Page images
PDF
EPUB

creeks, and bayous in the State. This legislation prohibits channelization or alteration of the streams listed in this act. Federal channelization plans exist on some of these streams, but these are now being held in abeyance as a result of this legislation. We think that this legislation resulted from mounting public concern and a new awareness of stream and woodland and fish and wildlife values.

An effect of channelization is the accelerated loss of bottom-land hardwoods in the State, and the direct and indirect effects of these programs resulted in our Commission having to initiate a land purchase program in Louisiana in order to what we consider preserve a few remnant areas of bottom-land hardwoods and natural streams in the State.

This program was initiated back in 1960. Since that time, title to 116,000 acres of bottom-land hardwoods has been purchased, along with 56,000 acres of marshland. These individual tracts contain many miles of natural bayous which are now protected against channelization and most of these would have been lost through one of the Federal programs had not the State acquired title to this property.

And I want to also mention that we have been fortunate in recent years in having cost sharing by the U.S. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation at the 50-percent Federal level in the acquisition of some of these remnant tracts of this type of habitat.

We have found that in the past the value of Louisiana's fish and wildlife resources has not received adequate consideration in federally financed water projects.

I would like to cite the fact that we calculate the values of these resources at some $315 million annually from the standpoint of sport fishing, sport hunting, trapping, and commercial fishing. We have a population of about 3.6 million people in Louisiana, and over a million fish for sport, around 400,000 hunt. We have about 200,000 small boats that ply the State waters. The sport fishermen make some 23 million trips annually, and the hunters go afield about 672 million days. We have 50,000 people that derive all or a large part of their livelihood from commercial fishing. And we think these figures emphasize the value of fish and wildlife resources of Louisiana.

We have found through research over the last 20 or 30 years that the size of our fish and wildlife populations are geared to the amount and the quality of wildlife habitat that we have. And we have also found that when we lose a key wildlife area or a stream, then the State fish and wildlife resources are reduced proportionately. When we lose a stream through channelization, we normally find that fish population declines by about 90 percent; and as a side effect, we have an accelerated loss of adjacent bottom-land hardwoods.

The flood control, drainage and navigation program carried out by Federal agencies has been quite extensive in the State. There have been a total of 2,401 miles of channel work accomplished by Federal agencies, mainly the corps, and some by the SCS in Louisiana. Of this total some 1,605 miles has occurred in the river bottom flood plains, 318 miles in the marsh, and 107 miles in the upland stream areas. And the channelization of these main drainage arteries has resulted in the excavation of thousands of miles of new laterals, and on many occasions these lateral canals then drain permanent and semipermanent wetland areas that are adjacent to the main drainage arteries, which then makes it possible to clear these bottom-land hardwood areas up. And our State is made up of marshlands, river bottom flood plains, and uplands. It is in the river bottom flood plains and marshes where channelization has had the most adverse effect on fish and wildlife.

In a river bottom flood-plain bayou in Louisiana we normally find you have a standing crop of about 130 pounds of fish per acre. Channelization results in a reduction of about 90 percent in pounds of fish per acre in one of these bayous. This generally destroys the value of a bayou insofar as sport and commercial fishing is concerned.

Additionally, these water disposal projects accelerate runoff and increase sediment loads and turbidity in the channelized areas and downstream in lakes that they may flow into.

Some of the adverse changes are associated with removal of natural cover, destruction of spawning sites, increased water temperatures, reduction in benthic organisms, increased turbidity, and increase in certain types of pollution. And furthermore, the excavation of the laterals that are associated with main channel work results in drainage of adjacent wetlands.

Many of the backwater lakes in the river bottoms support fish populations of nearly 400 pounds per acre. When one of these is drained you have a total loss as a general rule from the drainage measure.

Now we would like to mention one other facet of this. It has to do with the watershed work plans. Some of the watershed documents imply that fish and wildlife will be enhanced and improved in the area affected. Our findings in some watersheds show, however, that quite the reverse is true. In one watershed work plan that stated wildlife improvements we found that we would lose one-third of the deer population in that particular watershed of about 3,000 deer; we would have a reduction in squirrel population of about 100,000, with a reduction in harvest of around 26,000. Similar reductions would occur in water fowl, your nongame birds such as robins that use the bottomland hardwoods by the millions, and a large number of other forest game animals. Furthermore, the game fish population in this watershed would be reduced by some 45 percent, commercial fish by some 95 percent and bottom-land hardwoods by 44,000 acres.

