« PreviousContinue »
great plan and make an integral part of it; and that we in the lower end of the St. Francis Valley be given the same protection and the same degree of justice that is to be given to the people in the upper sections of the St. Francis River and
to other people in other sections and up and down the Mississippi River and its tributaries. We ask for that same protection and for that same justice. We are entitled to it. We ask for no more, and we do not believe that our Government can give us any less.
I thank you gentlemen.
Mr. DRIVER. Mr. Chairman, Judge Mann, from Forrest City, in the St. Francis area, is present tonight, and I have asked him to make a statement to the committee as to conditions in that area.
The CHAIRMAN. Judge Mann will be recognized.
STATEMENT OF S. H. MANN, OF FORREST CITY, ARK. Mr. Mann. I reside in St. Francis County, Ark., which is just north of the county in which Dr. Williamson, who has just spoken, resides. We are in the backwater area. Of course, we are interested in the result of these levees above, and also what may be done with respect to the backwater area.
You have heard from Mr. Pharr as to what the effect would be of the additional flow of water that might come in the St. Francis by reason of the levees. It is my view that if it increases the level of the backwater in the St. Francis River to any material extent, the damage will be very great because of the fact that those lands are very level, and a few inches of additional water put into that river or backed up from the Mississippi River will cover a very large area. It does not take much after it is over a portion of those lands to cover a greater portion.
As I say, I am not familiar with the technical or the scientific calculations with respect to what the increase of the water will do, but those people in that section, which includes the eastern part of my county, in which I am interested not only personally but in every way—it has the finest lands in the country, and the whole eastern portion of our country is affected by this backwater area—feel that as Dr. Williamson has said we should have some character of protection. There is no question about that. If it is being utilized by the Government for the protection of other property by using it as a basis, then we certainly should have some compensation. Of course, we prefer protection, because there is absolutely no way to calculate the benefit of those lands not only to the property owners that happen to own them at this date, but to the commercial value to that section of the country.
I do not want to detain this committee long, because I see no good, sound reason for it; but I did want to add my voice to those who have expressed the idea here that we first desire protection; if that cannot be given, some provision ought to be made whereby the Government could compensate those property owners over there for the loss that they will sustain by reason of this property being used as a reservoir.
The CHAIRMAN. That was a very impressive statement.
Mr. DRIVER. Mr. Houck, also a resident of this area, is present and has given me a statement. Would you prefer to make your statement orally or have that statement inserted in the record ?
Mr. Houck. Just insert it in the record, please, Judge.
Mr. DRIVER. Then I will ask the privilege, Mr. Chairman, of insertting this statement of Mr. Houck in the record.
The CHAIRMAN. That may be done.
(The statement referred to follows:) STATEMENT OF C. N. HOUCK, SECRETARY-TREASURER OF MILLER LUMBER Co.,
MARIANNA, ARK. I have been a resident of Marianna, Lee County, Ark., since year 1905, a period of 30 years. I have been secretary-treasurer of the Miller Lumber Co., of Marianna, Lee County, Ark., for the same period of years.
The company has been in business continuously for 47 years, having been organized in March 1888, and is engaged in the hardwood sawmill business and farming.
Lee County is situated in the extreme lower end of the St. Francis River Basin; the entire area of the county is about 385,000 acres, about one-third of which lies in the delta or backwater area. Our company owns approximately 10,000 acres of land in this section, 4,000 acres of which has been put into cultivation and is now operated as farms.
The logging operations since the beginning in the year 1888 have been princirally in this area and on the St. Francis River. The logs have been cut and floated out on the bayous and on down the St. Francis River to the mill in times or higu water. For this reason we have maintained a river gage at the mill at Marianna and have taken the readings from this gage and have kept an office record of these readings for more than 30 years. This gage is set on a level with the Government gage at Memphis, and the district engineer's office at Memphis have a tabulation of these readings as part of their records. This gage is therefore considered accurate and the readings are considered reliable. This gage, as stated above, is situated at Marianna, in Lee County, in the backwater area, and is about 20 miles from the mouth of the St. Francis River. It is therefore in the lower section of the St. Francis backwater area. As stated previously, the Marianna gage is set with the Memphis gage, and to prove this fact I give herewith a table showing the crest stages, both Memphis anal Marianna.
It will be seen from the above table that the gage at Marianna in the backwater is set on a level with the Memphis gage, and on a total of seven flood crests there is only a variation of a few inches and not in any case as much as 1 foot. These variations are largely on account of the difference in the headwater from the St. Francis River at the time of the various crests shown in the table. In our discussion we will therefore use the figures from the Memphis gage as they are official and almost identical with those from the Marianna gage.
These gage readings tabulated and reviewed, covering a period of years disclcse several startlins facts.
First. That since the building of the main levees on the Mississippi River the water in time of flood covers the land in the back-water area to a much greater depth than heretofore.
