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STATEMENT OF COL. MILES REBER, CORPS OF ENGINEERS, UNITED
STATES ARMY Colonel REBER. My name is Miles Reber, colonel, Corps of Engineers, now detailed to the General Staff Corps.
Mr. Chairman, in summarizing the position of the Corps of Engineers on the flood-control plan for the Missouri River recommended in House Document No. 475, Seventy-eighth Congress, I feel that I can be very brief. I have already discussed the plan in great detail before the House Flood Control Committee. I discussed it before your committee in outline the other day, and I see no necessity for saying any more than just this:
The plan itself provides for a series of multiple-purpose reservoirs on the main stem of the Missouri River above Yankton, S. Dak., a system of main-line levees from Sioux City, Iowa, to the mouth of the Missouri, tributary reservoirs in the Republican River Basin, and also two tributary reservoirs in the upper basin at Boysen and Lower Canyon.
This plan, prepared by Gen. Louis A. Pick, supplements the existing authorized project for flood control in the Missouri River which consists of a series of tributary reservoirs in the lower basin. We in the Corps of Engineers expect, anticipate, and hope that this framework will be augmented and supplemented by the works of other duly constituted Federal agencies to obtain the best ultimate plan for the use of the waters of the Missouri Basin for the entire basin. The Bureau of Reclamation has submitted a plan, and we feel that that plan fits into the Pick plan with minor modifications at certain places. I discussed those modifications the other day.
In summary, it seems to me that there are four principal points that I should cover: First, that we are facing today in the Missouri an actual, definite problem, that of floods. Those floods today threaten the livelihood of a great number of the citizens of this valley. This is no intangible or remote fear; it is an actual fact.
The Missouri has suffered from floods ever since we have known it. As a matter of fact, the maximum flood of record in the lower basin occurred in June of 1844. That is a hundred years ago this month exactly. The maximum flood of record in a large portion of the upper basin occurred in 1881.
Now, these, gentlemen, unfortunately, are not the maximum probable floods that can occur in the Missouri Basin. Of course, there I am going into the intangible future; but I want to impress upon the committee that there are finite flood dangers and damages which have occurred and will occur again unless something is done about that actual situation. It is not a possibility of the future.
My second point is that coordination in working out together the plans of the various agencies has progressed a long distance, and I personally believe that that coordination has progressed to the point where the Congress may safely enact into law the plans of the various Federal agencies without harming any interest in any way, shape, or form in the Missouri Basin.
Third, I also firmly believe that there is ample protection in our proposed plans for the interests of the upper basin. Gentlemen, I have talked to the farmers in the upper basin, and I have covered that territory up there, of course not as well as the people who have
lived out there for years, but I don't know of anybody who has talked to those people and who has been in that area who would dare offer a proposition which would deprive them of any of the water to which they are rightfully entitled. I say in all sincerity that the plan of the Corps of Engineers does not deprive those people of a single drop of water to which they are entitled.
Finally, I feel that there is a definite need for congressional action at this time because, if we are to have construction plans ready for starting work when the war is over, at least the Corps of Engineers must have a specific authorization from Congress to enable us to prepare those construction plans. We have no desire to proceed without that authorization. Frankly we cannot do so.
I shall discuss each one of those four subjects a little more in detail. First, there is the question of floods. In 1943 the volume of the spring flood of that year which passed Sioux City was approximately 9,000,000 acre-feet. I am mentioning these volumes for a specific purpose. The purpose is to show the necessity for a large block of flood-control storage in the upper basin. By “the upper basin” I mean the basin above the Sioux City-Yankton area.
Senator Millikin. Colonel, may I interrupt? Was that 9,000,000 feet at Sioux City ?
Colonel REBER. Yes, sir; approximately 9,000,000 acre-feet; that is the volume of the spring flood, the March-April flood of 1943.
In 1908 there was a serious up-river flood. At the Fort Peck dam site that flood had a volume of 7,350,000 acre-feet. It was caused by heavy rains and by snow melt. The total period of that flood ran from May 11 to August 10. It had the peak flow at the Fort Peck dam site of 150,000 cubic feet per second on about June 15. So, gentlemen, there is a serious danger of up-river floods as well as lower-river floods.
