« PreviousContinue »
The CHAIRMAN. There are none, except that I think probably it is a little more definite as to the approval and acceptance by the Chief of Engineers of the Army.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. That was the Kopp bill? The CHAIRMAN. Yes; they are practically the same. Mr. WHITTINGTON. Is there any difference between this bill and H. R. 4668 ?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, there is some difference between those two bills. There was an error in the other bill, which is corrected here.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. There is no difference between this bill and the previous bill reported by this committee and approved by the Committee on Rules?
The CHAIRMAN. Practically, you might say, they are identical.
The CHAIRMAN. Here is the report on it, with a statement by Mr. Whittington, on H. R. 4668.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I am speaking of the bill reported on by the Committee on Rules.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the one; it was in the Seventy-second Congress.
Mr. Driver is here, and we will be glad to have a statement from him in reference to the matter pending before the committee at this time.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM J. DRIVER, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. DRIVER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, the background for this legislation is to be found in the alterations under the adopted project of 1928, known as the “Mississippi River Flood Control Project.
You gentlemen are aware of the fact that the construction of the necessary flood works on the river was assumed as a national obligation under the provisions of that law, with this exception. Local entities were required to provide the necessary rights-of-way on which the structures were to be located; that is, the levee structures, which has been done, and at the locations mentioned by Judge Wilson in his statement to the committee.
In making an estimate of the cost of the necessary works under the provisions of that project, the engineers recommended the enlargement of the entire levee system along the Mississippi River, in accordance with the number of miles of existing levees then on the river.
In 1914 the Corps of Engineers provided a grade and section for the levees along the river which, in their judgment, would be sufficient to withstand the amount of flood water flowing through the river. And in accordance with that established grade and section levees were located within a distance from the bank of the river that, in the judgment of the engineers, would maintain the integrity of that system for a period of 20 years. And by that I mean that a levee located under the grade and section established would be placed on foundations, which, according to the opinion of the Army Engineers, considering the character of the banks of the river and
the amount of erosion that would ordinarily occur within that period of time, would make those levees safely located for that length of time.
Now, to obviate the necessity of revetting the banks to protect that location, the engineers frequently, at places where the erosion was a little heavier than ordinarily, would build what we term “ loop levees" in order to avoid the expense of revetting the banks, and stabilizing these locations for the protection of the levees.
The difference between the cost of levee construction and revetment construction was about $200,000 per mile for levees, and about $400,000 per mile for revetment, and therefore it would be cheaper to build the loop levees than to revet the banks.
For that reason frequently erosion was permitted to occur in a way that would threaten the integrity of the levee and of that eroded bank, and require the building of a loop levee rather than stabilize the bank in front of that danger point.
Those things were all known to the engineers, and they exercised their judgment, based exclusively upon the question of the economies of the situation.
The levee boards at that time were involved. They were required to secure the rights-of-way for these loop levees. And when I say rights-of-way, that does not mean only as to the question of the value of the land on which these levee structures would be placed. It meant the incidental damages involved, such as crop damages, and the removal of houses along the new projected land. They would compensate the landowners for the interference with their tenant structures and the inaccessibility of the property when it was divided by building a levee through it.
Now, as to the price of the contribution, under the old 1917 law, which was renewed in 1923, the Government contributed $2 for every one that the local levee districts expended, but plus the rightsof-way and damages, so that the levee districts and the Government expended an equal amount of money.
In accordance with the statement made by the engineers, the amount of that expense was a little in excess of 50 percent on the part of the local districts.
When the 1928 grade and section was placed in operation, which it is testified is not a definite one yet, the engineers agreed on the size of the structures necessary to protect against the floods under the 1928 project. They agreed, because of the larger cost involved in the structures under that new definition of the grade and section, that they would locate all new construction of levees on the basis of a 30-year period of protection. That did not mean that they were going to rectify all of the levee lands on the river, but it meant this, that wherever it became necessary to change the location of an existing levee on the river, it would be set back sufficiently to afford that 30-year protection for the structure.
That, in itself, has brought into the picture an enormous expenditure on the part of those local levee districts.
I am going to give you just this one illustration of the meaning of that. Under the 1917 and 1923 operations where it was a case of a $2 contribution to one, plus the damage and levee rights-of-way, and so forth, the expense to the local districts of providing additional rights-of-way under the project of 1928 has exceeded their former contribution by over 30 percent.
Now, I want to show you what enters into that.
After estimating anew the cost of the enlargement of the levee lands on the Mississippi River in accordance with the number of miles contained therein, and bringing that up to the new adopted grade and section, the engineers—I am not now undertaking to criticize them; I am giving you the picture, because they are doing the very best work they can, and they are doing it in accordance with their conception of the economies of the situation. They are engaged in very earnest and unselfish work to protect that valley from the menace of these floods that are pitched down on those people, which they are forced to contend with.
But the engineers, in order to effectuate that economy, have made some set-backs here to save money, and they do not hesitate a moment to say so, because they are very frank with us.
I am going to give you this illustration in connection with the McComb Point plantation on the Mississippi River, one of the olddeveloped areas of that river, containing 3,200 acres of the most highly developed land you will find in the country, between Cape Girardeau and the Gulf, 3,200 acres of as highly improved land as you will find anywhere in the Mississippi Valley.
This is a magnificent old southern home located here, with an unusually attractive lot of tenant houses and gardens, splendidly drained, and with everything in the world to make that plantation one of the most desirable properties you could conceive of.
It would cost the Government $450,000 to bring this existing levee along near the bank of the Mississippi River around that point, up to the 1928 grade and section. It would only cost $200,000 to build this two and a quarter miles of levee across that point, and the engineers built that cut-off levee here [indicating on map].
