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AMISTAD DAM AND RESERVOIR
TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 1960
UNITED STATES SENATE, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONs, Washington, D.C.
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m. in room F–53, U.S. Capitol Building, Senator J. W. Fulbright (chairman), presiding.
Present: Senators Fulbright, Long, Wiley, Hickenlooper, Carlson, Capehart, and Williams.
The CHAIRMAN. We have with us this morning Mr. Leland H. Hewitt, the Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission, and Mr. Melville E. Osborne, officer in charge, Mexican Affairs, Department of State. They will present testimony on H.R. 12263, a bill to authorize the conclusion of an agreement for the joint construction by the United States and Mexico of a major international storage dam on the Rio Grande in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of February 3, 1944, with Mexico, and for other purposes. H.R. 12263 was passed by the House of Representatives on June 10, 1960.
(The bill referred to follows:)
AN ACT To authorize the conclusion of an agreement for the joint construction by the United States and Mexico of a major international storage dam on the Rio Grande in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of February 3, 1944, with Mexico, and for other purposes Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of A merica in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of State, acting through the United States Commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, is hereby authorized to conclude with the appropriate official or officials of the Government of Mexico an agreement for the joint construction, operation, and maintenance by the United States and Mexico, in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of February 3, 1944, with Mexico, of a major international storage dam on the Rio Grande at the site and having substantially the characteristics described in minute numbered 207 adopted June 19, 1958, by the said Commission, and in the “Rio Grande International Storage Dams Project—Report on Proposed Dam and Reservoir” prepared by the United States Section of the said Commission and dated September 1958. SEC. 2. If agreement is concluded pursuant to section 1 of this Act for the construction of a major international storage dam the Secretary of State, acting through the United States Commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, is authorized to conclude with the appropriate official or officials of Mexico an agreement consistent with article 7 of the treaty of February 3, 1944, for the construction, operation, and maintenance, for the United States share, of facilities for generating hydroelectric energy at said dam. If agreement for the construction of separate facilities for generating hydroelectric energy is concluded, the United States Commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, is directed to construct, operate, and maintain such facilities for the United States.
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 (b) 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, and to carry out such understandings and said stipulation the conservation storage of said dam shall be used, and it shall be the exclusive responsibility of the appropriate authority or authorities of said State to distribute available United States share of waters of the Rio Grande in such manner as will comply with said stipulation.
SEC. 4. There is hereby authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State for the use of the United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.
Passed the House of Representatives June 9, 1960.
RALPH. R. Rob ERTs, Clerk.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you wish to start, Mr. Hewitt?
STATEMENT OF LELAND H, HEWITT, COMMISSIONER, INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND WATER COMMISSION, UNITED STATES AND MEXICO
Mr. HEWITT. Very well, Mr. Chairman. As you have mentioned, H.R. 12263 contemplates in the main two particular authorizations. The first that the Secretary of State acting through the U.S. Commissioner be authorized to conclude with the representatives of Mexico an agreement for the joint construction, operation, and maintenance of a dam in accordance with the treaty of February 3, 1944, and, second, that if an agreement in accordance with section 1 is concluded, that we also be authorized to conclude an arrangement with Mexico in order to construct, operate, and maintain a facility for the generating of electric current.
Now article 5 of the 1944 water treaty between the United States and Mexico is the authority for the construction of the international dams along the Rio Grande.
If you will look at the map which we have over here on the wall, you can see that a portion of the Rio Grande constitutes the boundary between the United States and Mexico, from El Paso down to the vicinity of Brownsville and Matamoros at the lower right-hand end of the map.
THREE DAMS CONTEMPLATED UNDER 1944 TREATY
Now the 1944 treaty between the United States and Mexico contemplated that there would be three dams which would be authorized and constructed by the United States and Mexico jointly to provide flood control, conservation, electric power, and other ancillary benefits.
The first dam, Falcon Dam as you can see, was completed in 1953 and is under operation at the present time.
The second dam which we are talking about this morning is the Amistad Dam which is located in the immediate vicinity of Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña on the Mexico side of the river. The reason why this dam was not authorized by the 1944 treaty is that the 1944 treaty specified definitely certain reaches of the river in which these dams would be built, and the location where the final engineering studies indicated would be most advantageous to build the dam, was not included in the 1944 treaty.
Now the reason that the dam is located in the position selected, is that the principal flood producing tributaries of the Rio Grande constitute the Conchos River which comes in from Mexico and enters the United States in the vicinity of Presidio. The Devils River which comes in immediately above Del Rio, and the Pecos River which comes in a little farther up, are both above the site of the dam.
AFFORDING FLOOD PROTECTION
Now with the harnessing of those three rivers or the control of those three rivers, it will be possible to control all of the floods of record, and we have about 59 years of record, and to eliminate the flood damages which have occurred along the Rio Grande in recent years. Falcon Dam which I mentioned before was completed in 1953. The Amistad Dam is some 300 miles above Falcon, and will supply protection to the cities of Del Rio, Ciudad Acuña, Eagle Pass, Piedras Negras, and Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. These areas were very badly damaged in the 1954 flood. Actually there was a considerable loss of life both on the U.S. side and Mexican side and a great loss of property. The characteristics of the Rio Grande are peculiar. Many times you have a very small flow in the river and as an example, on June 23, 1954, at Del Rio, there was less than 2,000 second-feet in the river. However, 3 days later there was 1,140,000 second-feet of flow, and you can see from that, that flood protection must be supplied in order to avoid damages in the area below Del Rio. In addition, Falcon Dam, which in 1954 did supply protection to the lower valley, owing entirely to the fact that it was practically empty at the time that the flood occurred, would not have supplied very much, if any, protection had Falcon Dam been filled as it was in 1958. The fact that we propose to build Amistad Dam adds to the security supplied by Falcon so that the combination of the two will practically insure that the lower valley will be free from floods originating in the upper river. The only damages which may occur then will come from rivers which come in from the Mexican side below Falcon Dam. Floods below Del Rio and up to Falcon Dam will affect about 120,000 people, and damage about 66,000 acres of irrigated land in the United States alone. They will also damage five international bridges which cross the Rio Grande in that area, and will cause loss of life, as I mentioned before, and the tremendous loss of commercial facilities. Now in the 1954 and 1958 floods, we have conservatively estimated about $24.1 million damages. This is about one-third the cost of what we estimate the Amistad Dam will cost.