Page images
PDF
EPUB

total acreage of 1,400,000, in the lower Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. The District produces an average of 250,000 bales of staple cotton annually.

Since its organization the district has expended for its own protection and in cooperation with the United States Government, in the building and maintenance of over 200 miles of Mississippi River levees, the total sum of $30,000,000. The district has expended for rights-of-way since the Flood Control Act of 1928, the total sum of $1,350,000. The district has never de faulted on its obligations and has met every request of the United States Government for contribution to levee construction and for rights-of-way. The district has now outstanding a bonded indebtedness of $2,324,000.

The assessed valuation of the district is $50,000,000. In order to meet requests for rights-of-way, levee maintenance, and bond interest, the district now levies the following taxes :

Two cents per acre, 3 mills ad valorem on the assessed valuation, and $1 per bale on each bale of cotton produced in the district.

It has been impossible for the district to reduce these taxes, which are in addition to all other taxes for State, county, and municipal purposes.

While we approve of the report of the chief of engineers upon his assurance, and upon the assurance of the president of the Mississippi River Commission that the Eudora floodway will be operated before a gage corresponding to approximately 54.5 feet at Vicksburg is reached, and that the Yazoo Basin generally and the area opposite the mouth of the Arkansas and opposite the fuse-plug section will be accorded greater protection than now exists, by set-back levees in the fuse-plug area, relying especially upon the assurance of the chief of engineers and the president of the Mississippi River Commission that the backwater area in the Yazoo Basin will receive greater protection than now exists, and that the Eudora floodway will begin operations before the backwater area reaches the lightest gage of either the 1922 or 1929 flood, nevertheless we believe that the matter of a diversion either in the Bouef Basin or at Eudora will always be a source of dissatisfaction and irritation until and unless there is a definite controlled diversion at approximately bank-full stage and a floodway where citizens are compensated for damages sustained.

We recommend, therefore, that the report be modified so as to provide for a definite controlled diversion as stated.

Believing that the completion of the Brunswick Extension Levee is a part of the adopted project and that its completion will benefit the back-water area of the district, comprising approximately 400,000 acres, we further recommend that a careful study of this project be made without further delay and that the Extension Levee be completed as contemplated in the adopted project.

In order to further benefit the backwater area of the district and to protect the headwater area of the Yazoo River system, we approve and urge the adoption of the recommendation of the chief of engineers for an adequate plan of flood control along said river system, and we believe it best to leave to the chief of engineers the method of solution. We are content to rely upon the plans submitted by him. Respectfully submitted.

BOARD OF MISSISSIPPI LEVEE COMMISSIONERS

OF THE MISSISSIPPI LEVEE DISTRICT,
By T. H. POWERS, President.

ERNEST KELLNER, Attorney.
W. H. NEGUB,
HOWARD JONES,
S. D. KNOWLTON,
EDGAR BROWN,

Commissioners.
J. S. ALLEN, Chief Engineer.

W. E. ELAM, Assistant Engineer. Now, there remains one witness who is present, Mr. Chairman, from the Yazoo Basin, and that is Mr. N. E. Offenhiser, chief engineer of the Yazoo-Mississippi Valley Delta Board, and if he desires to make a statement in the record I would be glad for him to make it at this time, or he may submit later any statement that he cares to make for the record.

Mr. OFFENHISER. I would prefer to file a statement for the record later, if it is permissible.

The CHAIRMAN. That is acceptable.

Mr. WHITTINGTON. If you will hand me the statement, I will be glad to furnish it to the secretary.

(The statement referred to follows:) STATEMENT OF N. E. OFFEN HISER, CHIEF ENGINEER, YAZOO-MISSISSIPPI DELTA

LEVEE BOARD, CLARKSDALE, Miss. The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta levee district, or, as it is commonly known by the the United States engineers, the upper Yazoo district, was organized in 1884 and represents a total acreage of about 2,250,000 acres of land in the Yazoo Basin, of which about one-half is in a high state of cultivation.

This district has spent for its protection from the floods of the Mississippi River about $25,000,000 and now has outstanding obligations of over $3,500,000. Since 1928 the expenditure for rights-of-way has been the sum of $852,152.58.

This district has not suffered from a front-line crevasse since 1897 and was then only partially overflowed, and the development and progress of this area testifies to the economic and social value of the protection of the valley lands against overflow.

