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except insofar as the recommendations in those reports are inconsistent with the provisions of this act and subject to the authorizations and limitations set forth herein. The approval granted above shall be subject to the following conditions and limitations.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, that is a rather long account, if you will pardon me. Where is your authorization part of it?
Colonel GEE. There is hereby authorized to be appropriated the sum of $3,500,000 to be expended by the Department of the Army for the partial accomplishment of the comprehensive plan for the Rio Grande Basin.
The CHAIRMAN. What paragraph of the act is that, please, sir? Colonel GEE. That is section 203, on page 11, the last paragraph.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes; the last paragraph. “There is hereby authorized”-now, what I asked you to tell us is whether or not this letter of the Chief of Engineers, dated April 5, 1948, and the report of the Bureau of Reclamation, dated November 21, 1947, has been transmitted to the Congress and whether they are contained in a document, and, if so, the number of the document.
Colonel GEE. No, sir; the report is not presently in the hands of the Congress and no document number is assigned.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, now, pardon me, Colonel. Do we understand that we have approved a project here for $71,000,000 that was embraced in a report that has not been transmitted to the Congress but was described in the letter of the Chief of Engineers and the letter of the Bureau of Reclamation and that report has never subsequently been transmitted to Congress?
Colonel GEE. No, sir; the report is still with the Bureau of the Budget.
The CHAIRMAN. And has not been transmitted to Congress?
The CHAIRMAN. This project was included in the Flood Control Act of 1948!
Colonel GEE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I think I am correct in my recollection, for the benefit of the committee, that it was inserted in the Senate?
Colonel GEE. That is correct, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. And at that time the report had not been transmitted to the Congress and it was retained in conference in the Senate-between the Senate and the House at that time?
Colonel GEE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. So what we have now before us concretely is a project here that has never been transmitted to the Congress and for which we have no document, after we have given approval to the project and partial authorization of $3,500,000. What is holding it up?
It is most unusual for the Congress to be called upon to make further authorizations unless there is a document. Under the rules of this committee, we have no authority unless there is
Colonel GEE. I cannot account for the long delay in the Bureau of the Budget. It has been before them for a considerable time. I am advised that it was returned to us within the past few days from the Bureau of the Budget.
The CHAIRMAN. What are you going to do about it?
Colonel GEE. We are going to transmit it to the Congress now, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Let us know when you do. You may call your first witness now. There is no use to repeat.
We called for the representative of the Bureau a few minutes ago. Has he come in? I would like to ask him one or two questions with respect to this project, if I may.
STATEMENT OF WESLEY R. NELSON, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER
OF THE BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
The CHAIRMAN. You understand the matter we have under consideration ?
Mr. NELSON. I do.
The CHAIRMAN. As a part of that project, the works of rehabilitation to be constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation, what is the estimated cost of those works?
Mr. NELSON. The estimated cost of the works to be constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation is $30,179,000.
The CHAIRMAN. Generally, what do they consist of!
Mr. NELSON. They consist of the rehabilitation of the El Vado Dam. You will note it on the map.
The CHAIRMAN. What sort of dam is that now?
Mr. Nelson. Rehabilitation of El Vado Dam. That is the present storage dam and reservoir for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
The CHAIRMAN. Who constructed that dam?
Mr. NELSON. It was constructed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
The CHAIRMAN. I see. The rehabilitation of the dam. What else?
Mr. NELSON. Rehabilitation of the various works in the river itself, such as the Isleta Diversion Dam, and the works relating to the canals and laterals of the conservancy district.
The CHAIRMAN. What do you mean by that? We understand what you mean when you say you are going to rehabilitate the main river and clear it out. What about the canals? How many acres of land are in this conservancy district ?
Mr. NELSON. About 85,000 acres of land of which about 20,000 acres is Indian land, the remainder being white-owned.
The CHAIRMAN. 20,000 acres of Indian land? Mr. NELSON. Yes, sir. The CHAIRMAN. Now then, the estimated cost of the rehabilitation, which I understand is the cleaning out of existing canals and existing means of transmitting the water for irrigation,
Mr. NELSON. The work will consist of the relocation of some of the main canals, the cleaning of main canals and of laterals; the building of a siphon to cross the river near Albuquerque, to take the place of a heading which goes out whenever there is a flood; the rehabilitation of another heading or diversion dam down the river (Isleta), and of a diversion dam farther downstream.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the name of that dam?
Mr. NELSON. All constructed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservacy District.
The CHAIRMAN. The Federal Government has no Federal reclamation project in that area at present?
Mr. NELSON. Excepting the project which was approved last year, of course.
The CHAIRMAN. Except this project ?
The CHAIRMAN. That provides for rehabilitation of this existing private conservacy project?
Mr. NELSON. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, the estimated cost of work to be done by you under this approved plan is what?
Mr. NELSON. $30,000,000; $30,179,000.
The CHAIRMAN. Outside of the rehabilitation of these two dams, the channelization work and the improvement of existing canals, what else?
Mr. Nelson. The taking up of the bonds of the District. The CHAIRMAN. What do you mean by “taking up the bonds of the district ?"
Mr. NELSON. At the present time, there is more than $7,000,000 in bonds owed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. The basis of assessment is such that it is quite difficult to rehabilitate the project without eliminating those bonds and getting a different basis of assessment. Assessments are made under this bond issue on a benefit basis, so far as the agricultural lands are concerned, whereby those lands expected to receive the greatest benefits were required to pay the greatest costs.
În other words, undeveloped lands were required to pay assessments higher than those that were already developed because the undeveloped lands would get greater benefits.
The CHAIRMAN. What has been the result?
Mr. NELSON. The ownership of about 30,000 acres of land has passed to the State because the farmers were unable to pay the assessments.
