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The city of Eagle Pass, Tex., relies entirely on water from the Rio Grande River for all municipal uses. The city owns its own water supply system which is administered by an independent board under the terms of the debentures setting up the financing for the water system. A similar independent board operates the Eagle Pass International Toll Bridge, which is the only bridge between Eagle Pass, Tex., and Piedras Negras. Mexico, except for the railroad bridge of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. The westerly boundary of Eagle Pass is the Rio Grande River and the international boundary line between the United States and the Republic of Mexico, and is wholly dependent on water from the Rio Grande.
The nearest dam on the Rio Grande River itself having flood control or conservation storage facilities is Elephant Butte Dam located in the State of New Mexico above El Paso, Tex., a distance of many hundreds of river miles from Eagle Pass. There is an extremely large seniidesert and desert drainage area, sparsely vegetated, that drains into the Rio Grande River above Eagle Pass and a relatively large percentage of the water produced by the entire Rio Grande watershed falls above the city of Eagle Pass, and particularly in the Devils River and Pecos River country on the U.S. side of the river, and from the Rio Conchos from the Mexican side of the river.
Under the treaty between the United States and Mexico, Treaty Series 994. effective November 8, 1945, relating to the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and the Rio Grande, the river starts, for the purposes of the treaty, at Fort Quitman, Tex., below El Paso, Tex., and goes from there to Brownsville, Tex., and the Gulf of Mexico. The riverbed is normally dry at Fort Quitman, which is merely a gaging station of the International Boundary and Water Commission, and most of the water produced in the watershed of the Rio Grande River above this point is normally trapped at Elephant Butte Dam and utilized in the farming area near El Paso. Tex. Except for occasional flash floods below Elephant Butte Dam, no substantial water is produced above Fort Quitman for use below that point.
We urge the passage of the subject legislation, with certain amendments, for the reasons outlined as follows:
1. The principal interest of the city of Eagle Pass and its water system and bridge system, the County of Maverick and the Chamber of Commerce of Eagle Pass, Tex., in Amistad Dam is the flood protection it will afford to persons living in Maverick County, both in Eagle Pass, Tex., and in the several farms and ranches bordering the river in Maverick County. The District is also vitally interested in the flood control features of the dam as well as other features later discussed in this statement.
The Rio Grande River has always been a river of contrast, alternating between peaceful flows and raging floods, and in fact is called the Rio Bravo del Norte by the people of Mexico. Loosely translated, this means the Wild River of the North. From time to time, disastrous floods have occurred on the Rio Grande River, the latest of which was in 1954, and which caused extensive property damage in Maverick County and other counties above Falcon Dam, and extensive property damage and loss of life across the river in Mexico. More frequently, smaller floods occur on the river that are detrimental to the farmers and ranchers whose lands border the river, because of destruction of fencing and loss of pasturage during and after these small floods. The financial losses suffered by reason of major flooding are serious, but equal or greater damages arise out of the human suffering that is caused by such floods. Most of the serious floods on the river have been caused by waters coming out of the Pecos and Devils River country where rainfall frequently is extremely heavy in short periods, and where the land is not retentive of rainfall, which runs off very rapidly. The District and the people in the District are interested not only in the prevention of destruction of the canal system which is always seriously damaged in its upper reaches by major floods because of its proximity to the river, but also in the fact that the delivery of irrigation water is stopped until repairs can be made to the canal. Frequently these floods occur without any rainfall whatever falling in our area, and the loss of irrigation water to an irrigation farmer because of inability to use a damaged canal system can be ruinous on an individual basis if the loss occurs at a time when his crops must either be watered or else lost or seriously damaged.
In the 1954 flood, the American approach to the International Bridge at Eagle Pass, Tex., was washed away and the railroad bridge was also washed away, cutting off all communication between Mexico and the United States at this point except for air transportation. The entire central business■ district of the town was inundated, a thick deposit of silt was left in all the stores and streets, and the flood ruined much of the merchandise in many stores. The interruption of the commercial life of Kagie Pass and Piedras Negras, coupled with an almost complete cessation of business activities for approximately 10 days to 2 weeks while merchants were cleaning■ out their places of business, repairing them and replacing merchandise, was an extremely heavy financial blow to the community. Amistad Dam, if it had been completed prior to the 1954 flood, would have prevented all of the damages briefly outlined above.
2. The District is also in favor of the passage of the subject legislation and the construction of Amistad Dam for the following additional reasons.
In its capacity as the supplier of all irrigation waiter to farmers Within its boundaries, ther District is interested in the protection of the supply of irrigation water that Amistad Dam will afford, and also is interested in the improvement of the quality of irrigation water that will result from the dam. The protection afforded to the supply of irigation water for the District would be accomplished, in the opinion of the district, by the overall savings of water by virtue of a lessened loss of floodwaters flowing into the Gulf of Mexico when storage is filled at the present Falcon Dam below the Amistad site and below Laredo, by the flexibility that the Amistad Dam would afford in the storage of the American share of the waters of the river, and by smaller evaporation and seepage losses.
With reference to the savings of water that should result from the flexibility that the Amistad Dam would afford in the storage of waters, we feel that the following should be called to the attention of this committee.
