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Very well. With the understanding that Senator Austin and Senator Aiken may submit statements for publication in the record, this definitely and finally closes the hearings.
Senator MILLIKIN. Mr. Chairman, there was one other statement from a gentleman from Texas.
Senator OVERTON. Well, we have already had that.
Senator MILLIKIN. That has not been introduced yet; we have not received it and may we include that when it comes ?
Senator OVERTON. Yes. I mean that is already in.
Senator MILLIKIN. Yes. Mr. Chairman, before you bring down the gavel, may I thank you for your consistent courtesies to me in this hearing?
Senator OVERTON. Well, I appreciate very much indeed your saying so, and I thank you for the contributions which you have made to the hearing.
Senator ROBERTSON. I would also like to thank you for the privilege of sitting in on this committee.
Senator OVERTON. Thank you. Very glad to have had you, Senator Robertson.
All right, Mr. Keith. Your statement relates to that navigation channel, does it not? That relates to the navigation channel in the lower Missouri, doesn't it? Mr. KEITH. That is right.
Senator OVERTON. Well, that would not go in this bill at all; I am sorry.
Mr. Keith. It affects the irrigation projects there of that region.
Senator OVERTON. Well, I know, but your heading shows the effects of dredging. I am sorry, but I shall just have to eliminate it because this record is already overburdened.
Mr. KEITH. I beg your pardon?
Senator OVERTON. I say it is overburdened, and I cannot put extraneous matter in it.
Mr. KEITH. It has a direct bearing upon the lives of my people out there.
Senator OVERTON. Well, I am sorry. It ought to have appeared in the river and harbor bill when we had that under consideration.
Mr. KEITH. Isn't this the river and harbor bill?
Mr. KEITH. It is a constructive plan for handling the flood-control problem in that region. It has got that right in there, briefly told, the way it will be effective.
Senator OVERTON. How many pages is it? Mr. KEITH. It is a supplement (presenting written statement to Senator Overton). It mentions irrigation, but the main reason, two Senators have requested this morning that it go in on flood control.
Senator OVERTON. There will be no additions to it, now, when you want to undertake to revise it. All right; let it go in for what it is worth.
KEITH. and harb.Well, I am
· (Statement by Ashton Keith is as follows:)
SOME OF THE PRESENT RESULTS OF DREDGING THE 6-Foot CHANNEL IN THE MISSOURI
PREFACE Most of a lifetime spent on the Great Plains-several years of it in the Dust Bowl itself, and some others on the Northern Plains-with experience in raising cattle and growing crops in good years and in bad—these together with wide acquaintance over those regions and an especial interest in droughts and dust storms, and with publications in that field of scientific research-all these prompt the making of an effort to better the conditions of a grand region and a noble people--the people of the plains. Two hundred and twenty-nine persons of that region approved this plan for flood prevention outlined herein.
INTRODUCTION In the early 1930's, to the surprise of many citizens, the United States Army engineers put forward a request for a large appropriation by Congress to dredge a 6-foot channel in the Missouri River for a distance of several hundred miles upstream from its mouth. As there was little or no shipping of freight by boat, and had not been for many years, the writer, as the representative of a family with modest land holdings in several Great Plains States, went some distance to attend a meeting addressed by one of the engineers. In addition to claiming the channel was positively necessary to help them "control” floods, he spoke of steamboats again sailing up and down that stream as in early days before the railroads--a statement that many persons then present knew to betray an ignorance of Midwestern conditions.
Definitely and repeatedly he stated that a 6-foot channel would be ample to serve all needs. At that time we had not yet heard so much of the difficulties the steamboat lines were having in dry times, to get their larger boats and barges past the shoals below St. Louis and of their desperate need for more water in the Mississippi River at that place. The engineers were trusted and they got a large appropriation. Afterward they asked for and got another to make the lower Mississippi River "safe.”
Now the chief purpose of dredging a larger and deeper channel in any stream is to take more water out of a region and to take it out more rapidly. Not only is the Missouri River right now dumping floodwaters into the Mississippi River fast than that stream can take them away, even with the improved levees, but also, in dry years, the deepened channel actually was found to take ground-water supplies out of the Great Plains country faster than ever before, to the great loss and serious inconvenience of multitudes of hard-working people. Millions of acres of land in the upper Missouri Valley are now in grave danger of being changed back toward desert conditions in times of drought, and several other millions of acres in the low country of Missouri and all States along the lower Mississippi already have suffered more enormous damages from floods, and must continue thus to suffer in future wet seasons. Also, at least 35 of those recently constructed levees were swept away last month. Although this year's flood was far from being a record breaker in size, yet damages were more widely extended in some places than for many years past. Near St. Charles, Mo., the waters came cascading down the Missouri River so fast that the stream had to break over into a very old stream-bed that long had remained unused and which had partly been put under cultivation. More than 1,000,000 acres of crops recently were ruined before those extra floodwaters got as far south as Cairo, III.
Officially it was reported that 331 lives were lost and more than 1,500,000 farm animals were drowned in the great flood of 1927. What the future losses will be of floods of that size, delivered by the present enlarged capacity of the Missouri River channel, gravely now, must be taken into consideration.
Someday it may be realized that as far as Great Plains floodwaters are concerned, the present plan and method of the Army engineers for "fighting" our part of those floods largely is wrong. Instead of letting those run-off water become accumulated, get under way, and form floods, the proper steps, it seems, should be undertaken to prevent the floods and to use the waters for irrigation chiefly.
There is also a second and still more important evil result of deepening the Missouri River channel :
About the time the dredging had proceeded some 500 miles up the river about to Nebraska, many wells there began to fail-and over wide areas in several States along the Missouri River-wells that had lasted through several years of severe drought. Widely, also, it was reported both by scientists and in the news. papers, that ground water levels were sinking more rapidly than ever before. A number of cities had to hire engineering service and begin hunts for new water supplies. The water table fell so much in many places so that trees died, crops dried up and blew away, and cattle were in great need of water on many ranges.