Second. T'hat since the building of the main levees the area of the backwater has been greatly increased due to the additional height of the water as above stated.
Third. That since the building of the main levees the recurrence of the floods are more often.
I give herewith a statement showing the crest stages of the water in the three major floods prior to the building of the levees and another statement showing the crest stages in the three major floods since the building of the levees. In these statements Cairo is used as the base, as crest stages at Cairo in the major floods have not changed materially since the building of the levees.
Table showing gage readings prior to building of levees :
The average differential between Cairo and Memphis gages, as can be noted from the above tables, prior and subsequent to the building of the levees is as follows: Differential prior to building of levees, 17.2; differential subsequent to building of levees, 9.2; additional water on the Memphis gage as compared to Cairo gage on the same flood, since the building of the levees over years prior to the building of levees, 8. The table also shows that the average of the crest readings on the Cairo gage prior to levees to be 51.9; subsequent to levees, 54.7; additional water at Cairo since building of levees, 2.8. It also shows averages in three major floods at Memphis prior to levees to be 34.6; subsequent to levees, 45.9; additional water at Memphis in major floods since building of levees, 11.3.
Additional water of 11 feet at Memphis means 11 feet additional water in the backwater area of the St. Francis River. Lands that were free from floods are now covered by several feet of water in major floods. Prior to the building of the levees, almost all of the lands except the extreme low places were free from flood waters. Since the building of the levees the floods come often and reach high stages, and all the land is subject to the floods.
The highest stage ever recorded on the Memphis gage prior to the building of the levees was 35.1 in year 1882. Since the building of the levees the water has passed above 35 feet at Memphis 38 times and in 27 years. Since the building of the levees the water has also passed above the 40-foot mark at Memphis 16 times, and in 10 different years.
The St. Francis River backwater area below Memphis has been forced to bear this burden. Her soil is fertile and rich, but there is no land that can withstand floods of this size, frequency, and duration and survive.
I herewith give you a table showing the Memphis gage readings from years 1872 to 1935, inclusive, to verify the above statement.
1872 1973. 1874. 1875. 1876. 1877 1878 1879 1880 1881. 1882 1883 1884. 1885. 1886 1887 1888 1889 1890. 1891. 1892 1893 1894. 1895. 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900. 1901. 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1998 1909. 1910. 1911 1912.
40.5 46.5 32.9 36.0 40.0 43.5 34. 1 29.3 40. 1 34. 6 30.3 31.3 37.4 30.5 40.2 38.5 29. 9 30.1 29. 3 42.6 42. 3 34. 4 36.5 34. 3 31.0 29.4 28. 1 28.5 41.4 37.7 45.9 39.0 35. 9 40.9 41.1 41.7 38.7 39.0 38.7 37.2
By dividing this statement into periods of 10 years each it can be seen that the floods are recurring with more frequency than in prior years as follows:
It cannot be denied that the building of the main levees has brought this additional water on our lands.
It was not the intention of the levee districts and the Federal Government to bring about this deplorable condition, but nevertheless since the great levees are nearing completion, all areas from Cairo to the Gulf are very safe and secure from the flood waters, except the backwater areas, which have the burden of 5 to 6 additional feet of water on its lands in minor floods, and as much as 11 feet additional water in times of major floods.
As stated above, the water in the backwater area is now at much greater depth in time of flood; it necessarily inundates a much larger area, and a longer duration of food naturally follows. I submit the following table to show the duration of various floods above 35 feet on the Memphis gage.
1929: Mar. 11 to June 7.
Apr. 3 to Apr. 20.-
35 Prior to the building of the main levees the waters were not confined, but in times of flood these waters spread out and filled in all the lowlands from Cairo on down the valley. Now the water is restrained between the levees and the backwater areas only are subjected to these floods.
Originally all low areas were flowage ways or reservoirs. Now only backwater areas are the flowage ways and the reservoirs.
It is surely an obligation of this Government to relieve these lands of this burden the same as other lands have been relieved.
In an account of explorations of the adventurous Spaniard, Hernando De Soto, through the valley in the year 1543, it is told that “God, our Lord, hindered the work with a mighty flood, which at that time, about the 10th of March, began to come down with an enormous increase of water.” The Spanish chronicler recorded that at the beginning the river "overflowed the wide, level ground between the river and the cliffs ; then, little by little, it rose to the tops of the cliffs. Soon it began to overflow the meadows in an immense flood, and, as the land was level, without any hills, there was nothing to stop the deluge." Our narrator describes vividly how the water took 40 days to reach its peak. There are many people, however, who would hardly agree with his opinion that “it was a beautiful thing to look upon, the sea where there had been fields." He says further that on each side of the river the water extended over 20 leagues of land and all of this area was navigated by canoes.
Although written almost 400 years ago, this colorful description of that flood sounds singularly familiar to those of us who have viewed the great tragedy which comes to those in the pathway of the great Mississippi River floods. The Spanish narrator states that as the land was level, without any hills, there