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66th CONGRESS, , HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. 1 st Session.

COLORADO RIVER, TEX.

LETTER

YROM

THE SECRETARY OF WAR,

TRANSMITTING

WITH A LETTER FROM THE ACTING CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, REPORT

ON PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION OF COLORADO RIVER, TEX. WITH A VIEW TO DEVISING PLANS FOR FLOOD PROTECTION AND DETERMINING THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE UNITED STATES SHOULD COOPERATE WITH THE STATES AND OTHER COMMUNITIES AND INTERESTS IN CARRYING OUT SUCH PLANS, ITS SHARE BEING BASED ON THE VALUE OF PROTECTION TO NAVIGATION.

NOVEMBER 19, 1919.-Referred to the Committee on Flood Control and ordered to be

printed, with illustrations.

WAR DEPARTMENT,

Washington, November 18, 1919. The SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith, a letter from the Acting Chief of Engineers, United States Army, of 14th instant, together with report of Col. Spencer Cosby, Corps of Engineers, dated June 30, 1919, with maps and photographs, on a preliminary examination of Colorado River, Tex., authorized by the river and harbor act approved July 27, 1916. Very respectfully,

NEWTON D. BAKER,

Secretary of War.

WAR DEPARTMENT,
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS,

Washington, November 14, 1919.
From: The Acting Chief of Engineers.
To: The Secretary of War.
Subject: Preliminary examination of Colorado River, Tex.

1. There is submitted herewith for transmission to Congress report dated June 30, 1919, with maps and photographs, by Col. Spencer Cosby, Corps of Engineers, on preliminary examination authorized by the river and harbor act approved July 27, 1916, of Colorado River, Tex., "with a view to devising plans for flood protection and determining the extent to which the United States should cooperate with the States and other communities and interests in carrying out such plans, its share being based on the value of protection to navigation."

2. The Colorado River rises in the western part of the State of Texas and flows in a southeasterly direction for a distance of about 700 miles to Matagorda Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. It has a drainage area of 37,800 square miles. From its source to Coke County the river flows through the semiarid plains section, and at Ballinger it enters the mountain region extending to Austin, a distance of about 330 miles. Below Austin it follows a winding course through the rolling country of central Texas, until it reaches the flat coastal plain that borders the Gulf. Between mile 35 and mile 40 above the mouth the river is entirely blocked by what is known as the “Big Raft,” a huge mass of drift which completely fills the river, while between mile 8 and mile 35 numerous smaller rafts obstruct the channel in various places. The section of river subject to destructive floods is practically confined to the portion from Austin to the mouth, a distance of about 290 miles. From Austin to Lagrange, a distance of 110 miles, the banks are high and the amount of land overflowed is comparatively small. Below Lagrange the banks become lower, the slope of the river decreases, and, as a consequence, the overflows are more frequent and extensive. In the six counties between Austin and the mouth there are about 270,000 acres subject to overflow. This land is stated to have a present uncertain value of $25 per acre, but if protection against floods were assured, it is claimed that it would probably be worth at least $100 per acre. On 230,000 acres of this land it is estimated that there would be a net gain of $11,500,000, after payment of $25 per acre for its protection. Conditions at the headwaters of the river and its tributaries suggest the use of reservoirs in conjunction with levees as probably the best means of flood control.

3. No work of improvement has been done on this river by the Federal Government since very early times. Under the provisions of the river and harbor act of March 2, 1919, a channel 5 feet deep is to be dredged by the Government across the bar at the mouth.

What may be considered the navigable section of the river extends for about 21 miles above its mouth, and in this section there is a controlling depth of 6 feet at low stage. At present there is no commercial navigation on the river. The district engineer states that it would be possible by the construction of locks and dams, and by cutting and maintaining a channel around the raft, to make the river navigable from its mouth to Austin, but the cost of the work would be prohibitive. While a system of flood protection might be devised which, in addition to protecting agricultural lands, would be of value to irrigation and water-power interests, he does not believe that such improvement would be of any practical value to navigation, and he expresses the opinion that it is not advisable for the United States to bear any share of the cost of devising or carrying out such plans at the present time. In this opinion the division engineer concurs.

4. This report has been referred, as required by law, to the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and attention is invited to its report herewith, dated October 14, 1919, concurring in the unfavorable views of the district and division engineers.

5. After due consideration of the above-mentioned reports, I concur in the views of the district engineer, the division engineer, and the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and therefore report that the value to navigation of the flood protection is not sufficient to justify the United States in cooperating with the State and other communities and interests in devising or carrying out plans for flood protection on the Colorado River, Tex.

FREDERIC V. ABBOT, Colonel, Corps of Engineers.

REPORT OF THE BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS.

(Third indorsement.)

THE BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS,

October 14, 1919. To the CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, UNITED STATES ARMY:

1. The following is in review of the district engineer's report authorized by the river and harbor act of July 27, 1916, on preliminary examination of Colorado River, Tex., with a view to devising plans for flood protection and determining the extent to which the United States should cooperate with the States and other communities and interests in carrying out such plans, its share being based on the value of protection to navigation.

