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In the east Texas area, the trees are pine and hardwoods, some of them I suppose 40 or 50 feet in height. Coming over to San Antonio, the brush is perhaps 25 feet in height, mostly mesquite with belts of oak trees.
Going on west toward Eagle Pass, as you drive along you can see that the size of the brush is rapidly diminishing and when you come to our area, except for low spots where water accumulates, you have very small trees.
Going north of us, there is brush, but it continues to get smaller and that is because of the lack of rainfall and the diminution of rainfall as you go westward.
The country north of us which represents the area from Eagle Pass there, on up through Dei Rio and on up to Fort Quitman, is more or less a hilly, mountainous country, with deep channels in all the arroyos and creeks coming into the main river. The land is not covered solidly with any kind of vegetation at all and in many places you have rock outcrops and as a result any rainfall that falls in that area, if there is any substantial amount of it, has a tendency to run off rapidly into drainage channels and on into the river. Only a few of those streams run continuously. The Devils River runs continuously from the springs, and the Pecos River runs continually and the Rio Conchos in Mexico does, but most of our drainage ways in that country are dry except when rain falls that puts water in them and they run down river pretty fast.
I think Colonel Hewitt stated this morning that most of the floods occured above this proposed Amistad Dam site. It might be interesting to the committee for me to briefly explain why that is.
Starting at the Gulf of Mexico and going up the river of course there is a gradual rise in the land. When you get up to Laredo, a little north, the Balcones fault system starts. At that point it is not a single fault escarpment but a series of small faults running over a long area. The throw of that fault system is approximately 1,000 feet, if I recall correctly. That is to say the same strata on one side of the faults is about 1,000 feet higher than the other, and as a result, when warm masses of air from the gulf go over that country, they rise very rapidly in that area and frequently the precipitation point is reached up above Del Rio in the Devils River and Pecos River country. They have extremely high intensities of rainfall there sometimes. It is not at all uncommon to have 15 inches in a 24-hour period, and there have been times when it has exceeded 30 inches in a 24-hour period. Not over the whole area, but in concentrated portions of the storm that might be going on up there.
Usually those high flows come from the after effects or the end of tropical hurricanes originating in the Gulf of Mexico and going inland from Corpus Christi down to, say, Brownsville.
Maverick County extends about halfway—that is, Eagle Pass is approximately halfway in the center of Maverick County. We have, I would guess, about 100 river miles of area or boundary in our county. The county boundary is the same as that of the United States at that point and the city of Eagle Pass has as its boundary the county boundary and the international boundary as well.
Eagle Pass is the only incorporated town in the county. We have several farming villages out in the farming area.
The country around Eagle Pass has such a small rainfall, and the rainfall is so uncertain, that there is no dryland farming in our country at all. All farming is irrigated farming.
I have stated in the paper that I have left here with you that it would be impossible to raise a dryland crop—by that I meant it would be as a practical matter impossible for the simple reason that perhaps once in 5, or once in 10 years, if the farmer planted a crop he could carry it through without irrigation. But for all practical purposes we have no such thing as dryland farming in that area.
There is on the far eastern part of the county a small neck of the Carrizo sand formation which comes into the county from which irrigation wells pump water for irrigation on a very minor scale, to the far eastern portion of the county, but around Eagle Pass and in the western part of the county and all the main irrigated areas in the county there is no Mater whatever available for irrigation other than the Rio Grande water. There is also no other water available for domestic or municipal purposes.
The city of Eagle Pass depends entirely on flows from the Rio Grande. There are occasional farms, there is an occasional farm in the district where small wells are dug purely for domestic purposes and although I don't know it, I think that that water" is largely seepage water from irrigation usages that is being pumped up again by those people.
However, most of our farms don't even have that. I live on a small farm that I own outside of town and we have to use water direct from the canal. There is no well water whatever in that particular part of the county.
The 1954 flood which was, I think, the worst one on the river, although there have been many of them, I remember very graphically when that happened. I was sitting up in the office and I had heard from our water district engineer that they were expecting a whole lot of water because, although we had had no substantial rainfall there, a large amount had fallen up above in the Pecos and Devils River. He said the Boundary Commission advised him they thought there was a good chance that the crest of the Devils and Pecos Rivers would hit at approximately the same time in the Rio Grande channel, and that if it happened we were going to be in for lots of trouble, and we were.