Yet this particular watershed document on its cover states that this work plan is for watershed protection, flood protection, drainage and fish and wildlife improvement. So we cite these figures to point out that there is a marked contrast between what some of these documents say and what the results will actually be. This is a source of real irritation to the wildlife manager.

Incidentally, this watershed has been approved by Congress already

Flood-plain hardwoods in Louisiana are being cleared at a rate of 125,000 acres per year, and if this continues at its current level the entire region will be cleared in 20 years, except for some of the low lying cypress tupelo areas that lie along the fringes of our marshlands.

Originally Louisiana contained about 10,100,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods. In 1960 only about half of this remained. In North Louisiana the reduction was even more in evidence. Originally there were 5.6 million acres of bottom-land hardwoods in Louisiana. In 1960 this had been reduced to 2.5 million. These hardwoods are now being cleared at a rate of 111,000 acres per year. By 1985 we anticipate that they will, for all practical purposes,

be

gone.

For each 1,000 acres of hardwood forest, we lose habitat for about 50 deer and up to 1,500 to 2,000 squirrels, and so forth.

Our Louisiana gulf coast marsh zone occupies about four and a half million acres. Marine fisheries production and the nursery ground area in the adjacent gulf waters produces around 800 million to 1.2 billion pounds annually, or some 23 percent of the total U.S. fish production. Included in this total are 50 million pounds of shrimp and 13 million pounds of oyster meat. The Louisiana marsh is of international importance to migratory waterfowl. It is used annually for wintering and transient purposes by 10 to 12 million ducks and geese that move south out of Canada, many of which winter in Mexico. This particular marsh region also makes Louisiana the No. 1 fur producing State in the Union.

Channelization in the marshes has been carried out mainly for navigational purposes by private interests and by the Corps of Engineers. We now have giant channels that have been excavated from cities in uth Louisiana across these marshes to the Gulf of Mexico; and while these channels have accomplished the primary project objective of providing navigation outlets, they have had, to a great extent, a disastrous effect on fish and wildlife resources in the localities where they have been built.

The marshes of Louisiana are highly unstable and their very existence hangs in a delicate ecological balance. We have found that each form of marsh life has relatively narrow tolerance limits, and whenever you exceed the limits of any of these organisms-shrimp, oysters, what have you—you will simply see them disappear, and they may or may not be replaced by other forms of animal life. This also holds true for the plant communities that bind our marsh country together.

The adverse effects to coastal marsh wildlife from channelization have been about eightfold:

First, we have a direct physical destruction of marsh from dredging and spoil placement. This, in turn, greatly increases salinity ranges within-and sometimes miles on each side of the excavated channel. As an example, salinity ranges are now up 300 percent in Lake Pontchartrain, which covers 640 square miles, as a result of one navigation channel.

The channels allow excessive drainage of fresh water during periods of rainfall and low tide in channelized areas.

They permit excessive salt water intrusion during periods of high tide and drought.

They also intercept over the marsh flows of water which disrupt normal water movements and tidal currents.

They have also resulted in accelerated marsh erosion and the elimination of many plant communities that hold our marshes together.

Siltation and turbidity have also been problems.

Recent studies have shown that Louisiana's land mass is now shrinking at a rate of 10,000 acres per year as a result of coastal marsh erosion, mainly in the southeastern region of the State. Channelization has been one of the factors contributing toward this land loss, and much of it could have been avoided had marsh ecology been considered more in the original planning of these projects.

Louisiana's upland regions, which are hill lands covered by pine and mixed hardwood, are characterized mainly by small creeks and rivers which flow through rolling hill country. There has been less channelization here than anywhere else in the State. Plans are, however, being made now to dredge some of these hill land creeks.

One of our fish biologists has calculated that we have a standing crop of about 150 pounds of fish per stream-mile in a typical upland stream in southwest Louisiana, Six Mile Creek. And he has calculated that in the event of channelization that that fish population would be reduced by some 90 percent as a result of the destruction of shoal and riffle areas, displacement of woody cover, excavation of the stream channel, which would then reduce the production of benthic organisms. He also states that these changes would be largely irreversible in his opinion.

We understand that there are great plans for additional channelization in Louisiana. The corps has authorized projects that will result in some additional 1,128 miles of streams being channelized or cleared and snagged:

Additionally the Public Law 566 program involves about 71 applications for watershed assistance over about 8 million acres of the State, or about 28 percent of the total land area.