The flood of 1881, the spring of 1881, had a total volume at Sioux City of 18,400,000 acre-feet. This flood started on March 10th and ended on May 7, and it had two specific peaks. I point that out very definitely, because that is the hardest type of flood to control, the twopeak flood. Last year anybody who goes into the history of the operation of the Pensacola Dam on the Grand River realizes the difficulties that they had with a two-peak flood. The same thing is true of the Bagnell Reservoir on the Osage River last year. They might have gotten by with considerably less damage than actually occurred, if they had only had one peak in each of those two floods.
Now, the 1844 flood occurred so long ago that I am not going to give you any figures on its volume. We have estimates of it, but they are based frankly on a considerable number of approximations. That flood was a lower-river flood, but there is one particular point of interest about that flood which I do not think very many people in this room know. We have in the Omaha office a very interesting log of a steamboat called the Nimrod that navigated the Missouri River in the spring of 1844 u as far as Fort Benton, Mont. Gentlemen, the skipper of that steamboat had great difficulty in getting to Fort Benton, Mont... because of lack of water in the Missouri. He got above the 1844 flood and therefore was not affected by it in any way whatsoever. It all oc. curred downstream after he had passed into the upper river. I bring out that point to show that in 1844, which is the year of the maximum flood of record on the lower river, the upper basin would not have stored much water and therefore would not have been particularly af
fected one way or the other by the flood-control works in the lower basin.
I feel, the Corps of Engineers feel, the Chief of Engineers feels, that it is necessary to have the maximum, practicable, economic amount of main-stem flood storage to take care of these volumes that I have just discussed. We also feel that it is necessary, in order to develop ultimately the basin to its maximum water utilization, that we should have the maximum, practicable, economic amount of main-stem conservation storage.
This morning there was read into the record a report by nine State engineers. They arrived at the conclusion that perhaps our period of computation from 1898 to 1943 was too long. I am perfectly willing to admit that it is too long with the amount of storage that we now have planned for the river. I have here with me an operation chart of our proposed reservoirs on the Missouri River for the period 1898 to 1943; and, gentlemen, during the period of 1912 to 1918, even with the Garrison Dam, we would be wasting water unfortunately, and we would be wasting water as late as October and November in those years, to have our flood space ready when the floods come.
This morning the figure given by the State engineers, as I recall it, was approximately an average of 22,470,000 acre-feet per year as a reasonable amount to anticipate from the Missouri River at Sioux City. The figure was also given as approximately 6,800,000 acre-feet for the water needed for irrigation above Sioux City. Subtracting that latter amount from 22,470,000, we get 15,670,000 acre-feet. That report also stated that, using 30,000 cubic feet per second as the required flow for the 9-foot channel for the 240 days of the navigation season, we might use 14,280,000 acre-feet for that purpose. I am willing to use that 30,000 cubic feet per second figure here in this discussion, but I personally feel that we can get along with less water than that, and I have so testified in the river and harbor hearings. I said that a minimum would probably be in the neighborhood of 22,000 second-feet. To that 14,280,000 acre-feet must be added the winter low flow, requirement of 5,500 second-feet for 125 days for santitation purposes or 1,360,000 acre-feet. With these figures in mind, I do not think that there is any danger, in any reasonable approach to the problem of available water in the Missouri Basin, that there is going to be a shortage for a great many years to come; and then assuming—which I will not admit-assuming that there is a shortage at that time, we have repeatedly stated that the navigation interests will be the ones that will suffer, and then only during a prolonged dry cycle.
Some statements were made concerning the very minor difference of opinion on the Gavins Point Dam. We feel that Gavins Point is of definite value for reregulation to prevent daily surges from going down the river. I am reading now, not from a report of the Corps of Engineers, but an excerpt from the Power Market Survey of the Gavins Point-Fort Randall project by the Federal Power Commission:
Violent fluctuations in stream flow at Yankton (lower downstream from both the Fort Randall and Gavins Point sites) during the summer season are objectionable from the standpoint of navigation, and likewise during the winter seasonwide fluctuations in flow within a day or a week are objectionable on account of formation of ice jams, accelerated bank erosion, siltation requirements, and general inconvenience accompanying violent changes in stage.
And the final conclusion, I have a great deal more information on this subject, but I will not take the committee's time; the final conclusion is:
It appears from a consideration of the estimates of load growth and annual value of the project's power supply that the plan of project development should include the construction initially of both the Fort Randall and Gavins Point Dams and Reservoirs. The initial construction should also include a power installation at Gavins Point adequate to generate at least the continuous power capable of development at that site.
So I believe that we can work that little problem out; it isn't a serious one.
