Page images
PDF
EPUB

I have heard it argued here that the water has always gone down in the Atcha falaya Basin. I am 60 years old, and during my boyhood I live right at the mouth of the Xtchafalaya River, at Old Barbres Landing. The Atcha falaya River today is twice the size that it was when I was a boy. My father moved out to that country in 1833. He has told me not once but dozens of times, and so has Old Man Tessier, that in that particular locality they have crossed the Atchafalaya River by throwing down a short piece of plank and walking across drv-footed.

In 1882 I remember the levee systems there—there is some of the old levee there today, right in front of my place, of the old levee line of 1882. It is about that high [indicating], with about a 7- or 8-foot width. The main line of levees there today is about 16 or 17 feet tall.

My father also has made the statement to me that in 1844 was the first water of any magnitude that took any land after he came to that country, and it then took only about half of his property; that after that water they started to throwing up levees; and that in 1865 was the next water. Then it took a little more water. My argument is that it has been the extension of levees and the accelerated drainage, people of the other parts of the United States putting their water into the Mississippi, that has caused all this water down in the Atchafalaya Basin. I admit that today that is the home of the water. There is no doubt about it.

I am in thorough accord with the plan. I told my friend, Mr. Jacobs, 25 years ago that I thought the Morganza was the logical place, as we termed it at that time, as an outlet. I still think so, but I still think that those people in there should have more than one and a half times the assessment.

I think, too, that the Government should acquire the title to those lands, not leave them in there. I think the houses should be demolished, because all the good it is going to actually do is break every man you leave in there. If he cannot make a living with the present levee as it is up to about 55 or 60 feet, and it did not break until it was about 57 in 1927, how in the world do you expect it to be a stable proposition when you are going to overflow him at 49 feet at the Angola gage? If those people are left in there and left those titles they are all going to try to go on, but it is going to be worse than nothing. I think those lands ought to be taken away from them entirely, and let them take the money that they get for them and go somewhere else where they can buy lands that will be better protected.

The CHAIRMAN. Your view is that within the floodway they should purchase the land?

Mr. BARBRE. Absolutely. It is going to be absolutely financial suicide; I am telling you that. I do not live in the area. I live now in this ring levee. I have been in the spillway under the Jadwin plan for the last 7 or 8 years, and I fought it because I felt that it was not the logical place for it.

There is one more statement that I want to make relative to the lands that are below Krotz Springs. My brother is a logging man.. Twenty-five years ago he logged down in that country and got cypress timber out of there. He told me that at that time the highest water

marks he could find were not 6 inches on those cypress trees. Since then it has overflowed. I do not know what is the cause of it.

Mr. MOUNGER. In making your statement as to payment for these properties in the Morganza spillway you forgot to mention that the improvements those people expect to be paid for are assessed at a ridiculous figure.

Mr. BARBRE. I say that if they are given twice the assessment in the aggregate it will pay for most everything else, but one and onehalf times will not do it. Twice the assessment would do it.

Mr. FERGUSON. What about the bonded indebtedness? Would that be taken care of, the bonded indebtedness on the public improvements!

Mr. BARBRE. I do not see what they are going to do about them. That is another phase that should be gone into, just as much so as the other. It is going to put an added burden on the other part of the parish.

Mr. SANDERS. In connection with the assessed value in that Morganza spillway, Mr. Barbre, state if you know what is the average assessment of land in that proposed Morganza spillway.

Mr. BARBRE. On the land itself it is not quite $9 an acre.
Mr. SANDERS. How much on the land and improvements?

Mr. BARBRE., On the land and improvements it is $9 and something an acre.

Mr. SANDERS. How does that compare with the assessment in the other parts of the parish?

Mr. BARBRE. It does not compare at all. I have a certified copy here that I can show you. In the eighth and ninth wards, that have not been overflowed in 75 years, it is about $75. In making these assessments in there we have taken into consideration the depressed times and the fact that we had two major overflows in there, one in 1912 and one in 1927, that overflowed this area.

It seems that the Lord has protected the lower end of the parish for years and years, and the devil has taken the upper. Both of these crevasses have been in the upper portion of the parish.

The CHAIRMAN. I ask a question that has been considered and discussed at times and addressed, of course, to the area that you have in mind: If the Government should purchase the lands according to your suggestion, is there any use that the Government co make of those so as to produce a revenue to the Government?

Mr. BARBRE. I do not know of anything that the Government could do unless they started raising cattle in there.

The CHAIRMAN. "But would any cattle raiser lease this land and pay the Government so much for it?

Mr. BARBRE. They might do it, but I doubt it, from the fact that every time you had high water it would wash his fences away. You might have timber in there in the course of 40 or 50 years.

Mr. SANDERS. What proportion of land in the proposed Morganza spillway is cultivated as compared with the uncultivated land? Do you have those figures ?

