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In Louisiana, we have received 71 watershed applications covering a little over 8 million acres of land--practically all in the flatland area of the State. These 71 projects are supported by 109 different local political subdivisions of State government. Every Federal, State, and local agency or organization with any interest in resource development and conservation has been given every opportunity to participate in development of the plans for these small watershed


The applications are prepared locally, reviewed at the local and State levels, and finally submitted to Washington. At least two public hearings are held on every project. All of the agencies are asked to make contributions to each plan as it is developed.

I happen to live in the Mississippi River Delta. My entire parish had a watershed program planned and carried out in the early 1960's. It has not hurt the environment, the fish and wildlife, or anything else. It has only made it possible for the people to have shoes to wear, schools to go to, and churches in which to worship. The whole economic base of our parish has been greatly enhanced by adequate drainage.

The other parish in my conservation district saw what had happened in ours and made application for a program of its own. After the plans were developed, a few people started complaining about what was going to happen to the environment. The local sponsors and the Soil Conservation Service asked these people to get their opposition together so that they could thoroughly, discuss the plans with them. The opponents worked for a month and managed to get only 11 people in the entire parish to attend the meeting. This parish just recently overwhelmingly voted a tax to support their watershed program. Without it, the total economy of the parish would wind up in the most serious kind of trouble.

Gentlemen, you have to wade around in mud and water and pump water out of your school basement, or store to really appreciate some of the things I have been saying to you. But, let me assure you, that is exactly the situation in which 75 percent of the population in Louisiana would be if it were not for the channels in the State that are removing water in a planned, orderly, and safe manner.

A good example of people becoming alarmed simply because a watershed work plan proposes considerable channel improvement can be found in the West Carroll watershed which is located just 50 miles north of me. A work plan has just been completed for this project. It calls for 360 miles of channel improvements. Some environmentalists out of New Orleans, over 300 miles away, heard of this plan and became alarmed about ruination of fish and wildlife resources.

They did not study the plan to find out that these channels, without exception, flow during periods of storm runoff, only and that several grade stabilization structures were being designed in the plan to alleviate damages to fish and wildlife resources that are presently occurring. Nor did they read the report of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which said:

Fishery resources in the watershed are generally of low to moderate quality. Wildlife resources are also generally low to moderate quality of deer and squirrel, and moderate population of dove, rabbit, and quail. Based on our knowledge of the area and proposed watershed developments, we believe that fish and wildlife resources will not be significantly affected. * * *

This entire watershed, which covers West Carroll Parish, is rural. The town, which serves as the commercial center of the area, has a population of only 1,800 persons. The economy is based almost entirely on agriculture. There are 1,700 farms in the area and 1,000 of these contain 50 acres or less. Over one-half of the families are earning less the $2,400 per year.

In 1968 a storm occurred which isolated over 200 rural families for up to 3 days due to roads being flooded. The parish police jury and the soil and water conservation district believe that the low income is largely due to the inability of farmers to realize returns from farm investments because of inadequate facilities for removing excess rainfall.

The watershed program is a program to help these people help themselves. They cannot afford themselves to dig ditches to take care of the excess water coming out of Arkansas and other parishes adjoining theirs in Lousiana. They must have help or there will soon be another 1,000 families on our welfare rolls.

Watershed projects must serve many needs of many people. The interests of farmers, sportsmen, businessmen, and townspeople may not always be identical. Every effort must be made to plan a program that has the highest benefits for every segment of the community. But we cannot simply say that any one special interest, such as the fish and wildlife interest, automatically should outweigh all of the others.

Let us consider the interest of agriculture, for example. Inclusion of agricultural development as a purpose of a watershed project contemplates benefits extending far beyond farmers. The economy of most of our rural counties in America remains based on agriculture. The reduction of flooding and excess water on farmlands makes possible higher farm income. This, in turn, increases the business of processors and handlers of agricultural products and of merchants generally. Local government relies on tax revenues from agriculture in much of our country. If farmers fail to prosper,'' tax income for schools, roads, welfare, and other essential services suffers.