Senator OVERTON. Well, the Gavins Point is a reregulating dam? Colonel REBER. A reregulating dam; yes, sir.
Senator OVERTON. It cannot in any way, virtually, affect your irrigation interests?
Colonel REBER. I do not see how it can. It is a small reservoir and only has a maximum capacity of 200,000 acre-feet, which is a drop in the bucket of the 60,000,000 acre-feet which we plan for mainstem storage.
Mr. Case, of South Dakota, gave this morning a very complete history of the various coordination operations that have taken place in regard to this report. I should like merely to say that I was present on a number of those occasions, and I feel that we have gone a tremendously long distance in coordinating the reports of the two agencies.
A great deal has been said about the fact that there isn't one single report. Mr. Chairman, personally the Corps of Engineers, as far as I know, has no objection to such a procedure, but we are bound by our instructions from Congress, and we had to submit a report to the Flood Control Committee of the House in compliance with their directive.
I have no objection at all, Senator Millikin, to a coordinated report in any way, shape, or form. I am merely saying that we, I feel, have gone a tremendously long distance in that direction; and one of the reasons why we frankly did not make one single report is that we have no authority from Congress to make such a report. We have to comply specifically with our congressional directives.
I feel that there is an over-all plan for the Missouri River today, the Pick plan and the Sloan plan, and I certainly know that the Department of Agriculture, concerning whom we have heard very little in this particular hearing but who also is very vitally affected in this area, has a plan, too, because they reviewed our report, and they have said that it would fit in with their plans. The Federal Power Commission is also vitally affected. We have not heard anything about a combined report from all four agencies. I am not saying that in any spirit of criticism whatsoever. I think today, frankly, that we have coordination; that we have the outline and the framework for really constructive ultimate development for this basin.
The Secretary of War has stated specifically in a letter to the Bureau of the Budget, which I introduced in the hearings of the River and Harbor Subcommittee of this committee that there is nothing in existing law or past practice which establishes by means of a navigation project-and, of course, I am sure that the same reasoning would also apply to a flood-control project—any vested right to the use of water. Our lawyers do not understand that there is any such vested right in any of our projects. We want the people in the upper basin to store all the water that they can for practicable, sensible, economic, far-reaching, and far-seeing irrigation; we have stated repeatedly that we are perfectly willing to get along with what is left; and we feel that there is plenty left.
I personally see no objection, if the Congress sees fit, to write into the law our present system of coordinating our reports. As I have said before, and I repeat it, we are all new at this game; we are none of us perfect; and we are endeavoring as we go along to improve our system. I have been in the field in my department, and I personally have talked to many local engineers, city engineers, State engineers. I do not say that we cannot improve our system of coordination; I believe we can. And I personally see no objection to having it written into the law that we shall consult with others because we do, gentlemen; we consult with the local interests; we consult with the Governors of the States; we consult with the State engineers.
Furthermore, there is one other thing that we do which has not yet been mentioned. Even after authorization, gentlemen, we consult with the local people. We have what we call a system of definite project reports which are frankly the bases of detailed design.
Now, I myself have personally presented those definite project reports to–I have forgotten the exact number, but I know it is about a dozen-cities in the Ohio River Basin where we outlined to the mayor, the city council, the city engineer, and the general public at large, perfectly frankly, what our plans were for the protection by levees and flood walls of that city; and, gentlemen, we have where proper actually changed our plans, after we had prepared those definite project reports, to meet local objections that we didn't know about during the course of the preparation of those plans, even though we had been to the local people before that stage in our planning.
Our whole objective, frankly—and I don't want to sound trite when I say this—is to serve the people of the States, to protect them from floods, and also to provide economic navigation facilities. Of course in doing that we have to recognize the multiple-purpose use of water, and therefore we must base our plans on the maximum economic multiple-use theory; and in doing that we endeavor to coordinate all of our activities with the other Federal agencies and the State and local interests.
I am repeating, I know, a portion of my testimony before the River and Harbor Subcommittee, but I want to bring in again at this point the fact that we have a definite agreement and there is a definite system set up whereby we can coordinate our reports with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Power Commission, and the Department of Agriculture. This is before these reports even get outside of our departments.'
There was a statement made here a little earlier that the local people have no chance after the district engineer starts in until the Chief of Engineers signs his report. Gentlemen, that is not quite accurate, because the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, which was organized by law in 1902, issues notices on the receipt of reports, and any local interests may appear before that Board or