Mr. BARBRE. There is a good deal more uncultivated land. To start with, you could give them twice the assessment, and I do not believe it would cost you a million and a half dollars.

In the aggregate I believe that that would care for them. To start with, there are some of those people there that have the cultivated land and their improvements and houses that should get 3 or 4 times the assessment, and there are other people in there to whom 1 time the assessment would be ample for their land, and they would be well paid.

The CHAIRMAN. Suppose you were to say that the lands or the flowage rights over them should be acquired at a fair and reasonable expense; do you think you would have cooperation with the local people in acquiring those for the Government?

Mr. BARBRE. I do for a fact. I do not believe you would have any trouble. To start with, there is not an old settler in these but what absolutely believes that the Morganza is the logical place for the spillway. We all feel that these engineers have at last hit the place where the spillway ought to be. I feel this, that if they have come in there and have been able to pick out the logical point, as they have done in that place, that if they have done as well anywhere else they have certainly done a magnificent job. We are well pleased with it, even those people who are going to lose their homes, and there are some who have lived there for a long time. Old Mrs. Lacour told me that that property had been in her family over 100 years, but she says, “I realize that I have been here all my life? she is now about 80 years old—“and I realize that this is the logical place to spill the water.” That was proven in 1882, and it was proven in 1890. We had a crevass in 1882 at Morganza. When it broke the water was over. It started filling, and then it never stopped. The same thing happened in 1890. To show you just how illogical the other was, up there at Torris in the spillway under the Jadwin plan we had a crevass at Torris. I have the old gage back at home that my aunt kept at Barbre's landing. With the exception of the first 36 hours when the water stood, they went right on and rose identically at the same rate for the next 3 weeks, and raised until we had another break. That was in 1912.

Mr. SANDERS. That was after the Torris break?
Mr. BARBRE. Yes.

Mr. SANDERS. Are you familiar with conditions south of Krotz Springs? In your opinion would there be any land south of Krotz Springs that would be damaged by this?

Mr. BARBRE. The land south of Krotz Springs, Mr. Sanders, has already been damaged. To start with, those lands there used to be out; there used to be plantations down below there. It is just the fact they are building up the levees and putting all that water down there that has put the lands under. I think they are entitled to consideration just as much as anybody. SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT OF MR. STEVE BARBRE, POINTE COUPEE PARISH, LA. To the Honorable Flood Control Committee:

I wish to supplement my statement made before your honorable body by giving you a list of the assessed values of Pointe Coupee Parish and also file a certified copy taken from the assessment rolls.

Ward 1.-Lands assessed, $322,761 ; improvements, $50,950. This ward was totally overflowed in 1912 and 1927. It contains 41.319 acres and figures $9.05 per acre, improvements included.

Ward 2.—Lands assessed at $ 162,081; improvements, $62,800. Partially overflowed in 1927, totally overflowed in 1912. Contains 42,150 acres and figures $11.97 per acre, improvements included.

Ward 3.—Lands assessed, $297,800; improvements, $74,205. Contains 19,701 acres and figures $18.88 per acre, improvements included. Partially overflowed in 1912 and 1927.

Ward 4.-Lands assessed, $473,917; improvements, $10,350. Contains 54,912 acres and figures, improvements included, $9.36. This ward was totally overflowed in 1912 and 1927.

Ward 5.—Lands assessed, $409,083; improvements, $32,375. Contains 23,641 acres and figures, improvements included, $18.69. There was a small portion of this ward overflowed in 1912 and 1927.

Ward 6.-Lands assessed at $82,895; improvements, $5,380. Contains 6,291 acres and figures $14 per acre. Very small portion overflowed 1912 and 1927.

Ward 7.-Lands assessed, $202,450 ; improvements, $15,250. Contains 13,424 acres and figures $16.21 per acre. Very little water 1912 and 1927.

Ward 8.-Lands assessed, $421,695; improvements, $244,215. Contains 34,898 acres and figures $19.08 per acre. Not overflowed 1912 and 1927.

Ward 9.–Lands assessed, $177,933; improvements, $65,250. Contains 10,837 acres and figures $22.44, improvements included. Not affected by water 1912 and 1927.

Ward 10.Lands assessed at $749,172; improvements, $63,940. Figures $9.56 per acre, improvements included. About three-fourths overflowed 1912 and 1927. This parish contains 325,273 acres with an assessed value of $3,791,491; improvements, $393,071, which figures $12.59 per acre, improvements included. The proposed floodway at Morganza takes a part of the first and fourth wards, figured at 142 times its assessed value would figure $13.81 an acre. The assessed value of the entire parish would, at 1162 times its assessed value, figure $18.88 an acre. So it looks to me that the fair thing to do, should you decide to use the assessed value as a yardstick, would be to give these people double the assessed value which would about put them on a parity with the parish. Respectfully submitted.