The treaty contains the following provision in article 8, subsection (c):
•'(c) In any reservoir the ownership of water belonging to the country whose conservation capacity therein is filled, and in excess of that needed to keep it filled, shall pass to the other country to the extent that such country may have unfilled conservation capacity, except that one country may at its option temporarily use the conservation capacity of the other country not currently being used in any of the upper reservoirs; * * *."
The ownership of waters as between the United States and the Republic of Mexico is determined by measured flows under a formula set out in the treaty.
The treaty also provides that the dam will be built to afford the maximum conservation of waters possible on the Rio Grande River. It is therefore evident that the United States is under treaty obligation with the Republic of Mexico to construct Amistad Dam and to provide for conservation storage.
Mexico has the right under the treaty to build conservation storage for herself and has indicated that she will do so.
The report of Colonel Hewitt, the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission on page 48 indicates that the increase in regulated supply of water by virtue of Amistad Dam over Falcon Dam alone will, depending on varying rates of withdrawal of the water, be from 81,000 to as much as 201,000 acre-feet per year. We estimate that this conservation savings of water would amount to perhaps an increase of from 4 to 6 percent in the available water supply for all users below the Amistad site to the Gulf of Mexico.
It would appear that the conservation benefits by way of savings of water will be a relatively minor consideration to irrigation users below Amistad site. It might■ well be questioned, in view of this, whether conservation storage should be placed in the reservoir for American use in view of the fact that no new farm acreage whatever is contemplated, or possible as a practical legal matter, and in view of the fact that the dam will not be of any material benefit by way of developing new agricultural lands not already being served at the present time and under present conditions of physical control of the waters of the river.
Apart from the treaty obligation above referred to requiring the dam to be built in such a way as to afford maximum conservation of water, there is another unique consideration that requires conservation storage to be placed in the reservoir for American waters. This consideration arises by virtue of the above-quoted language of section 8, subsection (c).
In the event that Amistad Dam were built with only Mexican conservation storage in the reservoir, then under the above-quoted paragraph, all waters flowing into Amistad Reservoir and stored there would be transferred to Mexico regardless of ownership at the time such waters entered the reservoir, and this effect would continue until Mexico had completely filled its conservation storage capacity in Amistad Reservoir. Water in addition to this amount, if and when any entered the reservoir, would presumably be released to flow on to Falcon, retaining its character as Mexican or American water, or mixed water as the case might be, depending on its ownership on entering the full reservoir. The American conservation storage in Falcon Dam would then be increased by whatever American waters flow into Falcon. Under these circumstances, Mexico would undoubtedly maintain a full storage in Diablo and would attempt to leave an unused reserve storage in Falcon. This could result in additional American water being transferred at Falcon to Mexico immediately upon the filling of the American share of its conservation storage space at Falcon, since Mexico would have unused space in this reservoir. This would largely eliminate the benefit of the provision in the above-quoted paragraph providing for temporary use by one country of unused storage capacity of the other because this provision applies only to capacity not currently being used in the upper reservoirs.
It is obvious that if this condition were to occur, all users of water on the Rio Grande River below Amistad Dam to the Gulf of Mexico could lose substantial amounts of water now available to them. It is our opinion that such losses could exceed the amount of any additional waters that might be conserved and saved by the building of Amistad Dam. If the U.S. Government attempted to meet its treaty obligations by constructing the dam in this fashion, it would take from the users of waters in the United States substantial amounts of water now available to them when no surplus of water exists, and on which water the very economic life of the whole area depends. Without water from the Rio Grande' River, the irrigation development on the American side of the river would be' destroyed. It is therefore our feeling that even though the United States would not normally build conservation storage at this cost for the purpose of saving the additional amounts of water above mentioned, and even though the construction of the conservation storage facilities for the United States in Amistad Reservoir might not be physieally of tremendous conservation benefit to water users below the reservoir site, still such conservation storage must be built in order to protect the American users of water from losing water now available to them, and that might otherwise be lost by transfer to Mexico.
The District is also vitally interested in the construction of Amistad Dam by virtue of the fact that during a large percentage of the year, the flow of the Rio Grande at the district headgates consists of water coming from the Rio Conehos, the Pecos River, and the Devils River. These flows are ground-water flows and the Pecos River portion is relatively large during these periods. The Pecos River water is extremely saline and the quality of irrigation water during the time when the river is not carrying floodwaters is poor. The use of this water tends to have a very definite dampening effect on crop production because of the accumulation of soluble alkaline and saline salts carried into the fields by the water. The effect of Amistad Dam would be to impound floodwaters and to greatly dilute the poor quality water from the Pecos River, which would result in a very considerable increase in quality in irrigation water for the farmers in the District.
In addition to its distribution of irrigation waters, the District diverts water for electrical power generation purposes. Because of the topographical condition of the land with reference to the river, it was- possible for the District to■ construct its headgates and canal system in such a way that water flows directly by gravity from the channel of the Rio Grande itself into the District's canal system. The fall in the canal is substantially less per mile than that of the river and after leaving the river the main canal skirts the Quemado Valley section of the District and returns in a wide arc to the bank of the river itself. At this point, the water in the canal is high enough above the river to make power generation practical, and the canal system was designed to carry both irrigation water and water for discharge through a powerplant for the generation of power, which power water is discharged into the Rio Grande at the powerplant location.
