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study the subject and bring in general legislation that would provide a formula for returning to the various counties an amount of money in lieu of taxes comparable to the amount that they lose through federal acquisition of lands. This study was started in 1939. Here it is 1946, seven years later, and not yet has Congress, although it has had 7 years to study this subject, adopted a reasonable or satisfactory formula. We cannot wait on general legislation. Our needs are urgent.
As I stated in the early part of my statement, Mr. Chairman, I do not know the history of this 25 percent figure. I do know that it does not meet the loss that has been incurred in the various sections of Mississippi. As to the rest of the country, I cannot testify.
The CHAIRMAN. I believe, if you will pardon the interruption, without meaning to interrupt the trend of your thought or statement, that the history of this provision, so far as flood improvements are concerned, is that in the act of 1938 there was a provision for the payment to the appropriate State agencies of 25 percent of the rentals for road and school purposes. When that act was passed, it was applicable to the reservoirs that were authorized as amendments to the Mississippi Flood Control Act of 1928, which were confined to the main Mississippi and to the Sacramento River.
We had before us the precedent at that time that the Government was acquiring lands under the Jones-Bankhead Act, and instead of directing payment of a specific 25 percent, the department charged with the administration of those acts were authorized to make a payment to the local agencies of approximately 25 percent of the estimated rentals of those lands. I do not mean only marginal lands. I have in mind more specifically lands that were acquired for these rehabilitation farm security projects. They were acquired in the name of a governmental agency and they were taken from the tax rolls. I have in mind particularly projects in Sunflower County, Miss.
That was the precedent that this committee had. We thought we had improved that in the Flood Control Act of 1938. That act, as I say, was applicable first to the lower Mississippi amendments, because the other reservoirs, constructed up to that time were in arid and semiarid regions, and in those reservoir areas there were no lands generally leased. The type of soil in that area were Government lands covering the reservoirs that had been constructed up to that time. Largely, they were either canyons or lands that were not cultivable.
Subsequently, when reservoirs were authorized under the act of 1938, in other sections of the country, demands were made that the benefits that had been provided for the reservoirs in the lower Mississippi area, in the Flood Control Acts of 1938 or general amendments of that fundamental law, be extended to the reservoirs in other parts of the country. Thus, as you state, the provisions in the act of 1941 made this provision for 25 percent reimbursement applicable to the entire country:
We also had in mind that when the Government acquired lands for reservoir sites where there were outstanding bond issues, or at least parts of those bond issues, that were allocable for drainage districts or for schools or for other improvements, that those bonds were to be retired.
I think it fair to say that in this connection the Flood Control Act of December 21, 1944, we adopted for the first time some 8 to 12
watershed conservation projects. Those projects provide for the acquiring of eroded lands and for reimbursing the local tax unit wherever those watersheds are, including the Talahatchie, Yazoo, Coosa, the Little Sioux, the Potomac River, the Buffalo Creek watershed in New York, and the Colorado River watershed in Texas.
While those lands are eroded lands and are to be rebuilt, and the Government has authority to acquire those lands, and generally most of the States will have adopted legislation for acquiring lands under the Weeks law, the act contains this provision-and I quote from the Flood Control Act of 1944Provided further, That there shall be paid annually to the county in which lands acquired under this section may lie a sum equal to 1 per centum of the purchase price paid for the lands acquired in that county or if not acquired by purchase 1 per centum of their valuation at the time of their acquisition.
Mr. ABERNETHY. That is annually?
The committee has been most sympathetic with the situation, and of the local tax units where these arable and cultivable lands have been taken from the tax rolls. I was agreeable to the passage of this 1 percent in the act of 1944. I will say that generally that 1 percent, according to the investigations I have made, is in excess of the 25 percent reimbursement from rentals as provided for flood-control reservoirs.
Mr. ABERNETHY. I was just going to say that I think that is a much more liberal provision and will come nearer offsetting the losses than section 7 in Public 228 that I have referred to.
The CHAIRMAN. I think it is also fair to say this: Members of the committee will recall that in the modern reservoir there is what is called a conservation pool. That is a very great improvement over the flood-control reservoirs originally constructed. It happens that above that conservation pool, which is a small proportion of the total reservoir area, that the other lands may be cultivable or used for pastures.
I think it is fair to say that the Chief of Engineers and the district engineers have been most sympathetic with the local units.
I would like for you and Mr. Whitten to make any statement with respect to what I am about to say that you have in mind that you think appropriate. My observation is that wherever possible the lands acquired for these reservoir sites have been leased at reasonable rentals to the former owners, and they have been leased to the former owners in an effort to minimize their losses.
You may proceed, Mr. Abernethy. Mr. ABERNETHY. I understand that has been the practice. Of course, it has been indeed helpful to these people who have lost their land as a result of these acquisitions.
To go back to the other part of your statement, Mr. Chairman, I think you are exactly correct in stating that the precedent was set back in the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act providing that 25 percent of the sale of timber from the lands would be returned to the counties. Undoubtedly, that was the precedent for fixing the returns to counties in instances of this kind at 25 percent of the amount of leased revenue.
Gentlemen, all we are asking of you this morning-while we may not have arrived at an exact figure—is to make us whole. We have the water coming, and all we ask now is just to be made whole so far as our taxing losses are concerned.
The CHAIRMAN. What Mr. Abernethy and Mr. Whitten are asking is that this 25 percent be increased anywhere from 25 to 100 percent on the theory they want to be fair with the Government as we have tried to be fair with the taxpayer in our legislation. It would be pretty difficult for them to expect more than the Government received for the rent.