Take the business interest. How important is it to a community to protect local industries from flooding? If industries must leave because of flooding or poor water management, vital jobs are lost. This interest of towns and cities in rural America cannot be ignored.

Let us consider what we call the environmental interest. This is the interest that all of us have in preserving and improving the quality of the resources that support us, including air, soil, water, trees, fish and wildlife, and natural beauty.'.

It is the conviction of NACD that watershed projects contribute much to the enhancement of the environment. The projects reduce erosion and sedimentation; they prevent floods; they provide new recreation areas; they impound water for boating, fishing, and swimming; they create new fish and wildlife habitat; they improve agriculture and forest management; and they beautify the landscape. Watershed projects are basically environmental projects.

This is not to say that every project is a sterling example of the best that can be done. As in every human endeavor, some projects are better than others. And there are particular problems with the construction of channels that must be faced.

In our view, if channels are necessary in a project, everything possible to minimize any adverse impact on the environment should

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be done. For example, engineered channels, wherever possible, might follow the natural contour of the land rather than being straight and should include fish habitat improvement measures. Banks can be sloped more gradually, landscaped, or planted to wildlife food; and sediment control during the construction period can be emphasized to a greater extent.

The key to a solution to the conflict over channels is for all agencies and people co'erned to work together in a cooperative spirit to find the best possible ways to resolve differences, project by project. It is unrealistic to declare a moratorium on all channel work. There are not many projects in which channel changes are not opposed by anybody, where the quality of fish and wildlife habitat affected is low, or where natural channels are not affected at all.

The Soil Conservation Service is currently reviewing and analyzing potential environmental problems in every watershed project in the United States, in consultation with State fish and wildlife agencies. Those projects where disagreements exist must be considered on their individual merits.

It is important, I believe, to make it clear that participation by fish and wildlife interests, forestry interests, and environmental groups in watershed programs is essential if conflicts are to be avoided. It has always been the policy of conservation districts, and the Soil Conservation Service, to invite and encourage participation of such interests in watershed planning from the earliest stages. Indeed, in 32 States, fish and game, forestry, parks, and other State agencies are acting as legal sponsors of watershed projects and investing substantial funds in them because of the advantages that accrue to their programs,

Unfortunately, in some places, those now complaining the most about watershed work are those who took the least and sometimes no interest in the projects during the planning stages.

I would like to conclude by commenting on the overall program of the districts and the Soil Conservation Service. NACD is proud of the work of the SCS from its beginnings under Hugh Bennett and its continuation under the leadership of Robert Salter, Donald Williams, and Kenneth Grant.

It has established an enviable reputation for objectivity and progressive action. In our opinion, there is no more dedicated, highly skilled, and well-trained force of environmental conservationists in the Nation than the personnel of the Soil Conservation Service. Those who have discovered ecology and conservation only recently would do well to familiarize themselves with the work of this agency and their accomplishments over the past 35 years.

The partnership between local conservation districts, State governments, and the Federal Government—and especially the SCS—is unique. NACD plans to continue working to improve the effectiveness of that partnership in meeting the critical conservation and environmental problems of our time.

Thank you for the privilege of presenting this statement today.
Mr. Reuss. Thank you, Mr. Bagley.
Mr. Huenefeld.



Mr. HUENEFELD. I want to say thanks to this committee for allowing me to testify. I know that you have heard many tell stories of how watershed projects, especially where channels are involved, are benefiting or destroying the environment.

Along with George Bagley and maybe a few others who have talked to you, I live in the big middle of this controversial issue and we have come face to face with this "too much water” problem. Some others who have testified may live halfway across the country on a hilltop.

Most of the watershed projects in the delta area and south half of Louisiana deal with improvement of channels. The main purpose of the projects is to prevent flooding and to provide adequate outlets for drainage of urban areas and cropland. Some of the channels are century-old, man-made ditches and others are natural drainageways.

Once they were big enough to drain off excess rainwater. But through the years trees, grass and weeds, and eroded soil clogged the channels. They became half, or over half, filled with debris and silt. Water from heavy rains overflowed their banks and onto land and into houses. People cried and still cry for help to solve this problem.

