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Mr. Selden. We are very pleased to have all three of these legislators here today and we will be delighted to hear from you, Senator Hudson.
STATEMENT OF HON. HUBERT HUDSON, BROWNSVILLE, TEX., STATE SENATOR, STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Hudson. I know we are all pretty tired. We have been sitting here listening to this testimony and you may think we people in the valley are pretty garrulous, but this is the most important thing facing us.
My senatorial district encompasses about 400,000 people in the State of Texas. I am also chairman this year of the valley Chamber of Commerce and served for the past 10 years as commissioner of the Water District of the City of Brownsville.
You heard the witness speak about the hospital. I was on the board of governors at the hospital at the time when we went through our terribly serious water shortage there in Brownsville. We know what it is like to be without water. And that is the reason this new dam up the river, which will provide us supposedly only 85,000 more acre-feet of water, is only a small dribble compared to the amount we presently get from Falcon Dam. This is 85,000 acre-feet of water which is not even delivered to us but is some four or five hundred miles further upstream than where we are presently getting our source of water.
We certainly want to help our neighbors to the north in flood protection but the question, and the vital question to us, is the protection of our water rights on the Rio Grande because this is the whole life blood of the valley economy.
Now this is the joint statement which we have prepared. It is prepared by my two fellow colleagues and myself: Representative Eligio de la Garza and Representative Menton J. Murray who is dean of the house delegation.
No. 1: We in the Texas Legislature are mindful of the many problems we have on the State level pertaining to the control and the distribution of the American share of the waters of the Rio Grande.
2. We feel we have been diligent in working on these problems in endeavoring to solve them for more than 10 years.
3. We still have divergent views entertained by water users in the upper and the lower reaches of the Rio Grande River, and we encounter serious difficulty in passing any needed legislation, because it not only affects us but it affects the whole State, when you deal with riparian rights, with appropriative rights, and all the other various types of water permits that have been issued in the past.
4. We in the lower valley have never disagreed on the need of the Diablo Dam, now referred to as Amistad, as a flood control measure.
We are making progress on the State level, however slowly, and sincerely trust that our progress will not be impeded, or our problems increased by the creation of the additional question of the payment of conservation storage for this new dam, particularly when we are not sure what we are going to get from the estimate of conservation storage—i.e., 85,000 acre-feet of water—when we have over 755,000 acres already in cultivation, just in the lower counties.
It would be quite difficult, if not impossible, to allocate any of these costs when the various water rights of the riparians and the appropriators and water permit holders have not been settled by the court. We estimate the suit in the courts will drag on for many years. It is the most important suit in the State of Texas for it will eventually determine, we hope, the settlement of all of our water rights.
We are quite mindful of and sympathetic to the need of brevity in these statements. May we again express the hope that our problems on the State level will not be increased by the insertion of the question of payment of conservation storage in the Amistad project, because we have more than enough now Defore us in the State legislature without getting into that additional one.
Mr. Selden. Thank you, Senator.
Mr. Fascell. Senator, I just want to say that our colleague here, Congressman Kilgore, has stated in very glowing terms something about your ability. I can see your short appearance here today corroborates his statement and I am very happy to concur in it.
As we wind up here, I would like to say that I think it is a very fine spirit on the part of the users in the lower end to be so willing to cooperate as has been very ably expressed by you, and to be so objective in their approach, and also at the same time stand up and fight for what they think their rights are and should be.
With that, I hope we will not compound your difficulties.
Mr. Hudson. Thank you. May I again say to you that this water and the water problem—this is our lifeblood for the determination of our economy in the valley—of 400,000 people.
Mr. Fascell. I think that point has been very well made.
Mr. Hudson. Thank you.
Mr. Selden. Before you leave, Senator Hudson, let me add to Congressman Fascell's statement. The group here today has presented your side of the question very clearly to the committee. Also I want to emphasize that your interests are being well represented here in the Congress by Representative Kilgore. Before the subcommittee draws up a final bill, both he and Congressman Fisher will be consulted.
Mr. Hudson. Thank you very much.