The District's permit for the diversion of power water provides for a diversion rate of 1,000 second-feet. However, under conditions that have existed for many years, the total flows in the river at the district headgate frequently run below 1,000 feet for weeks and sometimes months at a time. The result of thisis that the power potential of the District is seriously impaired because of lack of water to run through its system for power purposes.
If Amistad Dam is built, it will capture the large flood flows that pass by the District headgates at the present time. The orderly release of the impounded floodwaters from the Amistad Reservoir will stabilize the channel flow so that the District may more fully utilize its power potential.
The District would further benefit in the Amistad Dam by virtue of the fact that the heavy silt load carried by floodwaters that do enter its system would be largely eliminated by the dam. At the present time, the District must constantly remove silt that is deposited in its canal system. This maintenance problem would be largely eliminated as most silt would settle out in the Amistad Reservoir.
3. We respectfully suggest that the following be substituted for section 3 of the act as now written:
"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 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 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 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 is placed in operation will be not less than the amount available under existing conditions of river development, it shall be the exclusive responsibility of the appropriate authority or authorities of said State to distribute available United States waters of the Rio Grande in such manner as will comply with said stipulation."
We make this suggestion in the belief that the foregoing section 3 would servethe purposes of the bill better than section 3 as now drawn, and would better accomplish what is intended by the present section 3.
In view of the foregoing, the City of Eagle Pass, Tex., the County of Maverick, Tex., the Maverick County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, and the Chamber of Commerce of the city of Eagle Pass, Tex., respectfully submit that the bill should be reported favorably out of subcommittee to the committeeand by the committee to the Congress, and that it should pass.
Jeremiah Ingels Rhodes.
Jeremiah Ingels Rhodes, speaking for City of Eagle Pass, Tex., County of Maverick, Tex., Maverick County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, and the Chamber of Commerce of the city of Eagle Pass, Tex.
Mr. Seldon. Thank you very much, Mr. Rhodes, for your fine statement.
Are there any questions by members of the subcommittee?
Mr. Fascell. I see you have offered an amendment to the bill. Would you tell us simply what that is?
Mr. Rhodes. Yes, sir. Our thought is that this does exactly what the other section does, but simply says it in a better way. That is^ lifted bodily out of the report of Colonel Hewitt. There are two words added to it. We thought the State Department improved on the original bill then we thought we would improve on the State Department bill.
We made no particular point of it, but just simply wanted to point that out to the committee for whatever it was worth. That appears on page 150 of the report.
There are two additional words to be added and I would like to call' those to the attention of the committee.
Counting from the lefthand side, the fifth line from the bottom of that small typed paragraph where it starts, "not less than the amount available * * *" we added these two words: "* * * not less than the amount available under existing conditions of development * * *" We added there the word "river." So that it reads, "not less than the amount available under existing conditions of 'river' development * * *"
The way the book would read, we added there "exclusive." "* * * ^exclusive' responsibility of the appropriate authority or authorities of said State * * *"
I believe those are the only changes. If there axe other changes, it is a typographical error. I checked that this morning as best I could and I believe it is exact.
I would like to say one other thing, Mr. Chairman, if I may be permitted, and that is this, that I would like to thank each of you all, not only for myself but for all the people in our area for setting this hearing for us and for your very attentive attention to my little presentation here. We all appreciate it. We favor the legislation very much and like to know we have had our chance to be heard.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Selden. Thank you very much, Mr. Rhodes.
Before you leave, Mr. Fulton wanted to ask you a question. Although not a member of this subcommittee, Mr. Fulton is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Fulton. We in Pennsylvania, of course,■ are very knowledgeable in and interested in flood control dams. What economic gain would come to your community and what economic benefit would inure to the economy of the United States if this dam was built?
Mr. Rhodes. I think the report of Colonel Hewitt there will explain that much better than I could, but I will try.
Primarily speaking for our community first, I think our primary benefit would be the cessation or virtual cessation of losses from flooding. That is actual physical damage caused by floods in this river.
We would also, as a community—the Water District is really—it is just one of our local political organizations but it is a part of the community as much as anything else because it is created only for the purpose—it is not a profit organization; it is a municipal corporation and it is created only for the benefit of the farmers and the people in the community. The Water District will benefit from those points that I brought out a little earlier, the protection from floods from— I think we would benefit also from a more stabilized flow of the river from power angles and also in silting. And, of course, in times of drought in all likelihood we would get a little bit more water when we needed it, although in that particular region of the river we have never been seriously short of water.
Mr. Fulton.- It would help basically and this is really a basic need of the community.
Mr. Rhodes. I think it would improve our community tremendously and I know over the years it would save considerable amounts of cash money for us.
Mr. Fulton. Thank you. That is all.
Mr. Selden. Thank you very much.
Mr. Kilgore. Mr. Chairman, just one or two questions.