A large part of the lands considered by the Chief of Engineers in his report on the Yazoo River project lies within this district. These lands have received protection by the main river levees, but have been and are now being overflowed by the waters of the tributary streams, this flooding occurring at more frequent intervals and to increasingly greater extent. The area involved has always been taxed and is now being taxed for the support of the front-line levees, as are all of the lands of the district. In addition, this area has spent about $20,000,000 for local levees and drainage structures which have proven entirely inadequate.

A considerable area of backwater from the Mississippi River in extreme floods also lies in this district and receives only partial protection or no protection from the front-line levees. The statement as to the flooded lands of the YazooTallahatchie Basin as to contributions to front-line levees applies to the backwater area also.

I believe that some further protection can be afforded to the backwater area by continuing the extension of the Brunswick levee and the flood conditions in that area somewhat alleviated by the construction of the Yazoo River project.

While the floodways contemplated in this report are to be used primarily to insure the safety of the levees during extreme floods, I believe that if they can be developed for the benefit of the backwaters at lower stages they should be so used.

After carefully considering the report of the Chief of Engineers on the floodcontrol work in the alluvial valley in Mississippi before your committee I endorse the recommendations of the Chief of Engineers and urge the adoption of the report. I also wish to state that it is my opinion, based upon knowledge gained in over 30 years of flood-control experience, that the potential, economic, and social value of the security of the areas involved from the danger of inundation from the Mississippi River and tributary streams justifies the costs of the project as outlined in the report.

N. E. OFFENHISER, Chief Engineer, Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Distriot. Mr. WHITTINGTON. Mr. Chairman, by colleague, Representative Dan R. McGehee, desires to make a statement.

Mr. McGEHEE. Mr. Chairman, I desire to file and commend to the favorable consideration of the committee a statement by Frank H. Andrews, of Vicksburg, Miss., and I now hand to the clerk of the committee the statement as follows:

STATEMENT OF FRANK H. ANDREWS, VICKSBURG, Miss. The owners of lands in the area between Rolling Fork and Vicksburg and Yazoo City and the Mississippi River are interested vitally in two features of the flood-control program: (1) The stage at which the proposed spillway at

131791-35-15

Eudora shall be opened for the ingress of flood waters and (2) the completion of the main Mississippi Levee line to Vicksburg.

For more than 20 years efforts have been made to obtain some measure of protection for the lands embraced in that area. It has always been recognized that a diversion of a part of the volume of flood waters from the Mississippi at a bank full stage at Cypress Creek would afford those lands the best protection. So, it may be said, would a great measure of protection be had by a diversion of waters at a bank full stage at the proposed Eudora opening. But the proposed plan for the use of an opening at Eudora and its use would, by itself, have no value for the southern delta. It is to be admitted that, in years when great floods come, its use would lessen strain on levees on both sides of the Mississippi and thereby lessen the menace of breaches in the levee lines. But it would not add 1 foot to the area protected by flood-control works.

Any work of such magnitude and so expensive might be expected to do more than serve as a protection against levee breaks in times of great floods. As written, the plan proposed for the development and use of the floodway is the following: “The floodway is designed to withdraw from the main river all waters in excess of the safe capacity of the leveed channel.” That statement is followed by a defined limitation on the use of the proposed spillway. The limitation is as follows: “ The control works are to be so designed that the flow will not commence until the flood has reached a stage corresponding to 51 feet at Vicksburg (about 9 feet below the levee grade), and will be stopped when the flood has reached to that stage."

The limitation is further defined by the following: “It is not intended that the spillway will be operated at all unless the predicted flood exceeds the safe capacity of the leveed channel in the main river."

In other words, if, in the opinion of the engineers, the condition of the levees should be such as to warrant the hazard, if any, the off-take of the waters might not begin at 51 feet at Vicksburg but at 52, 53, or even 54 feet, or at some other stage lower than the 60-foot crests of the levee lines.

The presumed "safe capacity of the leveed channel” would govern.

Within the past 40 years a stage of 51 feet at Vicksburg has occurred just nine times. In one other year a stage of 5040 feet has occurred. In 2 other years stages closely approximating 50 feet have been recorded.

In each of the years when the stage has reached the 51-foot mark great damage has been wrought in the southern section of the Delta.

A change of location of the river gage at Vicksburg has apparently created a change in the value of readings at that point. Thus far it would seem that a 51-foot reading on the gage now in use there would represent a 52-foot reading at the old gage location.