Mr. Kilgore. Mr. Chairman, could I express for all of these people our sincere appreciation for the committee's sitting these long hours and ask if it is commensurate with your policies that others who were here and who have statements be permitted to file them with the committee?
Mr. Selden. All who so desire may file their statements and they will be made a part of the record.
Mr. Kilgore. Could the record be left open for other statements supplementing the testimony presented to be filed? I know Senator Kazen from Laredo has a request in that respect.
Mr. Selden. His statement will be included if he so desires.
Mr. Kazen. I could conclude in about 3 minutes, if the committee would care to hear me. . I just have a few statements on the water rights.
Mr. Selden. We will be very happy to hear from you, Senator. If you would like to supplement your statement for the record, you may do so.
STATEMENT OF HON. ABRAHAM KAZEN, JR., STATE SENATOR, STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Kazen. Mr. Chairman, my name is Abraham Kazen, Jr. I am the State Senator from the 21st senatorial district of Texas, which includes all of the counties bordering on the Rio Grande River from the Val Verde-Maverick County line through Starr County, which is below Falcon Dam, a distance of over 300 river-miles. Hence, my interest in this legislation. My colleagues in the Texas Legislature from the lower valley—as you can see I represent only one county from the lower valley—and I have tried through the years to agree on legislation on this question of water rights. There were so many diversified views that we in effect came to a dead end. We got to the point where we said it will be impossible to determine water rights by legislation. Those decisions should be made by the courts. The courts are the proper place for rights to be decided.
And that is the attitude and the position which I take at the present time with reference to this bill.
I supported House bill 881, which has been previously discussed this afternoon, giving the Governor of Texas the authority to grant to the United States those portions of the bed and banks of the Rio Grande as may be necessary or expedient in the construction and use of the storage and flood control dams and their resultant reservoirs, diversion works and appurtenances thereto, provided for in the treaty between the United States of America and the United Mexican States concluded February 3, 1944. As you will notice, that authorization includes the site or sites in the entire portion of the Rio Grande River where all three dams called for by the treaty could be built, and the State of Texas does not have to pass any further legislation in this connection. Previously, we had passed similar legislation authorizing the granting of rights to the United States for the construction of Falcon Dam, and incidently, all of us up and down the river pitched in and helped the lower valley to secure the construction of Falcon, because we knew that eventually they would come in and help us secure the other dams provided for by the treaty. This has been the spirit of cooperation that has existed in the past and I hope that it can continue to exist in the future. The only thing that I object to and quarrel with on this occasion is that the question of water rights should not be referred to or taken into consideration by any authorization bill passed by Congress. Water rights, as far as we are concerned, are something that the State courts or the State legislature should decide.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that after the discussion this afternoon, your committee is now aware that the waters of Texas rivers belong to the State of Texas, and, therefore, it should be the exclusive duty of the State to make distribution of any and all waters. In this connection we have gone one step further in the Texas Legislature by passing a bill which designates the Texas Board of Water Engineers as the appropriate agency to regulate the taking of waters from any reservoir or dam constructed on an international stream, and we have also in order to alleviate the fears of downstream users, made it a penal offense for anyone without legal right to water, to divert, appropriate, use, or otherwise interfere with the passage of the waters that are destined for downstream use or storage. The only question which is not settled at this time is the question of ownership by individuals, and I believe that that question should not be settled or even taken into consideration in the bill now pending before you. Since, I repeat, this is a question for the State to decide. I believe in being straightforward and frank when testifying before a committee such as this. I have been a member of the Water Committee of either the House of Representatives or of the Senate of Texas for a period of 14 years, and my experience has been that the members of the committee appreciate receiving the facts as they actually are. I think that all of us up and down the river below and above Falcon Dam will agree that the Federal Government should not attempt to control the distribution of the water since that is the law, and secondly, that since by treaty, the United States is bound to build conservation storage space behind these dams, it will be done. Speaking for the middle area, I say to you that we do need conservation storage in Amistad, but we should not as individual users be placed in a position where we would have to pay for that space. As I have pointed out to you earlier, the diversified rights that exist, make it impossible for users to enter into a contract with the Federal Government for the purchase of definite amounts of water. I believe that the committee understands the conflicts involved in this proposition. The majority of the people whom I represent along the Rio Grande are individual users. The only water district which exists in my senatorial district is in Maverick County. You can well imagine how hard it is for me to represent so many individuals with so many different claims. Hence, my inability to reach complete agreement on legislation with my colleagues from the lower valley. They represent water districts in their area, and I daresay that practically every user belongs to a district, and it is much easier for them to get their people together as they have done in this instance today.
