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Recognizing the extreme flood hazard to which the Kansas Citys are exposed, Congress in section 5 of the Flood Control Act of 1936 authorized a definite flood-control project, as follows:
“Kansas Citys on Missouri and Kansas Rivers in Missouri and Kansas; levees and flood walls to protect people and city property ; in accordance with plans approved by the Chief of Engineers on recommendation of the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors and as amended by further surveys and studies now in progress at an estimated construction cost not to exceed $10,000,000; estimated cost of lands and damages, $8,000,000."
This authorization was based on reports to Congress made by the Chief of Engineers as far back as 1933 in the so-called 308 Report. Subsequent to the 1936 authorization and up to the present date expenditures for works mainly on the Kansas section have been made at an aggregate cost to the Government of something in excess of $2,000,000. Little or nothing has been done to furnish protection on the Missouri side to the large industrial areas and the airport facilities of Kansas City.
Further work as authorized was delayed by a contemplated change in the plans to render the works more practical, including the proposal for the construction of the so-called Liberty Bend cut-off below Kansas City. This cut-off, by increasing the velocity of water in the channel of the river through the Kansas City reach would render unnecessary the design for a major flood of as wide a channel as earlier proposals had suggested. The levee set-backs found desirable if the cut-off below should not be constructed would destroy great property, values within the Kansas Citys, both on the north and south sides of the Missouri River, including the large plant of the Corn Products Refining Co. and the extensive hangars and shops of Transcontinental & Western Air in North Kansas City.
On April 29, 1941, a resolution of this committee of the Senate directed the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors to review the report on the Missouri River, printed in House Document No. 238, with a view to deterinining whether any modification should be made therein with respect to the protection of the Kansas Citys of Missouri and Kansas and adjacent areas from floods on the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. The board of engineers complied with this resolution and submitted the result of their new survey in a letter from the Secretary of War, filed as House Document No. 342. This report recommended certain modification, including the construction of the proposed Liberty Bend cut-off.
The bill now before this committee (H. R. 4485) contains the following paragraph:
"The project adopted by the Act of June 22, 1936, to provide flood protection for the Kansas Citys, Kansas and Missouri, is hereby modified and extended to provide for improvement substantially in accordance with the recommendations of the Chief of Engineers in House Document No. 342, Seventy-eighth Congress, first session, at an estimated additional cost for the modified project of $8,445,000.”
In the report so to be approved the Chief of Engineers (p. 81) states:
“The flood situation in the Kansas Citys is undoubtedly the most serious of any in the Missouri River Basin, due to the large concentration of commercial and manufacturing interests in the flood plains of the Missouri-Kansas and Big Blue Rivers."
It has been pointed out that the flood stage on the Missouri River at Kansas City has been exceeded more than 27 times in the 69-year period 1873–1941, and that major floods causing excessive damage have occurred in the industrial areas of the Kansas City, in 1903, 1908, and 1915. It was estimated that a recurrence of the 1903 flood would under present conditions cause a total damage of not less than $58,400,000.
The fact of the matter is that in 1943, and after that report was prepared, floodwater rising against the locally constructed low-level levees protecting the municipal airport and major industrial areas of Kansas City, Mo., came within less than 2 feet of overtopping the protective work. Had this occurred, as it would, had it not been for the operation of the Fort Perk Dam, or as it would if excessive rainfall had continued for 24 hours longer in the adjacent areas, damages to Government property alone stored in the central industrial district in the west bottoms of Kansas City would probably have exceeded $40,000.000, and the total damages at the Kansas Citys would have exceeded $100,000,000
Furthermore, immense damage would have been done to the rail transporta
tion system which centers at Kansas City, cutting through transportation routes and causing extreme loss to the war effort.
Our city engineers believe that the flood protection proposal contained in House Document 342, the report of the Engineers, as to protection at Kansas Citys, Mo. and Kans., is sound from an engineering standpoint and that the recommendations set forth in paragraph No. XXII should be approved. Hence I strongly urge the approval of H. R. 4485 as passed by the House of Representatives.