And gentlemen, many of you possibly and probably have been through floods of that type, but there is nothing more terrifying than to stand there on your main street and watch the water run backwards up hill toward you. It doesn't come awfully fast, but it keeps running backwards in the gutters first and then it fills the street, and then it gets over the sidewalk and then starts pouring down into the basements and running into the buildings, and it is a very terrifying experience, especially when you don't know how much more is coming, and how far it is going to go.
Well, practically all of our commercial areas in the town, the downtown business section, were inundated. Some of it didn't quite get— now at the place where my office is, it didn't quite get into the bottom floor. It came over the bottom steps but didn't quite get into the bottom floor of the building.
But from that point on toward the river it got deeper and deeper until where, on Commercial Street, which is the street that leads down to the International Bridge, it was up to the eaves of some of the houses along there, some of the buildings, or what would be the eaves if they didn't have a false front on them.
People did everything they could to get their merchandise and furniture and beds and everything else out of that area but of course when the water was coming up very rapidly, they had limited time within which they could work trucks down there. Every truck in the area was working madly trying to get stuff out but a great deal of property, that is merchandise and household furniture also, was left down there for the simple reason that the water got too deep for the trucks to operate.
Of course, sometimes you kind of laugh to see somebody paddling along down Main Street in a canoe and going in and out of some store building, but—you joke about those things, but you are really not laughing. It is a very unnerving experience and when you consider that there is no reason why even greater floods can't be expected, you really want, I mean seriously want, some area of protection from that■ sort of damage.
After the flood went down, of course there was a thick layer of silt everywhere. Some of it was just an inch or two deep. In some places it was as much as a foot deep, depending on how the currents came in and where they stopped or were held back by a building or some other obstacle and dropped more silt someplace else.
I don't think there is anything that gets a worse odor than silt of that type after a flood is over with. Everything stays wet. I remember Valerio Santos, who is a groceryman down on Commercial Street, had a warehouse full of groceries, and he had a bunch of pinto beans in there and they were worse than the flood when they got to decaying in there. It didn't smell like a cider mill at all. They were fermenting but it had a different odor in it. I remember he threw out, I don't know, it must have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of little pound boxes of salt out in the street. There was a big mound of them out there and they were throwing all that stuff out there that was completely unusable.
It took Eagle Pass about 10 days, not to clean up, but to get things shoved around enough to where they could do any kind of a commercial business.
At the same time, our bridge was washed out—not the whole bridge, but the approach, which is just about as effective; the railroad bridge was carried away. For quite a while we had no connection with Mexico at all except for air hops by small planes from one side of the river to the other.
The commercial life of Eagle Pass is very closely knit with that of Piedras Negras. The two towns have a common boundary and are separated only by the river. A great deal of the traffic across the bridge is foot traffic. People just walk across. It is a matter of maybe an ordinary city block and a half or two city blocks from one town to the other, just across the river.
There was not only the loss of merchandise but also the loss of business. Sales that never could be made—the time had gone by.
The Water District itself was badly damaged in the upper reaches of the canal. Speaking of this Balcones fault I mentioned, topography there made it possible for the district to be designed to where we take water out of the Rio Grande by gravity up in Kinney County just north of Maverick County line. The river falls very rapidly there and they laid the line of the canal out on more or less a flat contour, so that in a few miles the canal begins to go away from the river, leaving a space in between the river and the canal where the farming area is. Our system is entirely gravity, we have no pumps in it at all.
The canal comes on down past the Quemado section north of Eagle Pass, curves around a line of hills, and at that point is about—and I am not sure of this figure, but it is approximately 100 feet—the canal is approximately 100 feet above the river at that point.
In the first portions of the canal as you can see, the level of the canal levees and the canal itself is very nearly that of the river. That continues over several of the major creeks that our canal crosses. They go through by a large inverted siphon. Tubes almost half as tall as this room, banks of them that carry the water down under the creek bed and up on the other side.
In that part of the system where the flood damage occurs, we had, as I recall, somewhere between 10 and 12 major breaks in that section of the canal.
The end of one of those siphons was standing about two stories of the normal office building above the ground—it was simply sticking out there where the entire canal had been washed away in front of it.