Another inequity in the type of assessments on the ad valorem basis can best be explained by an example. The assessment for the El Fidel Hotel in Albuquerque is based upon the value of the property
itself and the land on which it is situated. The assessment for the Hilton Hotel is based solely upon the land value because the hotel was not built at the time that the bonds were first issued and the conservancy district formed.
Those inequities will have to be erased before we can expect to see an economic rehabilitation of the area.
The CHAIRMAN. Pardon me. I have no desire to do anything except try to get the picture to the committee. This project has been generally approved. Is a part of this money that is authorized to be handled by the Bureau of Reclamation and this approved plan to be used to retire those bonds outstanding?
Mr. NELSON. Yes, it is.
The CHAIRMAN. What contribution are the local interests to make toward the payment of those bonds or any part of them?
Mr. NELSON. They will repay the total amount of the money which we use in retiring the bonds. In other words, about $7,400,000 plus
or minus will be used to retire the bonds and the local interests will repay that sum in its entirety.
The CHAIRMAN. Just translate that language. It means that the Bureau of Reclamation is going to take the bonds up and those folks would still owe that money?
Mr. NELSON. They would.
Mr. NELSON. Well, a lien on the property to the same extent that there is a lien on the property from any other type of taxation.
The CHAIRMAN. Any other type of reclamation work, is that right?
Mr. NELSON. It is the same type of lien on lands under taxation that is made by the counties or the State. In other words, the lien is not directly against the land itself.
The CHAIRMAN. What does it go to? Is it the same type of taxation! Mr. NELSON. It is not a mortgage type.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it the same kind of taxation that obtains in reclamation ?
Mr. NELSON. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the general picture now of the reclamation part of this program?
Mr. NELSON. We have not discussed the channelization which is a very important part of it.
The CHAIRMAN. Colonel Gee discussed that and we understood you are to construct that channelization.
Mr. NELSON. Yes, sir. In brief, the part of the plan which has been assigned to the Department of the Interior in accordance with the agreement approved by the Secretary of the Army and the Acting Secretary of the Interior on November 21, 1947, includes, among other things, rehabilitation and extension of irrigation and drainage works (including repairs to El Vado Dam and Reservoir) for the purpose of irrigating approximately 85,000 acres, channel rectification in the Middle Rio Grande Valley (including the Espanola Valley and Hot Springs area) and dredging above Elephant Butte Reservoir, and aid in the financial rehabilitation of the Middle Rio Grande conservancy district, all of which work would be performed by the Bureau of Reclamation; basic water measurements and studies to be undertaken by the Geological Survey; and measures for development of fish, wildlife, and recreational resources to be undertaken by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. The estimated costs of these works under present-day prices is $30,179,000.
It is desirable that the Flood Control Act of 1948 (Public Law 838, 80th Cong.) be amended to authorize appropriations specifically to the Department of the Interior for the purpose of proceeding with the Interior Department's portion of the plan. This action would put, beyond doubt, the authority in the Secretary of the Interior to carry out the assigned work in the approved plan.
A bill, S. 1392, would authorize the appropriation of $15,000,000 to be expended by the Department of the Interior for the prosecution of the approved plan for the Middle Rio Grande. The committee may wish to consider increasing the presently contemplated authorization to $30,179,000 in order that it may not be necessary to burden a future Congress with further consideration of this same project.
I wish to call the committee's particular attention to the urgent need for channelization in order to save water which is now being wasted by transpiration from plants growing in the Delta area above Elephant Butte Reservoir. Under the debit and credit system of allocation of water between the States of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, as provided by the Rio Grande compact, New Mexico on January 1, 1949, was in debt 286,000 acre-feet in meeting their commitments under the compact provisions. The compact requires that this debit water be held in storage up to the capacity available in the State. In the case of New Mexico, its total available capacity of 200,000 acre-feet is provided by El Vado Reservoir, which is the sole storage for the Middle Rio Grande conservancy district. Therefore, as of January 1, 1949, there was no storage available for use by the Middle Rio Grande conservancy district. This will mean shortage of late season water this year, with attendant crop loss and hardships. The compact further provides that, when the debit reaches 400,000 acrefeet, New Mexico is required to suspend all irrigation. New Mexico's water debt is increasing at the rate of about 70,000 acre-feet annually. At this rate, the entire Middle Rie Grande conservancy district will be without water in 2 years. The Rio Grande compact has both interstate and international ramifications. When the point is reached that irrigation has to be suspended on lands in the Middle Valley that have been irrigated for centuries, drastic action can be expected. Its consequence may be grave.
The only means by which the debit situation can be alleviated is through saving of water now being wasted by nonbeneficial evaporation and transpiration due to poor drainage conditions within the project area and along the river channel. The channelization program of the Bureau of Reclamation is the first and most important step toward meeting this serious situation.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions by the committee? If not, we will take the next witness. You may extend your remarks.
The next witness now that wants to give us the reason for increasing this authorization or for removing the limit, without repeating what has been said.
Colonel HARRISON. Yes, Mr. Chairman; we would like to put on the stand Hubert Ball, chief engineer, Middle Rio Grande conservancy district.
STATEMENT OF HUBERT P. BALL, CHIEF ENGINEER, MIDDLE RIO
GRANDE CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
The CHAIRMAN. What is the matter that you desire to bring to our attention? You understand this project has been generally approved.
Mr. BALL. Yes, sir; I wish to bring to the attention of this committee the reasons why we are asking for this additional authorization.
First, this is not a new irrigation project. It is an old irrigation project, the oldest irrigation project in the boundaries of the continental United States.
The CHAIRMAN. The oldest? When did it start?
Mr. Ball. When the Spanish-Americans moved into Albuquerque in 1541, the Indians were already irrigating a considerable acreage of land.