These plans of the engineers for protective works at the Kansas Citys and levee work along the other reaches of the Missouri River do not control, or pretend to control, fully the design or major flood which might occur unless the proposed additional upstream 'reservoir capacity is provided for on the tributaries and on the main stem of the river. The works will protect only against moderately high floods. Therefore, the approval of the over-all, comprehensive plan is also vital to the Kansas Citys.
Under further directives of Congress the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors prepared and has summitted the so-called Pick plan, H. Doc. No. 475, 79th Cong., 2d sess., approval of which is also contained in H. R. 4485. Kansas Çity strongly urges the approval of this broad and comprehensive plan for control, stabilization, and utilization of the waters of this great river traversing as it does one of the most important and productive areas of the entire country.
Kansas City strongly endorses the broad-visioned approach to the river problem of the distinguished Army engineer, Gen. Lewis A. Pick, the former division engineer for the Corps of the Missouri River district. Using the Army engineering data and information at hand resulting from the years of study given to the Missouri and with the advice of private consulting engineers of the highest standing General Pick produced this comprehensive over-all, complete, and flexible plan for stabilization of the water flow of the Missouri River. Coupled with the construction of further dams to be constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation on the tributaries which it suggests, the plan provides sufficient carry-over storage to meet the needs of the entire basin for all purposes during dry cycles.
It provides for the economic, beneficial use of water whose present waste creates the vastly destructive flood run-offs. This is the first engineering proposal to fully recognize the fact that partial, unintegrated local works for flood control are ineffective, very often self-canceling, and represent in many instances by their very nature a wasteful and unintelligent expenditure of public funds. It is true that substantial improvements have been made at many places on the Missouri River by the Engineers; however, the levees constructed here and there, while they may protect specific areas from moderately high floods, often do this at the expense of other adjacent areas along the river within the flood plane. This plan would bring into permanent and satisfactory agricultural utilization and permit sound improvement of more than two and one-half million acres of the richest land in the world, lying along the Missouri and Mississippi River bottoms below Sioux City.
You have heard how by a hair's breadth we in Kansas City narrowly escaped terrific disaster and economic tragedy in 1943. The same situation has already repeated itself over again in 1944.
Senator OVERTON. May I interrupt you?
Senator OVERTON. You state that “this plan,” referring to the plan contained in the House flood-control billwould bring into permanent satisfactory agricultural utilization, and permit sound improvement of more than two and one-half million acres of the richest land in the world lying along the Missouri and Mississippi River bottoms below Sioux City.
Where do you get those figures ?
Mr. Catts. I think Mr. Scott's statement, there, is based on the protection that would be given to the bottom lands that are now rendered useless for crop purposes by overflow.
Senator MILLIKIN. You are not speaking of irrigation ?
Senator OVERTON. No; you are speaking of two and one-half million acres of lands that are not productive by reason of the periodic overflow of the Missouri River?
Mr. Catts. Yes, sir; control of the flow would protect that land.
Mr. Catts. Some of it may be in production on a very hazardous basis, but most of it is not in production, Senator.
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Scott states it is extremely rich land.
Great damage resulted, but vastly greater destruction was narrowly averted. Fortune will not always be so kind. We hope no such catastrophe as might easily occur will take place, at least during the time of war with its crippling effect upon great industries essential to war.
During the recent flood of 1944, great damage was done in Kansas City to some essential war plants lying along the Blue River, which is a tributary of the Missouri, damage which would have been impossible had the work been done which is authorized by the legislation now before this committee. The proposed work will produce not only direct economic benefits far in excess of its cost but also tremendous collateral economic benefits, such as improvement in navigation and in maintenance of essential minimum low-water flow in the Tower valley essential to waterworks, power plants, and sewage disposal.
It is hard, in fact impossible, to visualize the full importance and value of all these collateral benefits. During the period between 1900 and 1943, the average flow approximated 59,000 second-feet at Kansas City. During the drought era, commencing in 1931, the mean average flow at Kansas City was 36,600 secondfeet, which is more than the requirement for an adequate channel if the river had been stabilized and the average flow maintained the year round. Developing conditions through the years, however, have occasioned far greater variations in flow of the river at different seasons than was formerly the case.
