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Channels were improved and several structures were installed in some of them to keep salt water from drifting up into the farming area. Also, fresh water is caught behind the structures and used for irrigation and for fishing. Before the project, the water was low most of the time, and in case you do not know it, salt water kills plants. People are also able to boat and fish in channels where they could not before.
These are three typical examples of how people are better off and happier because of channel-improvement watersheds. Did these projects destroy the people's environment? Ask them. They like to tell it like it is. Many do not know what the word "environment" means, but they know how it feels to have better conditions for living and working and playing.
There's one phase of the watershed program that hasn't been talked about much-and that's land treatment. Conservation is a better way to say it. Let me tell you for sure, you can't plant grass and trees and manage crop residue and rotate crops when the land is wet and boggy or under 2 feet of water. First, the land in the watershed has to be drained and protected from floods. Then a land user can treat the land. Also, much of the watershed funds are used for land treatment. That's what we call accelerated treatment. Sometimes the land users are not financially able to carry out all the needed conservation pratices fast enough. These funds help put conservation on the land faster. Why fast treatment? Simple: The water that runs from a watershed winds up somewhere. If the land is not protected, the runoff water carries more soil. Sometime it's called silt and mud. When this soil gets in water, chemicals attach themselves to the particles and ride piggyback. This adds more pollutants to the already soilpolluted water. Another way to look at this land treatment picture is that protected land has less runoff. The water soaks in better. This means more of the chemicals stay on the land and out of water areas. Land treatment is a vital part of the watershed program. When water is properly managed on the land and in the waterways, that's watershed protection and flood prevention at its best.
Before I close, I want to say a few words about the effects that channels have on land clearing. Figures recently compiled show that in 19 south Louisiana and delta projects, 188,200 acres are expected to be cleared over a period of years. Out of this, only 22,000 will be induced by the projects. Part of this cleared will be due to open permanent reservoirs.
I would like to digress just a moment from my prepared statement to relate a few facts that I think are of interest, and I pointed this out to a friend of mine who hunts and fishes with me. He was complaining of channelization in our area, and I pointed out to him that we have actually 500,000 less acres in cropland today in Louisiana than we did 40 years ago. And from where I live in Monroe, to Shreveport, it is continuous woods and streams and hunting area now, where it used to be cotton on 15,000 to 20,000 acres of that land. Sometimes people overlook the change that has taken place.
I think a good point brought out by Dean Efferson, who is dean at LSU College of Agriculture-and I would like to point that out just for 1 moment, if I can find it here-Dean Efferson explained the reason for land clearing, on numerous occasions it is, as he says, a simple matter of economics. Landowners can make more money on soybeans than they can growing hardwood timber. Whenever they
can make more money with wildlife and fish, that is what they will raise. Simply economics.
Gentlemen, plain facts are that people must drain land where they live and work. I have lived in Louisiana all my life and know that to live on and from the land, it must be drained and protected from floodwater. Channels do just that.
Mr. REUSS. Thank you very much, Mr. Huenefeld.
Our last witness will be Mr. S. L. Frost, deputy director for water, Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Welcome, Mr. Frost.
STATEMENT OF S. L. FROST, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Mr. FROST. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee and panel, first I would like to apologize for being late, and also that Director Nye is not here, as he wanted to be. We are spread a little thin these days. We have our Ohio Legislature in session and trying to get a lot of environmental legislation passed, including a new $8 million program he is attending hearings on today in Columbus. We are also involved in a meeting here on the Great Lakes pollution, with the State Department and Canadians.
Mr. REUSS. Mr. Vander Jagt and I certainly don't want to dissuade you from that, and we are very grateful to you for being here-and also to every one of you gentlemen at the table. You are among the most overworked people in the country, even though you are engaged in a very agreeable activity, and we do appreciate both the work you are doing and the fact that you are with us today.
Mr. FROST. Well, I would like to also say I do not have a prepared summary statement. We submitted a report earlier, and if the committee would like, I would be glad to furnish the copies of it.