When channels are cleared out, they sometimes look ugly, but so does a house before it is a home. But a short time after completion, channel sides are grassed over and vines and bushes grow on the soil moved from the bottom and slopes. This makes good homes for birds and animals. In many cases, the only improvement a channel needs is to remove fallen trees and snags.

Regardless of what some people say about drainage, it is a must for some land—that is if people live and work on it. On the other hand, some land should not be drained; it should be left in its natural state. But people who live on and grow crops on land that stays too wet too long will find ways to solve their problems.

This "too much water" problem is just as real in Louisiana and other coastal bordered States as the “not enough water" problem in the Western States. The idea of just building and plowing on land that drained naturally worked in another century but not in the 1970's. As long as people are forced to the land by a soaring population, then solutions must be found to keep the carpet dry and the pipeline flowing from the land to the supermarket and to the local bank.

Let me tell you about the people in some watershed projects with channels. After all, it is people who suffer or are made happy when water is managed right or wrong. The Bayou Conway-Panama Canal watershed project is in Ascension Parish, La., down in sugarcane-crayfish country not far from New Orleans. The land is flat, typical of most south Louisiana parishes. The watershed has 45,000 acres in it. Over 15,000 people live in the areas. There are two. small towns. Many people work in Baton Rouge or in New Orleans. Quite a bit of the land is farmed and used for pasture and for wildlife.

Panama Canal is about 25 miles long. It was originally dug in the 1920's with shovels and mule-drawn slips. The canal helped drain off some of the excess water. But later it clogged up with silt eroded from nearby fields and other bare areas. Grass and weeds grew on the silt bars. Longs and trash lodged on the bars. When big rains came the channel overflowed onto crop and pasture land. Crops died and calves drowned. Roads got under water and homes flooded. Have you ever been in a situation like that? Water is beautiful most of the time, but it is ugly when it is a killer and when it keeps you from home. The watershed project was applied for in the early 1960's and completed in 1968.

Do you know what the people say about that watershed? Well, I will tell you. One fellow said he lived on the channel for 25 years. It went dry just about every summer, he said. But in 1969 and 1970 his boys caught fish in the channel for the first time. All the people down the stream catch fish now. You might say they made a fishing stream.

Before the project the channel was shallow and the water dirty and hot. Now it is deeper and cleaner. One man said he keeps a boat in the channel all the time for fishing and pleasure. Other people use the stream for pleasure boating too. They think it is fine. Farmers along the channel say water drains off and they do not worry about flooded crops and bogged equipment. Not far from this project is another called Bayou Teche. It is in flat land, too. New Iberia and other towns are in this project area. Some work is still going on but most is finished.

One good example of how people benefit from channel work is told by a landowner in the lower portions of the project. His land is marshy and is good habitat for waterfowl and fur animals if water is managed right. Fish and crayfish also do well there. One of the channels goes through his property on its way to a larger outlet channel. The dirt dug from the channel is piled up on the sides so water will not drain from the adjacent land. He used the 3 to 4 feet of soil for a levee and, made an excellent wildlife areą. Water is now held and managed for ducks, muskrats, and crayfish. He employs over 20 people during crayfish trapping and several people trap for fur in the area to supplement their income.

Two other landowners have made wildlife areas by using the soil on the sides of the channels. Mind you that these channels do not drain the low marshland; only the land above. Many of the local sportsmen say that before the channels were cleaned out and enlarged, they could not drive their boats down them. Now they have a waterway that they use to go into the water areas near the gulf to fish and hunt. People in New Iberia and in nearby rice and cane farming areas have good drainage and less fear of flooding. There are no clogged-up channels to overflow now.

You see, these waterways are really not streams at all. They usually dry up in the hot time of the year and are ugly when filled with debris. If you have visions of a babbling brook-type stream rippling through the wooded countryside, you have been overwhelmingly misled.

Let me tell about one more watershed story in Louisiana that people rave about. They will tell you at the drop of a hat that the environment is better because the seventh ward project is complete. There is about 32,000 acres in this project. The land used to flood and stay wet. High water kept people out of ricefields and from schools and homes-same old story. The channels were too small and clogged up.

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