That causes damage in excess of just physical damage to the canal system itself, because if you have a farmer who has to water his crops and he can't get any water because of that broken system, he can lose his crop, or it can be badly damaged, even though the damage to the canal system itself might not be a great repair cost—even one break could do it. In other words, it might not be serious from a financial angle to the district. Of course, a flood like 1954 was extremely serious from a financial standpoint because there were so many breaks and they were so large.
The community as a whole and all of these organizations I have mentioned are primarily interested in this from a flood control angle. The district of course is interested in, in addition to flood control, in two or three items which I shall mention very briefly.
One is the fact that we divert water for power purposes and are permitted to divert a thousand second-feet of water continually. Actually, the stage of the river for some years has been such that it was very seldom—well, I won't say very seldom, but frequently there was not enough water to divert the amount of water we were entitled to divert. That water is sent back into the river from the powerplant.
It seems to us that if this Amistad Reservoir were built and these large flood flows were impounded there, they would be released in an orderly fashion and in all probability we would be able to realize our power potential—a much greater portion of the time we would, than we are at the present time.
Also, when we do get floodwater into the canal system, we get a tremendous amount of silt. It carries a heavy silt load because of the rapid runoff on to relatively bare pastures, and it carries lots and lots of mud. We are in a position all the time of having to run draglines and dredges and slopers and all kinds of machinery, trying to clean this silt carried in by floodwaters out of our system. Of course, a large portion of that would be trapped and dropped out in Amistad Dam if it were built.
We have one other feature that is of interest to the water district— not to the district itself, but to the farmers. During what you might call the low flows of the river, a considerable portion of the water comes -out of the Pecos River. Now, that water is extremely salty and extremely alkaline. I don't know this, but I have been told there are places along the Pecos River where cattle will not drink water out of the river, it carries such a high percentage of minerals. Of course, that water is ground water largely. It is clear, and so is the Conchos flow, ordinarily, and the Devils River flow. It does have a dampening effect on agricultural production because of the fact that you are bringing in alkaline and saline salts into fields, and they concentrate there. The water will evaporate or be used but the salt doesn't. It stays.
It is our concept that if the reservoir were built and you had the floodwaters impounded that they would undoubtedly dilute the Pecos River flows so that the dissolved solids in the water would be much lower most of the time. Of course, it would be quite possible for all of the water to be used in time of drought and we would still be back in the same situation.
But by and large, I think it would give us a much higher quality •of irrigation water, which would be of course a big benefit to any farmer using that water.
I think that j ust about covers everything I have to say, gentlemen. I Tvould be glad to try to answer any questions you might have.
(The prepared statement of Mr. Rhodes follows:)
Now come the City of Eagle Pass, Tex., the County of Maverick, Tex., the IMaverick County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 (hereinafter called "district") and the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Eagle Pass, Tex., acting through their spokesman, Jeremiah Ingels Rhodes, and file this their statement relative to H.R. 8080 introduced by Congressman Fisher, being the enabling legislation for the construction of Amistad Dam on the Rio Grande River below the confluence of the Devils River and the Rio Grande.
-general Information Regarding Maverick County And The City Of Eagle
Maverick County, Tex., borders the Rio Grande River, and its westerly boundary is the westerly boundary of the United States. The city of Eagle Pass in Maverick County, Tex., is located on the Rio Grande River approximately 120 road miles north of Laredo, Tex., and 56 road miles south of Del Rio, Tex. Maverick County, Tex., is a semidesert area and the agricultural activity in the county consists of ranching and irrigated farming. Virtually all the irrigated farmland in the county lies within the District, which organization diverts water from the Rio Grande River by gravity, and delivers it to the several farmers within the District for irrigation purposes. There is no other water district furnishing water for irrigation purposes in the county, and at the present time, there are approximately 40,000 acres of irrigated farmland within the district. All irrigation stock and domestic water used by farmers within the District and all water distributed by the District comes from the Rio Grande River, with the
-exception of a few isolated wells used as a domestic water supply for individual farms, most of which are fed by deep percolating waters from irrigation and rainfall. Without Rio Grande River water, the farmers served by the district would not be physically able to produce crops in Maverick County. Rainfall is
•extremely scarce and uncertain, and there is no dryland, farming in the county.