2. The Colorado River rises in the western part of the State of Texas, flows in a southeasterly direction, and empties into Matagorda Bay. Its length is about 700 miles and its drainage area 37,800 square miles. The seetion above Coke County is semiarid and sparsely settled. Between this section and Austin, a distance of about 330 miles, the principal tributaries enter the river. Below Austin the river flows through a rolling country until the flat coastal plain near the mouth is reached. From mile 35 to mile 40 above the mouth the river is completely blocked by the “Big Raft," an accumulated mass of drift. Below this reach there are numerous smaller rafts or piles of drift which more or less obstruct the channel. The river is navigable at present for a distance of about 21 miles above the mouth, but no commercial use is made of any part of it. Except for some work done in the early fifties, of which we have no record, the river has not been improved by the United States. The section between the mouth and Austin could be made navigable by the construction of locks and dams and a by-pass around the raft, but at great cost.

3. Some of the lowlands adjacent to the river are subject to overflow, which occasions considerable damage. Certain farming sections have been protected by levees and others are cultivated without protection, but most of the bottom lands are suitable for cultivation if protected. The lowest land immediately adjacent to the river is covered with timber and used almost solely at the present time for grazing. From the head of the raft to the mouth of the river the channels are so choked with drift that slight rises cause most of the adjacent county to overflow. The town of Bay City is protected by a levee. The area subject to overflow below Austin is reported as amounting to about 270,000 acres valued at present at $25 per acre, which, if protected, would be worth $100 per acre.

4. Conditions at the headwaters of the river and its tributaries suggest the use of reservoirs in conjunction with levees as probably the best means of flood control. The principal interests to be benefited by such an improvement are agriculture, power, and navigation, probably in order of importance as mentioned. There are several focal organizations interested in power and irrigation which, with certain State departments, might be expected to cooperate with the Federal Government if it entered upon this work.

5. Apparently, the chief benefit to be expected from flood protection would be to the agricultural interests. Owing to the irregular periods of rainfall and drought it would not be practicable by any plan of improvement to entirely equalize the flow, and therefore the river could not be depended upon to afford continuous navigation, and even if adequate facilities were secured, it appears doubtful if the river would be used extensively as a transportation route. The district engineer is therefore of opinion that the carrying out of plans for the flood protection of the Colorado River would be of no appreciable value for the protection of navigation, and that the United States should not bear any share of the cost of devising or carrying out such plans at the present time. The division engineer concurs in these views.

6. Interested parties were informed of the tenor of the district engineer's report and given an opportunity of submitting their views, but no communications on the subject have been received.

7. The question at issue is whether the protection of the Colorado Valley from floods is of sufficient value to navigation interests to justify the Federal Government in cooperating with the State and other communities

and interests in devising and carrying out the necessary plans. The recognized head of feasible navigation is at Austin. Between that place and the mouth the river flows through a section of country devoted to agriculture and grazing, the latter probably predominating. There are no large cities and no mining or industrial interests to create a large commerce. There is no navigation at present and if the river were so improved as to provide adequate facilities, the principal traffic would be in agricultural products and such supplies as the sparsely settled territory adjacent might require. Experience elsewhere indicates that under these conditions the amount of commerce would be very small. It is even doubtful if it would be sufficient to justify the operation of a boat line. The interests of navigation are, therefore, quite small.

8. It appears from the data furnished that considerable areas in this Valley are subject to overflow with consequent material loss, and that by suitable works these lands may be protected and their value greatly enhanced. Whether the benefits would exceed the cost can be determined only by detailed surveys and the preparation of plans and estimates which, in the circumstances, should in the opinion of the board be done by the State or by a combination of the local interests concerned and not by the Federal Government. In view of the facts stated above the board concurs in the opinion of the district and division engineers that the value to navigation is too small to warrant the cooperation of the United States in devising or carrying out plans for flood protection.

9. In compliance with law, the board reports that there are no questions of terminal facilities, water power, or other related subjects which could be coordinated with the suggested improvement in such manner as to render the work advisable in the interests of commerce and navigation. For the board:

W. C. LANGFITT,
Colonel, Corps of Engineers,

Senior Member of the Board.

PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION OF COLORADO RIVER, TEX.

WAR DEPARTMENT,
UNITED STATES ENGINEER OFFICE,

Galveston, Tex., June 30, 1919.
From: The District Engineer.
To: The Chief of Engineers, United States Army

(through the Division Engineer). Subject: Preliminary examination of Colorado River, Tex., with a

view to flood protection.

1. This preliminary examination was made in compliance with the river and harbor act of July 27, 1916, and instructions to the district engineer from the Chief of Engineers dated August 9, 1916. The act provides as follows: * Colorado River, Texas,

with a view to devising plans for flood protection and determining the extent to which the United States should cooperate with the State and other communities and interests in carrying out such plans, its share being based on the value of protection to navigation.

2. Mr. V. E. Lieb, assistant engineer, whose report is forwarded herewith, made the actual examination of the river, and has gathered data and information in addition to what had been collected previously by governmental, State, and private efforts.

*

PREVIOUS REPORTS.

3. No previous examination or survey has been made of the Colorado River with a view to flood protection, but the following examinations and surveys of portions of the river have been made in the interest of navigation:

(a) Survey of Matagorda Bay at the mouth of St. Marys Bayou near the town of Matagorda; Tex., Annual Report Chief of Engineers, 1882, part 2, page 1493.

(6) Preliminary examination Colorado River, Tex., with a view to removing of raft at mouth of same, Annual Report Chief of Engineers, 1891, part 3, page 1939; report unfavorable.

(c) Preliminary examination Colorado River, Tex., from the mouth to the city of Wharton, Tex., Annual Report Chief of Engineers, 1895, part 3, page 1821; report unfavorable.

(d) Preliminary examination Colorado River, Tex., from its mouth to the foot of the great raft, Annual Report Chief of Engineers, 1900, part 4, page 2458; report unfavorable.

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