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We contend that this provision of the law is unjust and inequitable and should be amended so as to put the backwater areas on the same basis as main-stem levees.
It is utterly impossible for the local levee board or the landowners within the backwater areas to comply with the terms and provisions of section 6 of the existing law. These lands are already heavily burdened with taxation to repay the cost of construction of main-stem levees. Many of the lands are now assessed as high as $1 per annum per acre for the construction cost of mainstem levees. It will be readily observed that it would be impossible to place an added burden of taxation on these lands. It is likewise impossible for the backwater areas to comply with the terms and provisions of section 6 of the existing law, because they would be unable to finance the one-third of the construction cost. The levee districts in these areas are required to finance the cost of construction by the issuance of bonds. There is no market for such bonds. Many of the levee districts in the backwater areas have already defaulted, both in principal and interest, for bonds which were issued to raise funds for the construction of main-stem levees. We submit that the existing law should be changed so as to afford these areas some measure of protection.
The discrimination against the backwater areas cannot be justified. Why should these areas be confiscated for the storage of the flood waters of the Mississippi River, which drains 41 percent of the entire Nation? We take the position that it was the intent and purpose of Congress by the enactment of the Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928, to control the flood waters of the Mississippi River. These waters are not controlled if they are permitted to be impounded in the backwater areas. The discrimination cannot be justified for the paramount reason that these areas have from time to time met and fulfilled every requirement of the Federal Government in the construction of front-line levees. Millions of dollars have been spent by the landowners in the backwater a reas for front-line levees, with the hope and expectation that these areas would eventually be protected. Having met and fulfilled these requirements we earnestly insist that these areas should be accorded fair treatment on a just and equitable basis.
We exceedingly regret that the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army have been unable to see the justness of our position. They continually refer to these areas as being “natural storage basins ", which statement is not supported by the facts. The flood-control hearings of 1928 and 1930 clearly and convincingly disclose that these areas are artificial and not natural. They have been produced by the raising or increasing of gage heights along the river, by the construction of front-line levees, and the closing of natural diversions. For instance, the backwater plane of the White River area was considerably increased by the closure of the Cypress Creek diversion in 1922. Prior to the closure of this diversion there was carried through this diversion 300,000 to 350,000 cubic second-feet. The closure of the diversion caused the excessive flood waters of the Mississippi River to be impounded in the White River backwater area at a greater depth, duration, and frequency. In 1927 the flood waters were impounded in the White River area for a period of 178 days; in 1928, 57 days; 1929, 107 days. The White River area sustained tremendous damages during the backwater overflow of 1928 for the reason that there were from two to three consecutive overflows during that rear at seasons which did not permit the making of crops. Three crops were destroyed during that year. This area was inundated in the year 1928 for 15 days in May, 10 days in June, and 24 days in July, thereby rendering the lands unproductive. In 1933 these lands were inundated in the months of April and May.
It is practically impossible to estimate with any degree of accuracy the flood losses in this area. The most authentic are the estimates made by the Corps of Engineers in House Document No. 102, Seventy-third Congress, first session, summarized as follows: 1927
$4, 531, 800 1928 1929.
1, 845, 400 2, 586, 400
8, 963, 600
Total----The above flood losses are based on 105,000 acres in Phillips County, Ark., and 17,000 acres in Desba County, Ark., which is at the rate of $24 per acre per flood-year.
The landowners in the backwater areas are denied certain rights and privileges which are granted to the protected areas of the alluvial valley. The Federal land bank and other governmental agencies refuse to make loans on these lands in the unprotected areas. Prior to 1927 the Federal land bank of St. Louis made many loans in this area. The lands had a loan value of from $25 to $50 per acre. Today they have no loan value, whatever. The farming of these lands has become so hazardous that in many instances it is impossible for the farmer to obtain financial assistance.
The Laconia Drainage and Levee District of Phillips County, Ark., which is situated within the heart of the White River backwater area, has an outstanding bonded indebtedness of $250,000, exclusive of interest. This district has applied to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for a loan to refund its bonded indebtedness. One of the first questions presented was, What effort has the district made to protect these lands from backwater overflow? This is a vital question, which cannot be answered under the present existing laws and the adopted project. No doubt this fact will cause the investors holding these bonds to lose considerable sums of money.
The Laconia Drainage and Levee District has been in default in the payment of its principal and interest on its bonded indebtedness for the past 4 years, due to the inability of the landowners to pay their taxes. This condition will continue until the lands of this district are given some measure of protection.
Several of the Army engineers, in testifying before the committee, have referred to these areas as being “swamp lands" or "lakes.” This is not a fact, and we do not know from what source they obtained this information. Most assuredly they did not receive it from authentic sources. Numerous witnesses could be brought before this committee who have resided in the backwater areas for more than half a century. They would testify that these lands were settled many years ago and were at one time in a high state of development and cultivation.
Maj. Gen. E. M. Markham, Chief of Engineers, in submitting his report for a modification of the flood-control plan, justifies the expenditure of funds by using the following language:
“The cost of the modifications herein presented reaches a large sum. The justification for the expenditure is to be found, not so much in the calculable physical benefits as in the relief of the human suffering and disorder that occurs when large areas are inundated for long periods of time.”
