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Tate, Richard H., excerpt from article by-
RIVERS AND HARBORS BILL
TUESDAY, APRIL 9; 1946
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C. The committee met at 10:30 a. m., Hon. Joseph J. Mansfield (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. We will proceed, gentlemen. We have with us this morning General Wheeler, Chief of Engineers, who will present a statement.
General, we will be glad to hear from you now.
STATEMENT OF LT. GEN. RAYMOND WHEELER, UNITED STATES
ARMY, CHIEF OF ENGINEERS
General WHEELER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, since the passage of the last river and harbor act a number of authorized project reports have been reviewed by the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors and, out of that number, approximately 50 have been favorably recommended by the Board and approved by the Chief of Engineers. The proposed improvements range in size and importance from small boat harbors of refuge to deep draft ship channels and major extensions of the inland and intracoastal waterway systems. Each recommended project has been examined and weighed for justification in the public interest and found individually worthy of improvement. Each, however, will derive its maximum usefulness as an integral part of the improved national river and harbor system. The progressive addition of each new link in the chain of coastal ports and in the interconnected waterway systems extends the routes, expands the volume of traffic, places new sources of materials and new markets within economic reach of each other and thus benefits both the newly opened areas and the regions already served by existing facilities.
These proposed improvements have been favorably reported only after their economic worth has been established under the revealing light of critical analysis. All of these projects are responsive to the needs of local interests as freely voiced in public hearings. Expressions of opinion and supporting facts have been diligently sought from all interests concerned and have been given careful consideration by the reporting officers and the Board in arriving at their final conclusions. Influences tending to accelerate or retard the growth of water-borne traffic on completed projects have been studied for their probable effect on proposed river and harbor developments. Statistical records of going waterways under the varying and abnormal business conditions obtaining during the past two decades have been compiled and analyzed for guidance in estimating the future role of river and harbor improvements in the general transportation pattern of the Nation.
The significant fact brought out by these records is that, not only during the war period, but in general throughout the preceding decade of unprecedented business depression, the inland and intracoastal waterways have continued, in ever-increasing quantity, to attract and build up a growing volume of barge-borne freight tonnage. The reason for this growth is that, when reduced to the common denominator of cost, water transportation emerges as the best adapted and most economical agency among the several means of transport, for the movement of our essential basic commodities. In the long run the waterways are sought by that class of traffic. This fact is shown clearly by the large-scale ton-mileage chart of the inland and intracoastal waterway systems placed on the board at my left. It shows that inland water-borne commerce increased from a low of 7,826,000,000 ton-miles in 1931 to more than 31,000,000,000 ton-miles in 1944. This and the other small-scale charts which have been made available, were constructed from the only complete and reliable reports available covering all the freight movements on all the waterways—those compiled by the Statistical Division of the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors. Fortunately, congressional foresight has required the Engineer Department to maintain those complete records of freight movement on the waterways making up the inland system in all the various stages of maturity of traffic to serve as guides for the future.
As shown by the charts, the existing partially completed systems of river and harbor improvements, to which these proposed additions, extensions and connections would be added, have proven their indispensability during the critical war period. If the accomplishments of the ports of embarkation and dispatch of vital war material could be publicly stated in figures it would constitute a most remarkable record of achievement. It has not yet been practicable to compile complete statistics on transportation of munitions and other strategic materials from production points deep in the interior to ocean ports for transhipment to the various theaters of hostilities. They constituted a large item of barge-borne tonnage that likewise had to be excluded from published statistics during the war for reasons of security. However, it can now be disclosed that no less than 3,943 seagoing military and naval craft plus 146 drydocks were constructed at widely scattered shipyards on the Lakes and inland waterways during the critical months and propelled or towed down the rivers to deep water to play their indispensable part in the major invasions of enemy-held territory. If some of the projects now recommended could have been available to navigation 5 years ago, I am convinced that their contributions to the prosecution of the war would have added substantially to this highly creditable story.
Like housing, manufacturing and other normal peacetime activities, however, additions to waterway facilities and floating equipment were drastically curtailed by war priorities. Early in the war period, the demand for towboats and special-service barges for use on the most strategically located waterways swept the lesser channels clear of barges, and efforts of ODT to obtain a more liberal alloca