In other words, the opening of the Eudora gateway for the waters at a 51-foot Vicksburg stage, based upon the use of the gage now in use, would probably be equivalent to its opening at Vicksburg at a 52-foot stage based upon the use of the old gage.

The new location of the gage has been in use for some months.

It is maintained that if a floodway is developed it should be used not only for the protection of the levee system as it now exists but for the creation of protection for additional farm lands.

This could be done by lowering the intake of the proposed Eudora opening. A lowering of it by 2 to 3 feet and its use at the lower intake level would protect many thousands of acres of highly productive lands.

In the meantime the main Mississippi Levee line should be continued to Vicksburg. It is an uncompleted work. It would afford a measure of protection to an area which not only deserves but has been promised the measure of protection the completion of the levee line would afford. In many years it would afford complete and in other years partial protection to the area north of Vicksburg and, broadly speaking, lying south, east, southeast, and southwest of Rolling Fork. That area embraces large bodies of land in Issaquena, Sharkey, Humphreys, Yazoo, Holmes, and Warren Counties. It is an area settled years ago. It was highly improved. In it was developed the famous “ benders " cot. ton. In it also the long-stapled cottons were carried to the highest state of development.

Before the Federal Government adopted the policy of levee building and, indeed, for years thereafter the southern counties of the Delta exceeded the northern counties in population and wealth. Now the southern area is designated, somewhat contemptuously, as the “backwater area” of the Yazoo Basin. Its condition is the result of levee building.

To the cost of constructing the levees that have destroyed them, the people of the “backwater area" have contributed levee taxes for more than a quarter of a century. They continue to pay taxes for levee building and levee maintenance. They await the coming of protection, promised them many times. Those promises were not hazy generalities. They were definite, given not only by word of mouth, but by writings, which are in the records. In 1912 the Mississippi River Commission reported on the closing of the Brunswick Gap, from Brunswick to Vicksburg, saying, in part:

“A levee for this purpose would be about 25 miles long. The estimated benefits from such construction, in the increased value of the protected land, fully justifies the construction of such a levee. This work should be undertaken as early as practicable, as it is really an extension of the controlling levee line along the Yazoo front."

In 1916, the late Hon. Ben. G. Humphreys, first chairman of the House of Representatives' Flood Control Committee, escorted through the area, members of the then new committee. Following that journey through the flooded area. he wrote:

Our trip through the overflowed country, where the flood water stood, in some places, above the rails in the railroad track, was one of the most impressive instances of the whole trip and did more, I think, than any one other single thing, to influence the committee favorably."

In other words, the existence of the gap was largely, if not mainly, responsible for the making by Congress of the first appropriation for flood control.

After another trip through the area, with his committee in 1922, Mr. Humphreys wrote:

“In the hearings which we held after we reached Washington, the question was asked frequently by different members of the committee, if the estimate of $45,000,000 included the Brunswick Gap. The committee was assured by the engineers that it did and that work would certainly be done."

In December 1922 the construction of the levee was begun. More than 70 inches of rainfall during 1923 so impeded the progress of the work that little was accomplished until 1924.

Thereafter the work progressed steadily and, before the close of 1926, almost half the levee, as projected, had been completed.

During 1926 the southern terminus of the levee had been decided upon. The United States district engineer, in charge of the local river district had suggested that the levee be not continued to Vicksburg.

On April 26, 1926, the Mississippi River Commission approved the following recommendation of its committee on levees :

“ COMMITTEE ON LEVEES,

On Board U. 8. S. Mississippi', April 25, 1926. "The committee on levees is of the opinion that the Brunswick extension levee should be carried to a junction with the West Pass Levee, the section below station 691 to be in the form of a dike with 6-foot crown and 3-to-1 slopes.

“With a view to reducing the cost, it reconimends that a thorough investigation, with borings, be made to determine the most suitable point of crossing old Yazoo River below station 691, and report to be submitted at as early a date as possible.

Owing to the magnitude of the project, it deems the proposed withdrawal of funds to be inadvisable and recommends that steps be taken by contract or otherwise the full amount heretofore allotted.”

The proposal to withdraw from use for the project funds already allotted for the project was that of Maj. R. P. Howell, district engineer.

Investigation “to determine the most suitable point of crossing old Yazoo River was completed and a subaqueous dam across the river was being built when the 1927 flood swept down the valley.