Our commission back in February of this year was requested to review some 19 watershed projects and evaluate the effects of those projects on fish and wildlife. We were requested to furnish this information to the SCS in connection with their memo 108 which was issued by Mr. Grant. And our study revealed that over 500 miles of natural streams would be channelized in these particular watersheds, and in addition there would be some 375 miles of channel excavation for new laterals. The projects would drain some 7,700 acres of permanent water areas and some 29,000 acres of semipermanent water areas. They would also result in accelerated losses of bottomland hardwoods and drastic reductions in fish and wildlife populations.

We are hopeful that some modification will be made in the planning for some of these watersheds in connection with the analysis figures that we provided the SCS. Already we have agreed on the modifications to one of these projects which is going to result in saving a nursery ground area that is producing an annual harvest of some 300,000 pounds of shrimp and literally tons of crabs, menhaden and other marine life. This particular watershed is also located in one of the key waterfowl wintering areas that we have on this continent.

Now as far as recommendations are concerned, as we stated earlier in this statement, we feel more consideration should be given to fish and wildlife in connection with future water development projects.

We also feel that a review of the impact of existing water projects on fish and wildlife should be conducted, and wherever possible, damages should be corrected at Federal expense. It is possible to correct some of the damages that have been caused by some of the projects.

We further feel that mitigation of future projects, insofar as wildlife resource losses are concerned, should be at somewhere near the 100-percent level. Certain statements in some of the projects imply that losses are being mitigated, but when you really dig into those things you will find that your losses are being mitigated at about the 5-percent level, or less, which is very, very insignificant.

The projects should be more carefully analyzed and detailed reports prepared outlining the specific numerical effects, either plus or minus, that the project would have on individual species of fish and wildlife and its habitat.

The total impact should also be evaluated, directly as well as indirectly, outside as well as inside of the project area, and a detailed statement should be included within the sponsoring agency's final report for review by the approving authority. We found that in some of these project areas they will have outside effects on a downstream area, but the agency behind the project will not acknowledge this and will not consider it as a result of the project, and we don't think this is good business at all. If it has got an effect then the total effect should be evaluated, and not just the effect in the project area.

Furthermore, where a plan implies enhancement measures, and it is authorized by Congress, those enhancement measures should be carried out, and not forgotten about at a later date.

When State game departments are requested to furnish information on Federal construction projects then that State agency should some way be funded in advance to cover the expense of gathering this information. We have been requested to evaluate many Federal construction projects, and this takes time and it takes money on the part of our department to provide this information. Much of this has been done, but it is getting so big now that we simply do not have the manpower and the money to do this, and some provisions need to be made, we think, to provide for covering these expenses. If the project is going to be in the nature of $7 or $10 million then it would seem that some money could be allocated to the State agency that may be involved in gathering information as to the effects of that project, or perhaps gathering information that would result in recommending modifications to the project.

We also feel that a project should not be approved that would result in the elimination or serious reduction of habitat of a rare or endangered species, or a stream protected by State law, or a type of wildlife habitat that is on the verge of being eliminated altogether.

I hope I didn't exceed my 10 minutes by more than 10 minutes, Mr. Chairman, but that is what it took.

Mr. REUSS. Well, if you did, the subcommittee will surely forgive you because it was most crisp and helpful testimony.

(Mr. Yancey's prepared statement follows:) PREPARED STATEMENT OF Richard K. YANCEY, Assistant DIRECTOR,

LOUISIANA WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES COMMISSION

STREAM CHANNELIZATION AS RELATED TO FISH AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES IN

LOUISIANA

Introduction The effects of channelization on fish and wildlife resources is a most timely subject, and the opportunity to present this statement is welcomed. Hopefully, these hearings will result in a constructive action program being implemented to provide additional protection for fish and wildlife in federally financed channelization proj; ects in the future. Inadequate consideration in the past has oftentimes resulted in staggering and unnecessary losses of these resources. In two regions of Louisiana, the effects of channelization have already become a moot question, since most of the natural streams have been converted into drainage canals in recent years. Dredging in these areas is now associated largely with widening and deepening existing ditches.

Because of the rapidity with which the State's few remaining streams were being destroyed, the Louisiana Legislature acted in 1970 to provide statutory protection for 31 small rivers, creeks, and bayous in the State. This legislation

« PreviousContinue »