I have pointed out to you the two things that are of interest to us in this bill, and I believe that this bill, in this respect, should have only these two features, Congressman Fisher. The other problems we can go back home and decide for ourselves, either in the courts, or if need be by legislation. We take the position that the Congress should not create any more problems for us than we already have. This problem of water rights exists today as you have heard previously this afternoon. However, we are well underway in solving it. When we do this, we will be in pretty fair shape.
Now, with regard to the amendment to section 3, which has been previously discussed, and a copy of which has been made part of the record, I agree with the observation of the gentleman from Florida— "as we already have the authority sought under this bill, why say anything" about It?"—I respectfully suggest, if I am in order, that you read over the wording in a copy of this amendment which I have prepared and marked "A." The essential part of it says that the conservation storage of said dam is hereby dedicated to the State of Texas. Let the State of Texas do what it wants with it. It will be the exclusive responsibility of the appropriate authority of Texas to distribute the available U.S. share of waters of the Rio Grande. I submit to you that that is all that is necessary in this bill.
However, if the committee sees fit to compromise the position of the various interests along the river, then I suggest that the wording in the amendment which has heretofore been submitted to you be changed to read, "the conservation storage of said dam is hereby dedicated to the State of Texas, and the State of Texas having stipulated that the amount of water that will be available for use in the United States below Falcon afer the proposed dam is placed in operation will not be less than the amount available under existing conditions" and so on. In other words, the proposed amendment which the previous witnesses today submitted to the committee is susceptible to the interpretation that the entire conservation storage is dedicated to the proposition that below Falcon the flow shall be the same as it has been previously. It could mean that the entire conservation storage is dedicated to that proposition, and I don't believe that this was their intention. Under the amendment handed you now, and is marked "B," and which I read to you a moment ago, the State of Texas could dedicate that part of the conservation storage that would be necessary for the purpose of assuring that the riverflow shall not be diminished.
I am sorry that I have taken so much of your time. I did not have a prepared statement, but while I was sitting back there listening to the testimony, and to the questions raised by Mr. Fascell, it occurred to me that I might be some help to the committee, by trying to clear up some answers to his questions. The point which Mr. Fascell brought forth: Why mention these things if you don't have to? Why create any problems by adding surplus words to this bill when there is no need for it?—is very well taken. Mr. Fascell, I agree with your observations.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity and the privilege of appearing before you, and I am sorry that I have taken up so much of your time.
(The amendments referred to follow:)
Sec. 3. If a dam is constructed pursuant to an agreement concluded under the authorization granted by section 1 of this Act, its operation for conservation and release of United States share of waters shall be integrated with other United States water conservation activities on the Rio Grande below Fort Quitman, Texas, in such manner as to provide the maximum feasible amount of water for beneficial use in the United States, with the understandings that (a) releases of United States share of waters from said dam for domestic, municipal, industrial and irrigation uses in the United States shall be made pursuant to order by the appropriate authority or authorities of the State of Texas, and (6) the conservation storage of said dam is hereby dedicated to the State of Texas.
Sec. 3. If a dam is constructed pursuant to an agreement concluded under the authorization granted by section 1 of this Act, its operation for conservation and release of United States share of waters shall be integrated with other United States water conservation activities on the Rio Grande below Fort Quitman, Texas, in such manner as to provide the maximum feasible amount of water for beneficial use in the United States, with the understandings that (a) releases of United States share of waters from said dam for domestic, municipal, industrial and irrigation uses in the United States shall be made pursuant to order by the appropriate authority or authorities of the State of Texas, and (6) the conservation storage of said dam is hereby dedicated to the State of Texas, and, the State of Texas having stipulated that the amount of water that will be available for use in the United States below Falcon Dam after the proposed dam