The minimum flow at any point of time during the period prior to 1900, on river readings taken at Kansas City, was 22,000 second-feet, while we have in recent years seen flows for brief periods as low as 2,000 second-feet and frequently a flow of 8,000 second-feet. This situation creates real danger from pollution to domestic uses. It imperils waterworks. While our domestic and industrial uses of water are of paramount importance to all the large populations of the lower valley, conservation of the flood water, as this comprehensive plan proposes, would eliminate these hazards and it would in addition, as we are advised by both the Army engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, supply an increased amount for irrigation and other uses on the upper river.
We are anxious to leave the final disposition of the impounded and stored water to the judgment and equity of Congress or of any independent agency which can fairly evaluate according to human needs the economic necessities of the whole Missouri Basin. We do not see where controversy should arise. We do not believe water should be taken out of the basin to irrigate large areas beyond its limits and in other drainage basins. We believe the Corps of Engineers is a competent and independent agency which would administer and operate with fairness to all concerned the works it builds upon the main stem of the Missouri River. Under all past precedent prior appropriation to beneficial use, not the riparian location of diversion works, is the test of water rights. Priority as to essential uses on the lower river does in many instances antedate and outrank those of potential users not now utilizing water that is now going to waste. Owners of riparian land, wherever located along the river, have a right to protection in the present and future use of the water resources of this great stream.
Under the changing conditions certain to develop in the future Congress should control the disposition of the new water supplies which will be created if these
developments are approved and the work proposed is done. There is no challenge or hazard to any present or future use of water for economic irrigation in the upper valley. Absolutely nothing in this bill, that I can find, would prevent or hinder the construction of additional irrigation projects, in any amount, on the upper river or the tributary streams. These works would be constructed above the storage dams on the main stem of the river, which would receive only the water that was left and such uses were fully supplied. The proposal to divert Missouri River water into the Hudson Bay drainage area incontrovertibly discloses that the Bureau of Reclamation must believe there is enough water for all beneficial uses in the Missouri River Basin.
In conclusion I would like to point out to you that we believe that time is a most important element in connection with this legislation. Years will necessarily be required to complete such a great internal improvement program. Specific planning and the blueprinting of the engineering works cannot be started . too soon. The post-war readjustment period may soon be upon us. This will require employment for thousands of men. It will demand the beneficial use of a vast amount of equipment which the Government now owns. Has a sounder or more sensible post-war project for the Nation been conceived than the one that is outlined in the provisions of this bill, which deals with the Missouri River Basin, or one that is more distinctly within the historically recognized range of Federal authority or responsibility?
We urge that this responsibility and authority be accepted in full measure. We hope that with the authorizations contained in this bill, detailed plans and specifications may be prepared, levee and reservoir sites located, and lands condemned, so that when those who are fighting in our armies and navies today come home again, they will have work to do as a result of the vision and the effort of those who remained at home.
Mr. Chairman, I would like, now, if I may, to file with the committee a statement which I have, which in effect supplements Mr. Scott's statement and perhaps goes into a little detail as to the effect on Kansas City from an economic standpoint.
Senator OVERTON. Very well, Mr. Catts; you may do so.
STATEMENT BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE
BY GEORGE W. CATTS, EXECUTIVE MANAGER, THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF KANSAS CITY, REGARDING H. R. 4485, FOR FLOOD CONTROL, JUNE 8, 1944
This statement is in support of the presentation made to this committee by Walter R. Scott, representing the city government of Kansas City, Mo. It expresses the views of 3,600 leading businessmen who comprise the membership of the Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City. Their places of business are in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kans., and North Kansas City, Mo.
Early and favorable action on flood control bill H. R. 4485 is urged by the business and civic interests of Greater Kansas City. This metropolitan area of 650,000 population, the largest on the Missouri River, needs flood protection as do the many other cities and farming areas along this stream.