From 1927 to 1934, no further work on the levee was done.

The Jadwin plan, adopted in 1928, was one based upon the premise that basins along the Mississippi should be reserved as reservoirs and not closed off by levees.

In the course of 1927 hearings, General Jadwin stated, in response to a question by Hon. W. M. Whittington, Member of Congress, and also a member of the Flood Control Committee, that “his plan contemplated the completion of the Brunswick Gap."

Possibly, the small per-acre-foot capacity of the area influenced the decision of General Jadwin to omit it from his reservoir program. Its location played a part in its omission.

[ocr errors]

In the Mississippi River Commission's study of the subject of reservoirs above and below Cairo, it was developed and testimony to that effect given before the Senate Commerce Committee in 1927 that the Yazoo Basin's capacity as a reservoir for headwaters was only about 242,000 acre-feet; thtat its capacity was less than one-third that of the basin of the Red, the next smallest basin; that it was less than 1 percent of the total reservoir space in the five basins; and, even more pertinent, that:

“ By reason of their location, the reservoirs of the St. Francis, White, and Arkansas merit more consideration than those of the Yazoo and Red."

Gen. Thomas H. Jackson, President of the Mississippi River Commission, stated that the levee would be completed, but declined to state when it would be completed.

Later, Gen. Lytle Brown, Chief of Engineers, stated that it would be completed but not until after the Louisiana levees had been raised to commission grade and section.

In 1934 the construction of the levee was resumed and two and two-tenths miles of levee line were added to it. The additional work carried the main Mississippi levee line to a point of junction with Old Yazoo River.

No official statement has been made regarding the continuance of the work across Old Yazoo River and southward to Vicksburg.

There are indications, however, that it is not the intention to continue the work as planned and promised to be carried out.

In 1931, under authority of the President of the Mississippi River Commission dated March 20, 1931, the United States' Waterways Experiment Station conducted an “Experiment to determine the effects of the several proposed levee extensions, south of Eagle Lake, Miss."

Five experiments were made, all based upon the flood of 1929, with its 55 2/10 foot stage at Vicksburg, and an assumed superflood, yet to come.

Only three times in the recorded history of the river has there occurred a 55-foot stage at Vicksburg.

From a practical viewpoint, other and lower bases might have been used.

If it might be reasonably assumed that crops could be produced in the area during 4 out of each 5 years, the territory would soon be restored.

The results of these experiments, which are, properly, classed as “Indications ", may be briefly summarized, as follows:

None of the extensions would materially aid the backwater area; any one of them would raise the flood level of the Mississippi opposite the backwater area.

The first conclusion may be questioned; the second was a recognized fact before the experiment was made. Writing on the subject in 1922, the late Col. George M. Hoffman, former member of the Mississippi River Commission, and member of its committee on levees, said: “There would, naturally, be an elevation of flood height along the upper half of the basin closed off, existing conditions in the middle section remaining the same, and a pronounced lowering of the heights at the lower end."

It is stated in the report on the experiments that the area reclaimed under extension no. 2 would be 77,000 acreas, in the event of a recurrence of a 1929 flood (55 2/10 feet) and 95,000 acres in the event of a superflood, presumably 60 feet or more. Under experiment no. 5, the reclamation of 77,000 acres in the event of a 1929 type of flood and 80,000 acres in the event of a superflood is indicated.

Average production on the lands reclaimed is about one-half bale of cotton per acre. The cottons produced on them are of the long-stapled varieties, commanding premiums over the prices of short stapled cottons. Assuming a one-half bale per acre production on 77,000 acres of land reclaimed, a 12-cent per pound price or $60 per bale, the annual production of the lands reclaimed would have a value of $2,310,000 or more each year, than the total cost of construction of the uncompleted portion of the levee.

But, Gen. Lytle Brown, Chief of Sngineers, testifying before the House Committee on Flood Control in 1930, said, pertinently, with regard to the acceptance of results from small scale experiments and their application to “grandscale" projects, that such experiments were not conclusive."

They give an indication ", he said. “That”, he continued, “is what w have an experimental station at Vicksburg for, to try things out on a smal. scale to give an indication, and an indication is all they do give."

Actual results from the construction of that part of the levee which has been completed differ greatly from those which, accepting the results of the small-scale experiments, are to be anticipated from its completion.

« PreviousContinue »