STEVE BARBRE,
Chairman Parish Board of Equalization.

ASSESSOR'S OFFICE,
PARISH OF POINTE COUPEE,

New Roads, La., March 30, 1935. To whom it may concern:

I hereby certify that the lands and improvements in the following words are a true copy of the 1934 assessment roll:

Ward 6.-Lands, $82,895; improvements, $5,380.
Ward 7.—Lands, $202,450; improvements, $15,250.
Ward 8.—Lands, $421,695; improvements, $244,215.
Ward 9.-Lands, $177,933 ; improvements, $65,250.

P. E. BERTHIER, Assessor. Sworn to and subscribed before me on this the 30th day of March A. D. 1935. [SEAL]

J. P. JEWELL, Jr., Notary Public.

ASSESSOR'S OFFICE,

PARISH OF POINTE COUPEE,

New Roads, La., March 30, 1935. To whom it may concern:

I hereby certify that the lands and improvements in the following words are a true copy of the 1934 assessment roll:

Ward 1.-Lands, $322,761 ; improvements, $50,950.
Ward 2.-Lands, $462,081 ; improvements, $62,800.
Ward 3.—Lands, $297,800; improvements, $74,205.
Ward 4.-Lands, $473,917; improvements, $40,350.
Ward 5.—Lands, $409,083; improvements, $32,375.
Ward 10.—Lands, $749,172; improvements, $63,940.

P. E. BERTHIER, Assessor. Sworn to and subscribed before me on this the 30th day of March A. D. 1935. [SEAL]

J. P. JEWELL, Jr., Notary Public.

STATEMENT OF J. G. BURKE, HELENA, ARK., AND DE WITT POE,

MCGEHEE, ARK.

Mr. BURKE. I just want to make this one little statement, not to take up any time of the committee. I would like to have the permission of the committee to file a statement for the White and Arkansas backwater areas, as we are vitally concerned and interested in the proposed project which is now being considered by the committee.

The CHAIRMAN. We will be glad to grant your request, Mr. Burke.

STATEMENT OF DEWITT PoE, MCGEHEE, ARK., AND J. G. BURKE, HELENA, ARK.

Mr. Chairman and members of the Flood Control Committee, we appear before you as representatives of the levee districts and the landowners in what is known as the White River Back Water Area ", comprising a portion of Desha, Monroe, and Phillips Counties, Ark. This area is composed of those lands situated at the mouth of White River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, and the lands embraced therein are subject to overflow of the waters of the Mississippi River, which back up the tributary stream, thus inundating the lands thereof in flood stages.

This condition has been brought about by the construction of main-stem leyees above and below the mouth of White River on the east and west banks of the Mississippi River. The confinement of the flood waters of the Mississippi River has caused the excessive flood waters to be impounded within the backwater areas. To illustrate more clearly, the undisputed record discloses that the gage height at the mouth of White River has been raised or increased 11 feet 8 inches. The raising of gage heights has automatically raised or increased the backwater-flood plane to the irreparable injury and damage to the lands of this area.

We have persistently, on several occasions, urged this committee to right the wrong that has been done, either by legislative enactment or by modification of the proposed flood-control plans. We feel that we are justified in making this contention, for the reason that this situation has been brought about by conditions over which we have no control.

There is no doubt in our mind that the backwater areas along the Mississippi River have been discriminated against. We insist that this is an unjust discrimination, because the waters in the backwater areas are just as much the flood waters of the Mississippi River and the mere fact that it comes in the back door instead of the front door should not make any difference. To do so would be a distinction without a difference. Prior to 1922 the Mississippi River Commission took the position that it had no jurisdiction over the backwater areas. In 1922 the jurisdiction of the Mississippi River Commission was extended by act of Congress to include and embrace the areas affected by the flood waters of the Mississippi River. We urged the Commission to give us back-line protection, and each time we were told that the front-line or main-stem levees must first be constructed, and after their completion it would then deal with the back-line levees. The front-line levees are now practically completed and the backwater areas are being entirely ignored.

Under the adopted project, Document No. 90, known as the “Jadwin plan”, it was intimated that the backwater areas would be needed for storage basins. This theory has been refuted, as it has been thoroughly demonstrated that these areas serve no useful purpose as storage basins. As the river rises, the backwater areas gradually become filled and cannot be used for the purpose of taking off the crest of the flood.

Under the Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928, the backwater areas were again discriminated against in that these areas were put on a different basis from the other areas in the valley. Under section 6 of said act, the landowners and levee districts within the backwater areas were required to pay one-third of the construction costs of flood-control work and in addition thereto were required to furnish free of cost to the United States the necessary rights-of-way.

« PreviousContinue »