We are glad to have had your statement.
As you know, I urged that this provision for reimbursing local interests be made a part of the act of 1938 because there were lands not only in reservoirs but lands in diversions involved in this area. Large acreage was required in southeast Missouri for the southeast spillway. The first reservoirs in the lower Mississippi were built in Mr. Whitten's area and in southeast Missouri. I felt then, and I have been confirmed since, that it was fair for those local units to be reimbursed in the original legislation. While it was confined to the reaches of the lower Mississippi, because there were some lands that could be leased, whereas in the canyon land could not be leased, subsequently it was extended to all reservoir projects in the act of 1941.
Mr. ROBERTSON. I think you have a good case.
Mr. WHITTEN. I would like to add this before I leave. I appreciate the attitude of yourself and of the other members of the committee with whom we have discussed this matter. Neither Mr. Abernethy nor I have pressed for special hearings for these bills. We recognized it was a national problem, though we see it from a local viewpoint, knowing how it has resulted in a whole lot of detriment in our area. It is a case of the Federal Government taking lands from the county and giving them back 25 percent of what they leased them for, so far as that local county is concerned. If you view it from over-all benefits which have been determined, then, it might have another angle to it.
We appreciate your consideration very much.
I might say this further. When you started off paying the 25 percent that was an innovation in the law for which you had one precedent in the other case. Having seen it operate and realizing that it is working a serious hardship on these places which have suffered enough already from losing their most fertile lands to the Federal Government, certainly, it would be the idea of the committee to try to work up something fair and equitable.
The CHAIRMAN. General Wheeler, I would like in this connection for you to insert in the record the number of acres of land acquired for Sardis Reservoir site, and generally the amount of the rentals, and similar information with respect to the Arkabulta Reservoir as a guide to the committee; and also insert the estimated number of acres that will be required for the Enid Reservoir and Grenada Reservoir. I also asked you in this connection to insert in the record the number of acres required for the Wappapello Reservoir and the rentals, if any, you derived from the southeast Missouri floodway and from the Atchafalaya, and other regions in the lower Mississippi River. If you have any other areas in the country where reservoirs have been constructed you will so state in the extension of your remarks.
General WHEELER. Yes, sir.
Lands acquired, or to be acquired, by the United States for certain flood-control projects in the lower Mississippi Valley are as follows: Project
Area in acres
Area in acres New Grenado_ 95, 000 Enid -
41, 430 Sardis -98, 150 | Wappapello
44, 650 Arkabutla--36, 125 | New Madrid
7, 580 Atchafalaya (only flowage easements acquired).
Rentals received from certain specified flood-control projects are as follows:
The amounts paid to States for these projects are as follows:
No rentals have been received from the Granada Reservoir since that project has not as yet been constructed. In the case of the Atchafalaya floodway, no rentals have been received since the Government interest in that floodway is flowage easements only.
(April 17, 1946–Continued) The CHAIRMAN. We also have a bill to be considered before our hearings have been completed. That bill was introduced by our valued Member from Oklahoma. An opportunity will be given for the consideration of that tomorrow or the following day,
LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN, LA. Representative Paul Maloney has come in. We called the Pontchartrain Lake project, fostered by you, and stated that you favored that project.
STATEMENT OF HON. PAUL H. MALONEY, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
Mr. MALONEY. You are correct. I have a little statement I have to make.
The CHAIRMAN. We will be glad to have you make the statement at this time.
Mr. MALONEY. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I wish to thank you for the privilege and opportunity of appearing before you this morning for the purpose of submitting to you the reasons why we ask approval of legislation that will authorize a project for the protection of the citizens of Jefferson Parish. The construction of this project, a land-side levee enlargement, has been recommended by the United States engineers and is to be located along the Lake Fontchartrain shore line in Jefferson Parish from the OrleansJefferson Parish line westward and northward in the vicinity of Frenier.
This flood protection is made necessary due to the fact that the Bonnet Carre spillway, which connects the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain, is used for an additional outlet for the water from the Mississippi River via Lake Pontchartrain when the water in the river reaches the flood stage. On such occasions the spillway has been opened, the water level in the lake has risen, and when the winds were high the water washed away the lake-shore road and shore embankments. This condition is getting worse with the succeeding use of the spillway. As long as the shore line is not protected, whenever the spillway is used the water in Lake Pontchartrain will be a continued menace to the safety of lives and property back of the lakeshore line.
As you gentlemen probably know, we have suffered much loss of life and property damage by floods. The job of adequate protection was too much for the States and local communities to care for and it was not until legislation was enacted whereby the Federal Government recognized their responsibility in this work that we obtained relief.
The construction of the Bonnet Carre spillway was a part of the program to give relief to the city of New Orleans and adjacent communities.
There is no doubt that this spillway has been of incalculable value in diverting the floodwater. However, in constructing this spillway an additional menace has been created to the lives and property behind the shore line of Lake Pontchartrain by discharging water through Lake Pontchartrain and it is for that reason, Mr. Chairman, that we are urging this legislation.
United States engineers have made a survey of the situation and have recommended the construction of an embankment along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, the construction of which we feel will give the needed protection. The estimated cost of this embankment is $1,200,000 and its distribution, as recommended by the United States engineers, is that local interests would contribute 25' percent of the cost, not to exceed $300,000, and also to furnish all rights-of-way, and so forth. This proposal has the approval of the official government body of the parish of Jefferson.