Our exhibit, Floods, Dust Storms, and People of the Great Plains, includes some 800 photographs that were taken in 10 Great Plains States to show actual conditions in a factual manner. Studies were undertaken widely to determine all the factors in the tragic loss of vitally important stores of groundwater. Generally, it was agreed that the lowering of the drainage channel had increased the extraction of groundwaters to similar depth throuhg the adjacent areas. That conclusion is fully supported by the geology of that region.
AN IMPORTANT MEGA-STRUCTURE
Both by geophysical evidence and by well-log data from a number of places, the presence of a long, nearly rectilinear zone of gentle downward bending in the underlying igneous crustal rocks is indicated. Although the trough is quite shallow, its presence is clearly indicated, also by the course of the Missouri River through several hundreds of miles.
Where the Missouri River crosses northern Montana, its course, in general, is almost due east. But where it reaches this trough in Montrail County, N. Dak., the river changes its course and flows down the full length of this great natural drainage-trend all the way to the north edge of Kansas City. At that point it encounters a stronger but similar zone of easterly trend which also carries the waters of the Kaw. While the Missouri River meanders back and forth in the northwest-southwest trough, its trend in general conforms closely to the axis of the subsurface structure, and with profound effect upon living conditions over extensive areas.
It is well to repeat just here, that the principal aim and purpose of deepening and widening any stream (aside from commercial needs, if such a thing readily exists) is to take water out of a region faster, and more of it, than before. And that, precisely, is what the 6-foot channel did for the Missouri River Valley recently, to the enormously increased and more widely extended loss of the people of the lowlands in the wet season.
But its worst effects are those of increasing the extremes of droughts and dust storms during the dry cycles. It is in that way that the Army engineers inadvertently, perhaps, have laid the foundation for a steadily mounting series of wrongs against some of the hardest working farmers and cattle raisers in the world. Its full effects on draining waters from the soils of moisture-needing States luckily were cut short by the ending of the long dry cycle and the incoming recent wet years since 1940. Barely in time, a national calamity was thus averted on the Northern Plains that, with 2 more years of drought, could have made the Northen Plains into another Dust Bowl.
CONDITIONS ON THE PLAINS AND A CONSTRUCTIVE PLAN FOR FLOOD CONTROL Only people who have lived for 10 years or more on the Plains can fully understand that it has taken many years of hard struggle and some of the longest working days ever put in by labor, to make the progress that has been made thus far. Few indeed are prepared to see that tilting the conditions, even a little, in the wrong way may lead to irretrievable and wide-scale disaster. That disaster would not be merely a local one. This statement is made from many years' experience, followed by a quarter of a century of field studies and laboratory investigations on droughts, wind-blown soils, and dust-storm conditions.
Until about 1870 nearly all the region between the western line of Missouri and Iowa, on out to the Rocky Mountains was known as the Great American Desert. And, at many times, it was a desert. Coronado, Mendoza, and other early explorers described Oklahoma and Kansas as a desert. Some of them recorded actually seeing those violent whirling "dust spouts” that are so feared on great deserts of the Old World. Geologists now living have discovered that desert soils are to be found at shallow depths at many places in several of those States; and that that great region in Pliocene time was very much like the Sahara.
EXPERIENCES AND THE REAL NEED Yet those same regions and the upper Missouri Valley now are known as the great Wheat and Cattle Belt. Just what has wrought this miraculous change? It has taken many years of hard toil from earliest daylight to far after dark; it has taken sacrifices, privation, and sometimes hunger month after month, and 3 or 4 years out of every 5, on the average, through more than 70 years. To soak as much of the scanty moisture as possible into the soils, to use new methods of soil tillage several times a year; to get the stronger and more expensive tools and implements and the greater power that simply must be had ; to till and harvest several acres on every drought year to get what you would call a fair crop from 1 acre. To see drought, hot winds, and perhaps dust storms, too, ruin all in a few days; to see the short-grass pasture daily cropped shorter and shorter by the livestock and they slowly starving; to hear the cattle bawling day and night from hunger and thirst; to watch the ponds dry up and wells fail; to have to drive all the livestock several miles to drink only once a day at a scummy, greenish, stinking pool of water; and to watch it slowly shrinking. To see the soil begin to blow and to know what that means if you can't stop it quick; to rush out with lister to throw furrows across the field in air that is filled with dry and choking dust; to drive yourself and team by lanternlight far into the night until that job is done. Then to get back in the house to find the same dust sifting in around the doors and windows and literally covering everything; to watch your loved ones wheeze and choke on that duststorm dust-to watch a friend die
Yet, that, all that, is a part of life on the Plains if the moisture is taken away.
Gentlemen, I dare say that if all of you had had these experiences in making your honest living, you would agree that instead of letting those run-off waters form into floods and then fighting them ceaselessly and at great loss and expense, the right method, so far as most of the Great Plains is concerned, is to begin constructing far more medium dams on every tributary stream to increase humidity and the precious stores of ground water by irrigating very many small tracts that are not provided for in any of the current plans as outlined for flood control, irrigation, or any other useful purpose.
(Whereupon, at 11:55 a. m. the hearing was concluded.)
INDEX BY PROJECTS
----- 71, 96-98
210-212, 277–286, 364
246-247, 277-286, 360–362, 452-455
--214-215, 245, 249, 362-364, 449, 452-455
--- 108-109, 114-116
-- 49–54, 81-88
340-360, 389-390, 425-441, 449, 755-761.
------- 201–264, 459 461
----------------- 76, 79-81
67-387, 390 405