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is inadequate on an average by more than one-third to adequately irrigate the acreage presently in cultivation. It is estimated that on the average only 500,000 acres in the United States below Falcon Dam can be properly irrigated. Our experience has been and history will show that during times of short water supply numerous and serious clashes have resulted between the residents of our two countries who are entirely dependent upon the Rio Grande for irrigation and also domestic needs. In my opinion this has been the most serious cause of misunderstandings between our people in our area over the past many years. Serious water shortages were suffered in 1956 and 1957. Col. L. H. Hewitt, Commissioner, U.S. Boundary and Water Commission, has stated:
Studies based upon recorded flows of the past 59 years indicate that with Falcon alone, shortages of United States waters may be expected during 22 years of a 59-year period like that of record, including annual shortages of more than 25 percent of requirements in 11 years, and more than 75 percent of requirements in each of two consecutive years.
The question might easily be asked at this point: In view of your almost certain water shortage won't the Amistad project be the answer to your dilemma? We believe the answer to be definitely in the negative. Colonel Hewitt and his staff have calculated that the actual net gain in conserved water annually resulting from the building of Amistad Dam is only approximately 86,000 acre-feet, although the United States first cost allocated for such conservation storage is $12 million.
Our good friend, Congressman O. C. Fisher, representing the Del Rio area, in earlier hearings before this committee—if I may digress, the $12 million figure—quite frankly, we are unable to tie down. I believe Congressman Fisher did state in the earlier hearings that the approximate cost would be $12 million. We have not been able to find where Colonel Hewitt or any member of the U.S. Boundary and Water Commission has so stated.
Our good friend, Congressman O. C. Fisher, representing the Del Rio area, in earlier hearings before this committee has stated:
The conservation storage contemplated for Amistad will not be substantial, although adequate for its purpose. * * * And, after all, the cost allocated to conservation storage represents a relatively small portion of the total cost of the project—about 8 or 9 percent, so it is a relatively unimportant factor insofar as the overall picture is concerned, so let's not worry too much about that feature of it. * * *
I agree that Congressman Fisher need not be concerned and insofar as his constituents are concerned, it is unimportant. My memory is that in his congressional district there are only one or two small tracts of land being irrigated below the Amistad site. But the question is extremely vital to the lower Rio Grande Valley wherein is located 90 percent of the irrigated lands between the Amistad site and the Gulf of Mexico.
If Amistad were a project entirely devoid of humanitarian features, and if it were appraised solely from a cold economic viewpoint, the great majority of those residing in the lower Rio Grande Valley would be opposed to its construction. It results in the removal of the major portion of our water supply a distance of 300 miles upriver from Falcon Reservoir where it is now stored, a distance of 270 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Even with storage in Falcon Reservoir the travel time for water to the mouth of the Rio Grande is approximately 7 days. In other words, irrigation requirements near the mouth must now be anticipated by users as long as 8 days in advance in order to secure releases from Falcon Reservoir. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that it is hoped and contemplated that adequate amounts of water will be kept in storage in Falcon Reservoir to allow the continued release for irrigation to the lower Rio Grande Valley from this reservoir. However, in the 300-mile reach of the river between Amistad and Falcon if 43,000 acres of new land are placed under irrigation, and this is not a large amount for the distance involved, and if the average water use figure below Falcon Dam is applied, then the 86,000 acre-feet gained from Amistad will be entirely dissipated.
Actually in the Maverick County Water Control and Improvement District near Eagle Pass and above Falcon Dam the International Boundary and Water Commission Water Bulletins of 1955, 1956, and 1957, the latest available, show an average annual use of water of 8, 9, and 9 acre-feet per acre, respectively. If that be applicable to the new lands, then only 10,000 acres of new land would have to be placed under irrigation to nullify the conservation benefits of Amistad. Many will argue that no new lands may be practically irrigated because of the expense involved in lifting or pumping water to high areas, that the lands upriver are all too rough or not fertile enough. I submit that with improved farming techniques and mechanical facilities, the present crop supports, subsidies, soil bank programs, soil conservation assistance and other Federal and State aid available, those lands formerly not economically tillable may very likely, with an assured water supply, become so. It is a very real possibility that 10,000 acres of new land could be placed under irri
fation in the upriver section, and permits and filings have actually een secured under the laws of Texas for irrigating almost four times this amount in the area between Amistad and Falcon.