Mr. REUSS. Thank you. We have that and it will be included in the hearing record; but would you just orally summarize your position? Mr. FROST. That's what I would like to do-to talk about some of our problems and our concerns, and to thank you and this committee for these hearings; because this is one of the problems we have explored in Ohio which we hoped would reach a congressional level of discussion through this committee. So that we are happy that this is underway.
In Ohio, as the Department of Natural Resources we have to be concerned with channel modification programs from many standpoints since the department has a broad spectrum of interests, including wildlife, conservation, water management, the soil and water conservation which are members of the department, and the 88 subdistricts which are involved in that program. So the Director of Natural Resources is on the hot seat and in the middle and very much concerned.
At present we do have a temporary hold on all Public Law 566 channel projects not yet in construction, and this is in agreement with the Soil Conservation Service.
We have been exploring this problem. We have held a public hearing on the problems in northwest Ohio where this channel improvement work is particularly prevalent, and I would like to share with the committee some of the information that was provided at that hearing
and some of our interim conclusions which we hope will be formalized in 2 weeks.
In setting this in focus in Ohio, I think we have to realize first that Ohio is a State of vast complexities. It is a State with great industry, with great urban areas, and also with unique and intense farming areas. We have some of the greatest concentrations of land drainage in the United States in the northwestern part of the State-some very intense agriculture.
We also have some unique scenic areas, forest areas and all, in the State.
The problem that Ohio faces is one of land itself, and less land, so to speak, on which more and more people want to do more things. An average of about 100 square miles of cropland in Ohio each year is being transferred over into other uses; with the growth of cities, with highways, with other kinds of land needs, the amount of land on which we can do farming and on which we have natural areas is diminishing very rapidly. So the conflict narrows on essentially this problem of land itself and the interest and desires of people to have more and more things done on it.
The hearing that we held on this problem in northwest Ohio produced a transcript ultimately about 7 inches thick, I think. We had some 183 statements presented. As we would mark these up clearly as to the points of interest and expression of those 183 statements, there were 64 that were opposed in every way to channelization, there were 89 that were for channelization, and there were 30 that had charted a course somewhere in between. And in all that testimony we had to wade in to try to find out some answers and suggestions. I think it was very interesting as a part of this hearing to find the kinds of interests involved, the kinds of channel modification programs involved, and to have some sort of an idea that this was not entirely a program associated with Public Law 566 or any particular agency. The status of our channelization work in Ohio as it relates to Public Law 566 shows that we have 81 applications in Ohio in some stage of planning or development. Of this number, channel modifications accomplished to date in the State are 69 miles; channel modification presently under construction, sixteen and a half miles, channel modification in approved work plans, 342 miles, on which we have a holding on anything being done on these.
During the course of this program in Ohio this type of channelization has averaged between 4 and 5 miles of channel improvement a year in the State. Yet these are becoming very precious and very concerned and very debatable miles as years go on, because we now have this deep concern about the values of environment, of wildlife, of what happens on these stream channels.
We also found as a part of our study in Ohio, in these hearings, that there was a great deal of channelization work also being done through the counties and farm improvement, something on the average of 250 miles a year, compared to the 5 or 6 miles under Public Law 566. So it becomes very obvious that Ohio itself has a more localized problem here to be concerned with as to its own local channel improvement work.
On the other hand, it seems to me equally that it has a bearing on the considerations of this committee because it fits into the larger pattern of problems that this presents..
As part of the consideration of channel modification we established an advisory committee ourselves made up of agricultural engineers, of agriculturalists, of wildlife people and ecologists from one of our universities. We tried to have them together with us in a position in which they were not immediately involved in projects and did not have an immediate concern to vote yes or no on one side of the issue or the other, but to try to present some objectivity to it.
So one of the questions was, if we don't improve channels what are the alternatives, what kind of alternatives would be available to us in the State of Ohio.
Mr. REUSS. Mr. Frost, when was this study?
Mr. FROST. This was just last December. And it has been continuing between the hearing held in December 1970 and the present time. So the report that I am giving to you now is a draft of the final report for the Ohio Water Commission. So it is very current.
Mr. REUSS. And it is likely to be formally adopted in a couple of weeks you say?
