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FLOOD CONTROL AUTHORIZATIONS, 1949
MONDAY, MAY 16, 1949
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met at 10 a. m., Hon. Clifford Davis (acting chairman) presiding
The CHAIRMAN. We have under consideration today flood-control projects on which reports have been submitted since the Flood Control Act of 1946, and not included in the Flood Control Act of 1948, and additional authorizations in river basins where the projects have been approved and from time to time appropriations have been made for the initiation and the continuance of authorized projects.
We are to have this morning the Chief of Engineers, Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, who will give us an over-all statement covering general flood-control conditions, including the lower Mississippi Valley and its tributaries, the approvals heretofore made in the several valleys, the authorizations made in the several acts, with his recommendations, and when he has concluded those general statements, the general is going to give us an over-all picture covering the Columbia River Basin and the projects that might be approved if and when the comprehensive report on the basin reaches this committee.
It was thought wise, inasmuch as that report has been made and the work has been done by the division engineers and the Chief of Engineers, that we have an over-all statement this morning respecting the Columbia, and there will follow a general statement on the Columbia, as I recall, on Friday, the 20th, and at that time, we are to hear the division engineer, Colonel Weaver, and, I understand, a number of the governors and others interested. Inasmuch as we are to have hearings on that date covering at least one and probably two of the projects on which reports have been submitted, that will really be a part of the comprehensive Columbia River plan.
Mr. ANGELL. Mr. Chairman, will those witnesses be heard at that time, even though the report has not been cleared ?
The CHAIRMAN. I conferred with Chairman Davis in view of the general interest in the Columbia River Basin and in view of the fact that this report has been made. The Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior has requested to be heard on that date. The report has not actually reached us. In order that both the committee and the clerk might be advised–because there will probably be other hearings later on, inasmuch as administration bills have been introduced-we will have the over-all statement by the office of the engineers and by those who are interested generally in the Columbia River Basin.
I may also add in this connection that since this notice was published, there have been transmitted, as I recall, Colonel Gee, reports on the Genesee River?
Colonel GEE. That is correct, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there any other report that has been transmitted since this schedule of hearings was published?
Colonel GEE. We have been unable to establish the exact whereabouts of the Green-Duamish River report. It is somewhere between the Bureau of the Budget and the Congress at the present writing, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. If your office can't locate it, this committee certainly will not. We will be glad for you to assist us and let us know.
Mr. McGREGOR. I am wondering if it would be possible for us to get copies of the bills or survey authorizations prior to the time that they will be heard before the committee, so that we might do some checking? I have particular reference to the Ohio River Basin and the Great Lakes area, including additional authorizations for the comprehensive report.
The CHAIRMAN. The clerk has been requested to furnish each member of the committee with a copy of the new reports that have been transmitted. As I recall, in the Ohio Valley, there are only two reports that have been transmitted since the last Congress, and those reports are Bradford, Pa., and Orleans, Ind. In addition to those two reports, which will be available to you, Mr. McGregor, in the acts of 1938, 1941, 1944, and 1946, there was approved the over-all comprehensive plan for the Ohio River, including reservoirs, and we will have a statement of the total amount of the authorizations and the amount that may still be authorized under the approved projects to be made from time to time by the office of the Chief of Engineers. Does that answer your question, Mr. McGregor?
Mr. McGREGOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. And there is reference in all of the acts to the documents that have been approved.
Now these hearings will be conducted by Chairman Clifford Davis, chairman of the Subcommittee on Flood Control, and at the request of Chairman Davis, I am going to ask that General Pick come around as the first witness of the hearing this morning. Chairman Davis will be in charge this morning and on the days that are to follow.
General Pick, you may proceed, sir.
STATEMENT OF MAJ. GEN. LEWIS A. PICK, CHIEF OF ENGINEERS,
UNITED STATES ARMY
General Pick. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee on Public Works:
I am honored to appear before you today to testify regarding the national flood-control program which is being prosecuted by the Corps of Engineers. Both literally and figurately speaking, "much water has run under the bridges," and down the rivers, since a Chief of Engineers appeared before this committee in 1936, when Congress devised and enacted the first legislation for flood control on a Nationwide basis. At that time, the Corps of Engineers could only advise you concerning plans for improvement of our various river basins and, as consulting engineer to Congress, give you its best opinion as to the advisability of undertaking those projects.