However, these economic objections are overcome by the fact that death, human suffering, and severe property loss have recently come to our friends in the upriver section, both on the United States and Mexican sides as a result of flooding by the Rio Grande, and we are anxious that they be protected from a future similar catastrophe even though it might result in hardship of an economic nature directly to the farmer and irrigator in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
We do not believe that we should be penalized further by being asked to pay some $12 million toward the first cost of conservation features of a structure which we in the lower reaches of the river do not require and which will result in hardship to us without, in our opinion, any adequate offsetting gain.
For a first cost of $12 million, and we understand this figure is a minimum estimate, we would get, if all goes well, an additional 86,000 acre-feet of water provided it was not lost to new lands during its 300-mile course. If all of this 86,000 acre-feet got to its rightful owner it would only irrigate a little over 5 percent of the present irrigated acreage below Falcon Dam. Estimates have been completed and plans are being formulated to build up to three channel storage dams in the Rio Grande at points located between the mouth and 60 miles upstream at an estimated cost of $7,500,000 which would conserve an estimated 140,000 to 200,000 acre-feet of water per year. This is water which would otherwise waste into the Gulf of Mexico, and which is stored in readily accessible reservoirs, not hundreds of miles removed from the acreage upon which it is to be applied. A comparison readily shows that this conservation can be realized near the mouth of the Rio Grande and adjacent to a large irrigated section at only about one-half of the cost of the storage in Amistad Reservoir. In addition to the cost advantage there is the additional feature that, even though the $12 million plus financing costs is paid, there is no guarantee that those who pay for it would receive the water. Insofar as users below Falcon are concerned a civil suit was filed in the 93d District Court of Hidalgo County, Tex., in 1956 and although water rights below Falcon Dam are still in process of determination the water master appointed by the court has, during the pendency of this litigation, successfully secured the delivery of water to its rightful owners below Falcon Dam. No such legal action has been prosecuted as to lands above Falcon Dam.
Colonel Hewitt in his recent testimony before the House Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs frankly stated:
I think that we can, or we should realize that there is the possibility that had it not been for the treaty we would have recommended the construction of a dam for flood control alone.
Because the treaty makes the requirement it does not follow that those who have irrigated acreage should be required to subsidize the construction of Amistad Dam, run the risk of having the main source of irrigation water moved 300 miles upstream, assume the responsibility of policing the water along almost 600 river miles to insure its use by its rightful owners, and then pay almost double what such water would cost if facilities were provided by the irrigators in the form of downstream channel storage dams. The United States is required to take conservation storage in Amistad Reservoir even though not desired if Mexico so requests. This action would be necessary on the part of the United States to assure the United States share of available waters will be not diminished under the terms of article 8 section (c) of the 1944 Water Treaty.
In essence the position of the majority of lower Rio Grande Valley residents is that they are desirous of their neighbors being protected against future calamitous floods even though it may result in inconvenience and probable loss of the additional water conserved, but they do not believe it is fair to place a prohibitive cost for conservation capacity on them when it is the responsibility of the two governments to furnish this under the terms of the treaty. Colonel Hewitt and all to whom I have talked appear to share the opinion that the project would be more economically feasible as a flood control structure alone and would have been so planned had it not been for the Water Treaty of 1944. We would much prefer that it be built solely as a flood control structure, but if Mexico requests conservation capacity then because of the proposed joint operation of Falcon and Amistad, we in the United States would be forced to request conservation capacity.
These remarks which I have made were adopted by the Lower Rio Grande Water Committee at a meeting held March 2,1960, as a correct statement of the position of the Lower Rio Grande Water Committee and its membership.
Mr. Selden. Thank you, Mr. Mills, for a very comprehensive statement.
Before you leave, sir, perhaps one or two members of the subcommittee would like to question you.
Have you any questions, Mr. O'Hara?
Mr. O'hara. No questions.
Mr. Selden. Mr. Fascell?
Mr. Fascell. Mr. Mills' statement is very clear and concise and his position has been made.
Mr. Selden. Mr. Kilgore.
Mr. Kilgore. No questions.