We respectfully submit that the cost of protecting the backwater areas can at all times be justified by language of similar import. This is the first time in the history of flood control that any plan has been justified from a humanitarian standpoint. We think that the Chief of Engineers should be highly commended for taking this position, and we request that in his future modifications of flood-control plans that he apply the same rule or standard to the backwater areas.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. In that connection, Mr. Chairman, I would like for the hearings to disclose that my colleague, Representative Dan R. McGehee, appeared and asked permission to file as part of the hearings a statement by Frank H. Andrews, of Vicksburg, Miss., respecting the Mississippi modification and the Yazoo backwater area.
The CHAIRMAN. All right.
Mr. WARREN HUNT (of Rayville, La.). I would like to have that same permission granted us, and we can dispense with a considerable delegation from the Boeuf Basin that has been here for the last 3 days if you will permit us to file a written statement which we can get together on at noon; then you probably will not have to hear from us further. We have had our ear to the ground, but have not heard much yet that requires our presence here.
The CHAIRMAN. That will be my request, that you prepare that, and I ask the privilege of filing that. That is in my district.
Mr. Hunt. It will be a consolidated statement, supplemented by a few resolutions from service clubs and other interested organizations.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I have been a member of this committee for a good many years, and it is my thought that businesslike handling, with all deference, and absolute refusal to make useless repetition, would help us all.
Mr. Hunt. As part of our statement, we will include the names of all the representatives in our delegation.
NOTE.—Mr. Warren Hunt, of Rayville, La., waives his right to insert a written statement, and in lieu thereof presented an oral statement along with other representatives of the Boeuf Basin. (See p. 358.)
STATEMENT OF WINSTON K. JOFFRION, OF MARKSVILLE, LA.
Mr. JOFFRION. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I represent the Red River and Bayou des Glaizes Levee and Drainage District and numerous property owners therein. This district is located in the eastern part of Avoyelles Parish, right directly south of the Eudora Floodway, and it is bounded by the Red River on the north and on the east part of the Atchafalaya River and the Red River, and Bayou des Glaizes on the south, and to the west the hills of Avoyelles Parish.
We have heard very little about this district. However, I understand it was discussed before I arrived here. This district so far has been the “ugly duckling” of the flood-control plan. It lies right in the path of the Eudora Floodway, right south here of the Eudora Floodway, and right north of the Atchafalaya Floodway.
The Chief of Engineers has recommended that lands taken within this spillway be paid for at a price not to exceed one and one-half times the assessment. It is also recommended that the lands south of this district be paid for on the same basis. It seems unjust and unfair that this district, which is a connecting link in the whole scheme of flood control, from Cape Giradeau, to the head of passes, should take care of the water as it flows into the district. The water is paid for in the Eudora Spillway. The minute it comes out of the mouth here it becomes free water. It is held up until the gage at Angola reads 49 feet, I understand, and then it goes through this Hamburg-Simmesport fuseplug and immediately becomes paying water again.
This district is comprised of 163,000 acres of good land. It has about 12,000 or 15,000 acres in cultivation and some 30,000 or 40,000 acres subject to cultivation. There are 4,500 people living in that district and approximately 650 families. They are all honest, hardworking farmers that try to pay their taxes and try to make a living. There are schools, churches, and burial grounds in this district.
In 1904 this district was created by act of the State Legislature of the State of Louisiana. Since that time there have been levee taxes paid for the purpose of protecting their lands from floods, in amount, I should say, of approximately $500,000. There has been an acreage tax and a millage tax.
We have been able to extend the levee down only about 5 miles south of Lake Long. The original plan was to extend the levee all
the way around to Simmesport. However, recurring floods and economic conditions have made it hard to do this. Then in 1928 the Federal Government comes along and passes the Federal Flood Control Act, which is known as the "adopted plan”, and practically wipes out this district, which had a bonded indebtedness of $300,000, of which $277,000 was of bonds still outstanding. It has killed our district, and there has been inserted in the adopted plan in the law a provision making it impossible to construct any levee across this floodway, because the law especially provides that it does not allow the construction of any impediment to the floods not specifically and affirmatively authorized by Congress.
So here we have the situation of these people laboring under a heavy levee tax, trying to protect themselves. They do not have protection, and they can never get protection now under the adopted plan.
Since coming up here I have learned from some more of the Louisiana delegation of bill no. 7128, which provides for the construction of what is commonly referred to as the “ Lake Long project." This would be a great thing for our country, and I am speaking on behalf of the farmer, the poor man who owns 20 or 30 or 50 acres in there.
That would be a godsend to him and a protection to him, to give him that levee that is provided in bill no. 7128.
As representative of the levee board and the landowners of that district, we heartily endorse that bill.
We cannot see why the lands under the adopted plan that would be left out of protection and in the spillway, and which must necessarily take more water and provide a channel for this floodway, should not be paid for on the same basis as lands in the Eudora and Atchafalaya Spillways.