Today, 13 years later, the national flood-control program has grown to be the largest element of Federal public works in the United States,
and probably the largest single construction program in the world. It is now possible for me to present a record of past accomplishments and recommendations for the future.
I am prepared to make a general statement, including certain recommendations, at this time, and my assistants from the civil-works division of my office will be prepared to furnish you with information on individual projects and on other matters which this committee may desire to consider in connection with the flood-control program.
In my statement, I shall review briefly the following: 1. The national flood-control program.
2. The accomplishments of the program and the current flood situation.
3. The new projects recommended.
NATIONAL FLOOD-CONTROL PROGRAM
As this committee knows, the Federal interest in flood control began on the Mississippi River and the Federal Government has participated in that major project in an increasing degree since 1879. The special flood problems of the Sacramento River of California next attracted Federal attention and work on that river began after authorization under the River and Harbor Act of 1917. As I have said, however, flood control on a Nation-wide scale began only after passage of the first general Flood Control Act of 1936. The first appropriations for general flood control were made by Congress for the fiscal year 1938. Thus, actual construction on the Nation-wide flood-control program has been under way but 11 years. This period included 5 years during which we were mobilizing and at war, when civil works were at a standstill. I feel, therefore, that noteworthy progress has been made and I wish to summarize briefly for you the flood-control program and its present status:
(a) The national flood-control program authorized and approved by Congress now includes almost a thousand projects, including the great project for the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River and the project for the Sacramento River.
() The present estimated cost of the national flood-control program is $7,503,000,000.
(c) The authorization for appropriation to date is $3,590,000,000. Under this authorization, Congress has appropriated through fiscal year 1949 a total of $1,996,000,000.
(d) The present status of the program may be summarized as follows:
(e) The 256 completed projects include 30 which will be completed during the current fiscal year. This national flood-control program comprises all types of projects ranging from small local flood-protection works to comprehensive multiple-purpose developments for the control and conservation of the floodwaters of great river basins such as the Ohio and the Missouri. Authorized projects are located in 45 States and in Alaska and Hawaii.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS In the first general flood-control act of 1936, Congress established the national policy that the Federal Government would participate in flood-control improvements if the benefits exceeded the cost and if the lives and social security of the people were adversely affected. I wish to tell you how the flood-control program to date is measuring up to the standards set by Congress.
In the 10 years from 1938 to 1948, inclusive, the Corps of Engineers completed or placed in operation projects which have cost to date $483,000,000. Our estimates, which we believe are conservative, show that these works have prevented damages evaluated in excess of $500,000,000. Thus, they have already paid for themselves, and throughout the remainder of their useful lives will continue to return additional large dividends to the people of the United States.
The project for control of floods in the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River is now in operation, though not yet complete. In the more than 20 years since its construction began, the alluvial valley has not suffered a serious overflow. Without the project, a major portion of that rich valley would be merely a great alluvial swamp. It is difficult to estimate the benefits of this project because the entire economy of an area of 20,000,000 acres in seven States is dependent upon it. Our estimates, however, based on records of floods which have passed safely to the Gulf, show that it has prevented damages evaluated far in excess of its cost to date.
Since the flood-control program is not complete and will not be finished for many years, we will continue to suffer flood damages, although the extent of damage will decrease as the program advances. Everyone knows about flood damage as it occurs, but little is known by the people of the damages which are prevented each year by completed flood-control works. For example, the much publicized Columbia River flood of 1948 caused property damage estimated at over $100,000,000. It was not generally known, on the other hand, that the relatively small amount of flood-control work completed in that basin actually prevented flood damages evaluated at $42,000,000.
The second criterion established by Congress for judging the value of flood-control works—the preservation of the lives and social security of the people of our river valleys—is of even greater importance than prevention of flood damage. It is not practicable to estimate the number of lives which may have been saved by completed flood-control works, but the record of past loss of life due to floods shows that this factor is of commanding importance. As an example, you will recall that hurricane-driven floods in 1926 and 1928 caused the loss of over 2,500 lives in the area around Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Since that time, the Federal Government has provided a system of levees and control works in that area in order to protect against a repetition