Mr. FROST. That's right. The commission meets formally on June
Mr. REUSS. I asked you the timing of this to bring out the fact that, from what you say, it seems to be a truly bipartisan measure. It started under a Republican Governor and it has continued under a Democratic Governor, so there are no party
Mr. FROST. No, we hope there are not. And we have tried also to provide and recognize all sides of the issue here as we have tried to approach this problem in the State.
Mr. REUSS. And you will send us a copy in a week or so when you make it up?
Mr. FROST. Definitely. Right.
The kinds of possible modifications or alternatives that were considered include: bypassing stream channels-we just dig channels somewhere else where they are not going to affect the environmental values. Another one was to buy the flood plain and put it in public ownership. Another was to buy the flood plain and lease it back to the owners for some low-risk uses. Another one would be to leave the flood plain as it is and then pay the owners for the damages as they occur. Then we had other things like building reservoirs, or upground reservoirs and streamflow augmentation and special types of dams in the streams, and things of this kind. We also had rechanneling and then reforesting, and limiting the vegetation removal to one side of a stream system so at least we did not totally destroy a stream.
We also had a plan to completely rehabilitate a stream channel and the banks after it was improved, and then to maintain it that way with 50-foot strip and fenced, and revegetated and restocked with game.
It became obvious that all of these kinds of alternatives could not be accomplished under the present and existing Public Law 566 program, because it has been so basically geared to the economics of flood protection and the costs and benefits that this kind of a formula and system permits. In other words, the present law is too limited to be able to consider alternatives that would protect and enhance the environmental values that might be at stake.
So some of our basic conclusions then: First, that we are going to continue to be very much concerned in the State about any further
channelization work, and the position of the department generally will be that we will not approve channel modification programs except under certain conditions and until certain additional information is available. For example, one thing we have asked and recommended, and which is now being started, is that we immediately assess every one of our channel projects that are in a planning stage to evaluate the potential environmental impacts-what is to be destroyed, what would be destroyed, what are the other values associated with each stream channel. So that we will have as a part of these reports, then, a much more complete evaluation of the environmental assets themselves rather than just strictly the benefits to be gained from flood protection. And we are recommending that this be done and made a part now of every Public Law 566 report. We believe also that the Public Law 566 program should in some way provide for a fuller measure of public discussion at the time the applications are submitted, so that the various interests in a watershed and outside of it have a chance to express themselves and be heard and to know what possibly may be considered in a work plan and what the types of problems are. This is going to be one of our requirements. We feel it should equally be a more explicit requirement in the conduct of Public Law 566.
We think that each work plan, then, should contain a transcript of this type of public hearing, and that this transcript should be made a part of the work plan which ultimately finds its way to Washington and to the congressional committees that have to consider this individual work plan-so that they will know the kind of interest here, the kind of problems, the kind of opposition that may in fact exist on a project.
In Ohio we have recommended that we are going to have to be involved much more in an extensive land-use planning program, and this possibly should be part of an ultimate Federal system and assistance with Federal financing, that we can pinpoint our efforts at land-use planning and management; because we are going to have to start making decisions on how we want acres of land to be used in Ohio, and I think nationally-we are going to have to dedicate land for agriculture, we are going to have to dedicate stream systems for natural areas, for wildlife, and we are going to have to make some hard decisions.
But it seems to me basically a much enlarged program of both national and State effort, possibly enhanced and encouraged by appropriate Federal law, would be a start on this longer range problem that we have to be concerned with.
I have mentioned the need we felt for the change or modification of Public Law 566 itself.
I think that the whole concept of cost-benefit authorizations needs. to be reassessed. There ought to be a provision in the law that permits a greater opportunity for considering alternatives or for paying for the mitigation of losses to natural areas, and so forth, that Public Law 566 presently doesn't permit because of its narrow cost-benefit financing formula. I think this is a point of Federal policy that can be amended and could be given much more consideration. I think it would give much more leeway to the Soil Conservation Service and to the local agencies and would permit us to more objectively develop programs here that could resolve some of the problems that Public Law 566 as such does not permit—an alternate course of action.