We want protection, we want the Lake Long levee, and we endorse this bíll as it stands. We ask this committee sincerely-and we know that the committee wants to do what is right and equitable and just to these poor devils that are down there and do not want to leave their homes and do not want to have to give up everything they have worked for for generations—we ask the committee to recommend this last bill which has been introduced, and to compensate the fellow who is left in the spillway and who must carry the flood waters for the benefit of the whole Nation.
I thank you.
SUPPLEMENTAL STATEMENT SUBMITTED TO THE COMMITTEE ON FLOOD CONTROL ON
BEHALF OF RED RIVER AND BAYOU DES GLAISES LEVEE AND DRAINAGE DISTRICT AND RESIDENTS THEREIN
Hon. RILEY J. WILSON,
Washington, D. O. GENTLEMEN : This written statement, on behalf of the Red River and Bayou des Glaises Levee and Drainage District (hereinafter referred to as district) and the resident landowners therein, supplements the oral statement made by me on their behalf at your open hearing on April 5, 1935, in Washington, D. C.
The district was created by act of the Legislature of Louisiana in 1904. It is bounded on the north and east by Red River, also on the east by the Atchafalaya River, on the south by Bayou des Glaises, and on the west by the hills of Avoyelles Parish. Within its confines are located 163,000 acres of alluvial land, approximately 15,000 of which are cultivated intensely by small, hard
working, home-loving farmers. At least 30,000 more acres are cultivable. The greater part of the remainder is timber or cut-over land on which there is a healthy second growth of timber. The assessment is about $1,000,000.
In this little garden spot of our State live some 650 families of home-loving people, consisting of about 4,500 individuals. These people have built schools and churches in their communities and laid away their loved ones nearby in neat, well-kept burial grounds.
When the district was first created the plan was to construct some 75 miles of levee from Moncla along the south bank of the Red River to Simmesport, connecting with the Atchafalaya River Levee, thus affording this land complete protection from floods.
In view of the above, a bond issue of $300,000 was floated and the bonds sold. About 28 miles of levee was constructed to a point 5 miles below Lake Long.
Since 1904 the residents in this district (mostly small farmers owning 30and 40-acre farms) have toiled and sweated to pay levee taxes with the ultimate hope of getting protection. They have paid a tax which they have seen raised until it reached the prohibitive amount of 5 mills and 20 cents an acre. Though some $500,000 in taxes have been levied on these lands in 31 years, only $23,000 of the bonds have been retired, leaving extant at present some $277,000.
Up to 1928 all was well, but then Congress passed the so-called “ Flood Control Act ", assuming full charge and responsibility for flood control in the Mississippi Valley and its tributaries. In the adopted plan the building of any construction not affirmatively authorized by Congress is prohibited. By this provision the district can never complete its levee as originally planned, for to do so it would have to construct it across what is now part of the floodway to be constructed in the interest of all the valley and the Nation at large. In other words, our district is literally wiped out by the adopted plan and the lands in the district can never hope for protection.
In the recommendations to your committee by General Markham, Chief of Engineers, the Boeuf spillway is eliminated and the Eudora spillway substituted therefor. The mouth or southern opening of this spillway is to be located some 30 miles north of the district.
Just to the south of the district is also the Atchafalaya spillway (west side) with a fuseplug levee at its northern end. Thus the waters will be diverted through the Eudora spillway onto and over our lands and then allowed to escape to the south through the Atchafalaya-west spillway. In other respects, as far as the district lands are concerned, the adopted plan remains unchanged.
What is remarkable and patently unjust is that the Chief of Engineers recommends that lands in the Eudora and Atchafalaya spillways be paid for at a price not to exceed one and one-half the assessed valuation for 1934, but suggests that no compensation be paid for flowage rights on lands in our district which forms a necessary link in the whole scheme of the floodway from the top of the valley t othe bottom. In other words, the water is to be paid for while it is in the Eudora spillway; is to be poured over us free, held on us and then allowed to escape through the fuseplug levee to our south when it shall again immediately become “pay " water with no change except that it won't be as deep in the spillways as when flowing over our lands.
The Chief of Engineers has referred to our district as a backwater area. We respectfully but emphatically disagree with him. The water discharged from the Eudora spillway will flow in a continuous and destructive current over our lands just as it will do within the confines of the levees of the spillways; and by their construction will be increased in volume.
There has been submitted to your committee a plan commonly known as the “Lake Long project ", whereby the levee on the south bank of Red River would be built to Lake Long, thence in a southerly direction along the west bank of Lake Long to the guide levee at Bordelonville. This would protect approximately half of the district and all of that which is in cultivation. It can be built, so we are informed, for about $825,000. The lands in our district which are not protected by this Lake Long Levee should be paid for on the same basis as those located directly within the spillway levees and that part of the bonded indebtedness of the district should be taken up by the United States in the same proportion that the unprotected area bears to the total area of the district. We endorse and are in hearty accord with any plan embodying the above features with respect to our lands.
If the Lake Long Levee is not built, then obviously no lands in the district will ever be protected. On the other hand they will be dedicated forever to periodical destruction and devastation by the floods for the benefit of the Nation