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The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Jacobs, if you want to go ahead and discuss
Mr. JACOBS (interposing). This information has been prepared for the committee, and I would like to have the opportunity of presenting it and explaining it when more members of the committee are present. I would like to have consideration given to the other levee districts in the State of Louisiana, as well as to the Fifth Levee District.
The CHAIRMAN. There is nothing provided specifically in the bill for the Fifth Levee District.
Mr. Jacobs. Of course, I appreciate that; but I would like to appear before the committee and present reasons why these other districts should be given some consideration in the matter of reimbursement, regardless of whether the areas are used for levee foundations or are lands that are thrown out.
In this connection, I would like to call your attention to statements contained in the hearings before this .committee in 1932 and, also, again before this committee in the hearings held on February 7, 8, and 9, 1934, on the same question. There was a bill providing reimbursement or payment for lands thrown out. There was a bill which made provision for the reimbursement of the levee districts, regardless of whether they were set-back levees, or not. We certainly would not have gone to the expense of preparing all this data had we known it would have no consideration. I thought that this bill was a repetition of the other one.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee made a favorable report on that bill.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Will we have further hearings on this tomorrow?
The CHAIRMAN. I think we will probably have to hold further hearings on this tomorrow morning.
(Thereupon, the committee adjourned to meet tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Apr. 30, 1935, at 10:30 o'clock.)
SET-BACK LEVEES ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 1935
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The Committee resumed hearings on the bill above referred to at 10:46 a. m., Hon. Riley J. Wilson (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order.
Before we proceed, I wish to announce that I think there will be general debate on the floor all day today, and the committee will meet again at 2:30 and continue with this hearing.
When we closed our hearing yesterday, Mr. Jacobs was speaking. Mr. Jacobs, do you have any further statement right now?
Mr. Jacobs. Yes, sir; I would like to finish the statement I started yesterday.
The CHAIRMAN. I believe Dr. Wolfe was to go on this morning. Mr. Jacobs. I would just as soon wait until the doctor finished.
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Wolfe, we would be glad to have your statement.
Please give your residence and your occupation.
STATEMENT OF DR. THOMAS L. WOLFE
Dr. WOLFE. This land is located at this location [indicating on map], right here. The old levee land runs along this blackline [indicating], as you know.
Our open land is along the front. There are about 2,000 acres of open land. The back land is timberland. The whole tract comprises 4,115 acres. This tract of land we have owned about 30 years and paid levee taxes on. My brother lived on that, and made it his home for a number of years.
At present, with the new levee along this bayou, we have a strip of land about 400 feet wide and 5 miles long with most of our buildings there. Our land naturally drains to the west, into another river; and, as a result of building this new levee, our drainage is cut off, and since 1928 the larger portion of this land has been covered with water and we have not even been able to use it for farming or for pasture land. The timberland is being injured by the water.
As we come out of our residence over here [indicating], there is a gravel highway there [indicating], and we cross it and we have a strip of land here (indicating], and we go up over the levee and there is a borrow pit about 100 feet wide, filled with water the year around, and it is just hard to picture a piece of land ruined by the con
struction of a new levee like that. Unless you saw it, you could not believe it.
This drainage, being cut off by the new levee, of course all of the rainfall that falls is kept right on that land.
Now, we paid an annual tax for the last 30 years ranging around $2,100 or $2,200; but the tax commission, recognizing the damage that has been done, this year cut our tax down to $515.
In 1920 we sold that place to a Dr. Weeks for $250,000. We got a small payment down. He lived there about 8 or 10 years, and the depression came on and he gave it up; we took it back.
For about 20 miles around the plantation, we put up a woven wire fence, which is all under water.
There is nothing else that I particularly had in mind.
The CHAIRMAN. You say that you or your family have had that land about how long?
Dr. WOLFE. Thirty years.
Dr. WOLFE. I do not think that in all of that time we ever had an overflow.
The CHAIRMAN. Point out on the map where the old levee was before it was set back.
Dr. WOLFE. It came right along here [indicating].
The CHAIRMAN. What was the acreage that was taken and put between the levee and the river channel?
Dr. WOLFE. About 3,300 acres.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there other landowners in that same territory?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes. I wanted to say this, that there was a piece of land in here [indicating), about 400 acres. At one time I told my brother that it would be nice if we had that continuous bayou front, and we bought it about 25 years ago, and we paid $75 an acre for it.
The CHAIRMAN. Where does this man live?
Dr. WOLFE. He lives in Jackson, Miss. We bought it from Joel Johnson, Jr. I have the papers to show the transaction. I have the canceled note of Dr. Weeks. I have the tax receipt showing the taxes that we paid, and the reduction that has been made by the tax commission.
The CHAIRMAN. Where was Dr. Weeks from?
The CHAIRMAN. And he was unable to make these payments after this land was set back?
Dr. WOLFE. No; he gave up the place before this happened. The CHAIRMAN. So you still own it! Dr. WOLFE. Yes. Down along this bayou (indicating on map] there are a number of property owners that we have urged to appear here, but they are not in a financial position to do so, being hardly able to buy a ticket to come here. There is a widow woman and her son that have a little piece of land in one of these places, and, in the next place, the husband worried so over the situation that he killed himself.
What makes this specially damaging to us was this 9.5-mile front along this bayou. This is very high land here (indicating] and this
new levee comes out here [indicating], and follows that route around there [indicating], and we only have about 350 acres of land left of that narrow strip. We have part of that in alfalfa. Most of it is seeded, but when it rains hard the rain falls on the levee and as the land is higher along the bayou the water from the line settles along the levee staying there for some time and it will flow up on that side of the river [indicating], and it leaves a stream of water on that strip of land, and there is part of that that we cannot use. It flows back toward the levee from the bayou, and at times that is covered with water.
Mr. CARLSON. That is a drainage problem, instead of an overflow problem.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. That was created, though, by the set-back flow; you did not have that problem before. That is right, is it not?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes; that is true; and I understand that this old levee will not be maintained, and whenever this river comes up there is an overflow.
The CHAIRMAN. Your drainage was shut off by the building of the set-back!
Dr. WOLFE. The new levee cut off our drainage. Our land slopes this way [indicating], and goes to another river.
Mr. Wilson. If you understood your statement correctly, previous to 1928 you were not bothered with overflows and drainage. Now they have a dike in there, and do you have any overflows now?
Dr. WOLFE. No.
Dr. WOLFE. The old levee, however, is still there, but it would have to be maintained.
Mr. CARLSON. Then it is in the future that you would expect overflows?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. Now, Doctor, the situation with you people in that area described by you is comparable to the situation described by Judge Driver yesterday. Did you hear him?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. And other testimony about other lands similarly situated. It just means that by setting the levee back and abandoning the old levee, all of these lands will be subject to overflow from the Mississippi just like land along the Mississippi that has no protection whatever?
Dr. WOLFE. Absolutely. Mr. ZIMMERMAN. And it virtually means the ultimate confiscation of
your property and leaving it to the hazards of recurring floods on the Mississippi River, does it not?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes. We do not even have to wait for that. We are now covered with water.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. And, as Judge Driver described here, as time goes on, the banks cave in, they abandon the revetment work on the river, the old levee gives way, and then the whole land is covered with water.
Dr. WOLFE. The landowners are not able to use their land. They have no income. They would not be able to maintain this old levee,