Mr. WEARIN. Considering the saving that is going to be made by shortening that levee and then proceeding on from there, how much would it cost under this bill to compensate the landowners and tenants, or any others involved in that change?
Mr. DRIVER. It would cost practically the difference between the amount of money for the cut-off levee and the cost of bringing this existing levee up to the 1928 grade and section, and according to the estimate it would be slightly under the amount of money that was actually saved.
In other words, if it was placed squarely before them as a business proposition as to whether or not you would make the cut-off and pay the compensation to the landowner, it would amount to less than half the amount of money that will be required to be paid to fully compensate the landowner and for the construction of the setback levee.
Those are not all the elements that enter into this equation. When these levees are built up near the bank of the Mississippi River there is always the opportunity there for some future danger and the requirement of some additional expense in order to maintain the levee. In other words, it may be necessary to build a loop here in order to save the point here [indicating on map], where erosion would set in, or a loop here [indicating on map]. It may be it would require some revetment work here [indicating on map] eventually, should erosion start on the bank of the river, or start in front of the levee.
may require some future expenditure that might well enter into the question of economy on which the engineers are determining their conduct. Those are the situations that have developed here.
And this is purely a case of the saving of money, and that is inévitable.
But let us view the situation from the standpoint of the local people. No provision is made under the law for compensation for these lands that are thrown to the channel of the Mississippi River. If that were required, there would be very, very few districts that would be able to compensate the landowners, because under the additional burden imposed upon the districts in providing rights-of-way and paying for the damages, to get the necessary levee structures, there is a most difficult banking situation imposed upon these districts to meet their maturing interest obligations, and in many instances they are required to postpone those payments and adjust the maturities of the principal of their outstanding debts.
Here is the other picture from the standpoint of the local people. The levee districts that constructed the foundation of this levee around this particular place--and that usually is true of all the situations along the Mississippi River—was organized in 1893. From 1893 up to this period, or the period when that land was thrown to the channel of the Mississippi River, the owners of the land paid, in common with the owners of all of the other land within that levee district, the same rate of taxation to afford them protection from the floods on the Mississippi River.
During that period of 38 years every acre of the land in that area, every acre of the land down in the Mississippi and the Louisiana areas that suffered alike, had contributed their proportionate part of the cost of the protection they attempted to provide for themselves; and at the wind-up the property was severed from the protected areas, due to the overflows in that river, and without a chance in the world of securing one cent of compensation for the destruction of that value.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. It is true, is it not, that, so far as that land is concerned, no loans could be secured on it?
Mr. DRIVER. It has no market value.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. No loans could be secured to make a crop on it or do anything else?
Mr. DRIVER. Oh, no. Mr. Zimmerman, we have in the Mississippi River many islands where timber growth occurred. They were elevated, some of them, in a comparative way, with the elevation of the banks on each side of the river. Those lands have been cleared by some adventurous spirits, and they stand the chance of cultivating those lands during periods when we have early overflows or no overflows in the Mississippi River. They do produce wonderful crops. But the land is cultivated by the people in a haphazard way between the levees. They take their chances. They will go in there after a flood and perhaps they will plant some light crop and produce splendid crops, when they can do it. They are likely to plant a crop, however, and have it wiped away almost overnight.
We have a lot of overflows coming out of the Missouri River sufficient to get over that type of land and they destroy the crops absolutely.
These lands that come out under the levee rectification are exactly in a class with the land on the islands, or some lands left originally in front of the levee line on the shore of the main river. It has no value; no one would deal with it on the basis of so much per acre. It has no rental value. It is just land on which men might take a haphazard chance. No loans are made on it. Such lands are not regarded by the local people as having a value.
That is the situation, gentlemen, as it exists there. Possibly I could go into more detail as to the condition of these districts that would make it a matter of impossibility for them to make this contribution. They have no authority to do it. They could secure no authority to do it, because it is generally known that this project is national in its scope, and that is one of the obligations that should accompany the responsibility.
Another factor is this: We are all opposed, as a rule, to paying any more contributions for our Government concerns than possible; and when there is no law providing for compensation for losses of this sort, it would be impossible to secure consideration for these people without some man objecting somewhere, no matter what the disposition of the people as a whole may be, if they possess the ability to do it, which I know they do not.
Mr. Rich. If this bill, H. R. 7349, were to pass, you would not figure that any contributions would be made to those individuals taking a chance on these islands that you speak of?
Mr. DRIVER. Not a cent on earth.
Mr. Rich. There is no thought in the minds of any member of the committee that these islands that have been in the habit of being flooded would be considered under a bill of this kind?
Mr. DRIVER. Let me say to my friend from Pennsylvania that no lands are involved here which have not enjoyed protection from the floods of the river through the local structures existing at the time. It is only those lands involved in the set-backs made under the definitions of the act of 1928, providing for flood protection on the Mississippi River, that are involved.
Mr. Rich. Wherein the Government is assuming the responsibility and placing these set-backs, and the only land involved is the land that might be flooded during high water because of the fact of the existing of set-backs!
Mr. DRIVER. It is exclusively confined to that area.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. You were born and raised on the Mississippi River, were you not?
Mr. DRIVER. Yes.
Mr. DRIVER. I could throw a clod from the place of my birth to a levee when I was 4 years old.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. As to the fact that you mentioned in reference to the additional cost of revetment work on the river, has it not been the policy of the Government to increase the expenditure for that purpose, and has not that become a big item along the levees!
Mr. DRIVER. As to the revetment cost, the great expense connected with it is only used for emergency purposes. They do not lay off on the river mighty revetments or banks, or segments of the river. They provide only for revetment work where the erosion is such that they are required to do it, and not for the protection of the levee line entirely but for the protection of the channel alinement. They must