The disastrous fioods of 1903, the three in 1913, and the one in March 1944, have demonstrated this need. Two or three times each year, the people of these Kansas Citys watch the mounting crest of floodwaters coming down the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, hoping that they will not reach Kansas City at the same time. These crests did meet in 1903. The loss of life and property was gigantic then, but it was small compared to what it would be today. The flooded crest of these two rivers almost met in 1943. Much damage was done. A much greater damage was narrowly averted.
The reduced absorption of rain where it falls in the Missouri River Basin resulting in a more rapid run-off, coupled with additional hindrances to the free flow of floodwaters by such obstructions as bridge approaches, have increased the flood hazards at the Kansas Citys. The work begun under the Flood Control Act of June 22, 1936, and subsequent acts, should be further expanded in light of experience gained in more recent floods and in light of further comprehensive engineering studies that have been completed and outlined in House Document No. 342, Seventy-eighth Congress, first session.
The following question was asked in this committee's session on June 7:
“Are there not several flood-control projects already authorized but not constructed which would furnish immediate work in the post-war days?"
Yes; work on some projects could be started or, in some cases, resumed; but this could not apply to all authorized projects. For example, the levees at the Kansas City cannot be definitely located and constructed until the Liberty Bend cut-off is authorized. Its construction affects both the location and height of the levees.
What would be the economic effect of a major flood at the Kansas Citys today? It would not be merely local. Through a paralyzed transportation system, the effect would be felt throughout the Nation and today on the world-wide battle fronts. Landing barges made at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers were used this week in the invasion of Europe.
Industries of this metropolitan area are largely located in the valleys of the Missouri, Kansas, and Blue Rivers. Railroads have been built on the water level grades. Industries have located along these rail facilities. Many plants using subterranean water have found it readily available in the valleys.
The following industries would be directly affected by a major flood (figures used from 1940 United States census):
A livestock market that received 5,702,000 head in 1943 (with many thousand additional head going direct to packers).
Grain elevators with a capacity of 61,632,000 bushels.
A fruit and vegetable market which received 27,600 carloads in 1943 and diverted half of them to other markets.
A meat-packing industry whose products go to all sections of the country and to present battle fronts. It normally employs over 5,000 persons and turns out, annually, products valued at over $110,000,000.
A flour-milling industry producing 6,998,520 barrels in 1943.
A general wholesale and distribution business with 1,764 firms employing 20,000 people and distributing goods valued at $835,516,000 before the war.
Within the metropolitan area over 1,000 manufacturers employing 38,000 people made products valued at $183,770,000 before the war. Many of these markets, manufacturing plants, and wholesale establishments would be inundated by a major flood. None would escape the effects on the transportation of goods, raw materials, and employees. A flood that would paralyze this city's 12 trunk-line railroads that operate 196 freight and 188 passenger trains daily would stop the business and commerce of this metropolitan
Meat, flour, and other processed foods would not move to normal points of consumption. The effects would be widespread.
Losses in wages by thousands of workers would reach a substantial sum. The workers of these cities live over a wide area. Many of them must cross the Missouri, Kansas, or Blue River to reach their places of employment.
On May 5, 1944, there were 364 firms in Greater Kansas City having war contracts, and products ranged from seagoing landing barges, bombers, and airplane engines to small delicate instruments. A major flood would directly affect many of these plants and indirectly affect all of them,
Through the Defense Plant Corporation, our Government has invested many millions of dollars in war plants in this area. The disposition of these plants when this war is ended will no doubt include some provision for their future use for war purposes in case of another national emergency. Flood protection for the Kansas Citys is insurance against interruption of the operation of these plants in times of national emergency.
Today the Missouri River is bank-full. Our next major flood can happen at any time. Preparations to meet it cannot start too soon. We urge you to report this bill for favorable action in this session of Congress. Respectfully,
GEORGE W. CATTS,
of Kansas City. Senator MILLIKIN. May I ask Mr. Catts just one question, Mr. Chairman?
Senator OVERTON. Yes, sir.