Mr. Selden. Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Fisher. Possibly one question, Mr. Chairman, for clarification.
On page 5 in the middle of the page, Mr. Mills, in referring to no new lands that may be irrigated, and so forth, it is true that under the State authority all the water is already committed that comes down the normal flow of the Rio Grande?
Mr. Mills. Congressman Fisher, as I understand the normal flow, it is committed to the extent that it is a rule of property that the lands are entitled to the normal flow. The overflow or the flow of the river above the normal flow is appropriated under the laws of the State of Texas.
Mr. Fisher. Then if any new land were put in and water allocated, it would have to be in connection with riparian rights, is that correct?
Mr. Mills. No, as I understand it, Congressman Fisher, the State of Texas, insofar as appropriating water is concerned, has no control whatsoever over the normal flow, that, under the Constitution—and you will hear some lawyers later who I think will present that—has been allocated already to the land in the Spanish grant fronting on the river.
Mr. Fisher. Thank you.
Mr. Selden. Thank you, Mr. Mills.
Mr. Mills. Thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Selden. Mr. Kilgore, will you introduce your next witness? I might say at this point that, as you know, we are debating a bill over on the floor of the House and we may have a record vote on it. If we do, we will recess long enough for the members to go over and vote and come right back.
Mr. Fisher. Mr. Chairman, there will be a record vote.
Mr. Selden. So I understand.
Mr. Kilgore. Mr. Chairman, there are two witnesses who would like to appear together and present their testimony concurrently. They are Mr. Garland Smith of Weslaco and Mr. W. D. Parish of Mercedes. They are the attorney and manager, respectively, of the Hidalgo and Cameron Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 9.
The map that is pinned to the drapes on the side of the hearing room is an exhibit they want to make reference to. They particularly want to discuss the situation that exists with respect to outstanding water rights on the river.
Mr. Selden. Mr. Parish, if you and Mr. Smith will come forward you can proceed with your testimony.
Perhaps we should recess at this point, so we can vote. The committee will reconvene at 3 p.m.
(Whereupon, at 2:35 p.m., the committee was recessed, reconvening at 3p.m.)
Mr. Selden. The subcommittee will come to order, please.
Mr. Smith, you and Mr. Parish may proceed.
STATEMENT OF GARLAND F. SMITH, WESLACO, TEX., GENERAL ATTORNEY FOR HIDALGO AND CAMERON COUNTIES WATER CONTROL AND IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT NO. 9
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the subcommittee. My name is Garland F. Smith. I represent two water districts in the valley that have a total acreage of 86,400, and they have about 60,000 people residing in the outer boundaries of the district and all of these people make their living either directly or indirectly from the land and the land in turn depends upon water for production.
Now with respect to reclamation projects since 1902, Federal funds have been used beneficially since the enactment of the reclamation law in 1902 to convert desert and arid lands into highly productive irrigated lands. In these situations, the Federal Government expected, and rightly so, that the lands thus benefiting bear part of the cost of construction of dams and facilities. The irrigated area in the lower Rio Grande Valley did not so develop. My two districts began their development in 1906, and all of the work was done by private capital, mule teams, picks and shovels, and hand labor, and without benefit of Federal assistance. Political subdivisions known as water control and improvement districts later organized, voted bonds, and purchased the irrigation systems from the private owners. They received their water direct from the channel of the Rio Grande without the benefit of any canals or reservoirs built with Federal or State funds, and through their use of water from the Rio Grande from 1906, had established 47 years of priority to water before the first Federal project stored any of the waters of the Rio Grande in Falcon Dam.
For them, Falcon reservoir did not create a new source of water; it did, through storage, make floodwaters available in the dry periods of the year, which somewhat offset the damaging effect of the construction of Elephant Butte Dam above El Paso, which cut off the flow from the spring thaw in the Rocky Mountains, which at one time gave an even flow during heavy water demand in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
THREAT OF EXPANSION
We think it logical that similar expansion of irrigated area will take place below Amistad, after its authorization, which took place in the lower vallev after the authorization of Falcon. In 1945, when the treaty with Mexico was signed and ratified, authorizing the construction of the Falcon Reservoir, the records of the International Boundary and Water Commission showed that there was in cultivation