BATON ROUGE, LA., TO THE GULF OF MEXICO-BARGE
CHANNEL THROUGH DEVILS SWAMP IN THE VICINITY OF BATON ROUGE,
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. The committee will be in order. Mr. Larcade.
Mr. LARCADE. Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit a request at this time. A number of witnesses have come from Louisiana and they have asked to be heard at this time.
In view of the fact that they are now here, and have traveled such a long distance, I request that you take their testimony in connection with this project. The improvement in question is known as the Devils Swamp project. We have only two or three witnesses. They would like to file briefs for the record and make an appearance:
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Is it anticipated that this project will be reported on?
Mr. LARCADE. I would refer you to Colonel Feringa in answer to that question. STATEMENT OF COL. P. A. FERINGA, RESIDENT MEMBER OF
BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS Colonel FERINSA. In the Congressional Record for April 3, on page 2136, it shows that Friday, May 3, is held open for a description of projects favorably recommended by the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, during its April meeting. That meeting has not yet taken place. However, I have gone over the report for Devils Swamp, which is a channel near Baton Rouge, and I am of the opinion that it is a very worthy project with a high ratio of economic benefits, so I am of the opinion that the Board will act favorably upon it.
I am prepared to describe it now, or prefer to describe it after the Board has finished, but I believe all these gentlemen here might wish to be heard briefly at this time.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. Do you prefer to wait until after the Board has acted on it!
Colonel FERINGA. Yes; for my own full description, but I can describe it briefly at this time, stating where it is, and then let these gentlemen be heard. That is what I recommend, sir.
Mr. PETERSON of Georgia. I see no objection with the understanding that it is the policy of this committee not to hear projects until they have been acted on by the Board of Engineers. In the event this project is not acted on by the Board of Engineers and does not get to the committee, we would want you to understand that.
Colonel FERINGA. I will make it my duty to apprise you if the Board does not take action, and also what action the Board takes.
The project is located at Baton Rouge, La., and known as Devils Swamp. It was put in the last River and Harbor bills for study at che request of Senator Overton.
Baton Rouge, La., is a thriving metropolis. The traffic is going up by leaps and bounds. As I indicated this morning the inland waterway traffic has increased from 9,000,000,000 ton-miles to over 30,000,000,000 ton-miles annually. Tomorrow we will recommend to this committee that about four or five small harbors be approved for the upper Mississippi. We have already recommended to this committee that a harbor be approved for Sioux River, which is the head of navigation on the Missouri River. This project is more or less of the same type. It would take advantage of an existing but shallow waterway at this location which could be developed as a canal; rather, a terminal canal, and so that the industry of Baton Rouge, which is now terribly crowded for space, could be accommodated along the east bank.
The territory is now covered by highway and rail transportation and would make a very desirable terminal at this location. The Board will consider it in its meeting of April 28 and 29.
Mr. PITTENGER. How far is that from New Orleans?
Colonel FERINGA. Baton Rouge is 110 miles from New Orleans, and Baton Rouge is also right opposite from where that intracoastal canal project that we described this morning would be. So, therefore, I visualize that the new intracoastal canal, which we described this morning, would come into the Mississippi River about this location, and therefore the proposed terminal would be ideally situated for the service of barge traffic.
Mr. PITTENGER. Do I understand that Senator Overton had this in the bill last year?
Colonel FERINGA. For study. He was instrumental in having the study made.
Mr. PrTTENGER. That was done before the engineers had taken any action?
Colonel FERINGA. It authorized us to make a study; the normal process, Mr. Pittenger.
I think the local people are here to talk about the project. Mr. LARCADE. Mr. Pýburn, do you want to testify? STATEMENT OF DEWITT L. PYBURN, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF
PUBLIC WORKS, LOUISIANA Mr. PYBURN. I would like to file a brief prepared by the Department of Public Works.
(The brief is as follows:)
A BRIEF JUSTIFYING FEDERAL CONSTRUCTION OF BATON ROUGE
BARGE CANAL, BATON ROUGE, LA.
(State of Louisiana, Department of Public Works : Leo M. Odom, Chief
Engineer; Dewitt L. Pyburn, Director-1945)
This brief has been prepared by the Department of Public Works, State of Louisiana for presentation to the President of the Mississippi River Commission in support of the project for a “barge channel in the vicinity of Baton Rouge, La.,
extending from the Mississippi River through Devils Swamp along its eastern edge."
The preliminary examination and survey for this channel was authorized in H. R. 3961, Seventy-eight Congress, second session,
This brief contains a description of the improvement desired by local interests, a summary of the economic survey made to develop the justification for the project and a résumé of existing conditions at the port of Baton Rouge.
The city of Baton Rouge has grown rapidly as an industrial center, largely because of three natural advantages: (1) It is the head of deep-water navigation on the Mississippi River; (2) Barge navigation; and (3) Riverside industrial sites above flood level. Most of the shipping is done over private wharves, but the city does have a municipal wharf on the river. Barge traffic handling a wide variety of products uses the municipal wharf as well as the wharves of the private industries.
The natural highland sites along the river are limited to an area extending about 5 miles from Baton Rouge up to Scot Bluffs, at which point the river curves away from the bluffs and is separated therefrom by an extensive low bar formation called Devils Swamp. The natural highland frontage has been practically taken up by existing industries. However, it is quite feasible for the additional highland sites to be made available by the dredging of a barge canal from the river into Devils Swamp along the bluffs. These sites are near existing rail and highway facilities and connections would be inexpensive.
This channel would provide advantages over river frontage because of its freedom from currents and scouring. In addition to providing many new sites for industry, the channel will make a superior location for a new municipal barge wharf. It is planned that a modern wharf especially designed for barge traffic will be built on the canal. A site for such a wharf is already under option by the Baton Rouge Port Development Association.
A thorough economic survey of the present and potential barge commerce at Baton Rouge has been made by one of the foremost men in that line of work. This survey reveals that the present barge tonnage through the port of Baton Rouge is sufficiently large to warrant the expenditure for the improvement desired. When it is considered that the survey does not attempt to anticipate the tremendous possibilities for increased tonnage which would result from shipping from private wharves along the new canal, it will be seen that the small Federal cost of the project is overwhelmingly justified.
A summary of the findings of the economic survey follows:
1. Postwar tonnage of commerce through the Baton Rouge barge terminal will average not less than 250,000 tons per annum, which is 115,000 tons greater than prewar tonnage.
2. Savings in freight on this additional water movement will be at least $115,000 per annum.
3. Savings in transfer costs at the proposed new barge terminal would be at least 50 cents per ton. The annual savings on transfer of postwar tonnage will, therefore, be $125,000.
4. Total expected savings on postwar tonnage via the new canal and terminal as compared to prewar conditions will be at least $115,000 plus $125,000 or $240,000.
The demand for highland riverside industrial sites, such as would be furnished by the Baton Rouge barge canal, is borne out by numerous requests which have been received by the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce for such locations for factories by large manufacturing concerns.
DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT
The proposed barge canal connects with the Mississippi River, east bank, about a mile above the vehicular-railroad bridge, a short distance upstream from the city of Baton Rouge. This canal would begin at the downstream end of Devil's Swamp and extend for a distance of about 5 miles in a northerly direction along Scott's Bluff. The location of the project is shown in figure 2 on the opposite page.
It is desired to dredge the channel as close to the highlands as economy in excavation will warrant in order to permit the erection of barge terminals which
will handle goods from and into barges at least possible cost. Marginal railroad tracks will provide direct transfer of goods from barges to cars by mechanical means when necessary. Trucks will also have access to barges with minimum handling of goods.
The project would have a bottom width of 300 feet and a depth below mean Gulf level of 12 feet so as to be equivalent to the minimum channel dimensions of the Mississippi River project above Baton Rouge. The turning basin would have the same depth as the channel and be 1,000 feet square.
The land through which the channel would be dredged is approximately 27 feet above the mean level of the Gulf, and the elevation of top of the bluffs exceeds by several feet the highest flood elevation of record at Baton Rouge, that is 47.3 feet mean Gulf level which occurred in 1927.
This section of the report is a summary of an economic and traffic survey made for the purpose of determining the amount of commodity tonnage that is expected to be handled at the new barge terminal and the public savings which can reasonably be expected to 'result from increased water transportation and less expensive costs of terminal operation.
Baton Rouge is the capital of the State of Louisiana and the seat of government for East Baton Rouge Parish. It is situated on the Mississippi River, east bank, a distance of 135 miles by river from New Orleans. It has a population of 42,000 within the corporate limits and an additional 68,000 in the immediate suburbs; of more interest to this survey, however, Baton Rouge has a trading area population of 450,000 within a 50-mile radius.
Property in East Baton Rouge Parish was assessed for taxing purposes in 1943 at $140,459,471, although since 1941 new industrial development and expansion has cost more than $150,000,000. Of its 94 industries, employing over 30,000 people, the most important ones are the Standard Oil Co., E. I. Dupont de Nemours Co., Ethyl Corp., the Solvay Process Co., Aluminum Ore Co., Consolidated Industries, Inc., Copolymer Corp., synthetic rubber plants, butadienne plant, and the Gulf States Utilities Co. It has also smaller industries, such as foundries, machine shops, sash and door work, veneer, tile, and sewer pipe plants.
Its wholesale establishments number 76, aggregating annual sales of over $30,000,000. Its three banks have resources of over $59,000,000.
The census of animals in the agricultural area surrounding Baton Rouge comprises 121,000 milk cows, 259,000 hogs, 36,000 sheep, and 502,000 head of cattle.
Postal receipts and car loadings are to a degree indicative of the growth of Baton Rouge as a business community. Postal receipts jumped from $244,000,000 in 1935 to $484,000,000 in 1941. Car loadings increased from 50,817 in 1939 to 95,415 in 1941.
Baton Rouge is served by three trunk line railways; namely the Illinois Central, the Missouri Pacific, and the L. & A.; Kansas City Southern. Three barge lines make it a port of call, the Federal, the Mississippi Valley and the American Barge Lines.
Table I shows the total tonnage of commodities handled by barges over the municipal ship wharf for the years 1937 to 1941 inclusive. Subsequent years were not taken into consideration because any increase or decrease in tonnage for the last 4 years was too largely influenced by war conditions to be of value. It is preferable, we think, to use statistics of normal times as a basis for estimating the possibilities of increased movements by barge over Baton Rouge terminals. The tonnage shown on table I was furnished by the traffic department of the chamber of commerce, but was checked by the records of the individual barge lines. Table II is the tonnage of selected commodities.
Figure 3 is a curve showing the estimated postwar tonnage that can reasonably be expected to move by barge through Baton Rouge merely as a natural and unaided expansion of the commerce transacted during the 5 years preceding the war. This fully expected tonnage amounts to 250,000 tons annually. We believe, from past experiences, that a possible annual tonnage of 300,000 tons will move by barge through Baton Rouge the fifth year after the war, provided an economical terminal is constructed on the proposed barge canal and, further provided, that proper efforts are made by the business interests of Baton Rouge and the carriers concerned to develop traffic by rail-water, water-rail, and all water carriage not