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[June 16, 1971]
[Pp. H 5321-5323]
STATE FISH AND GAME COMMISSION AND CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSE CHANNELIZATION
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. REUSS) is recognized for 20 minutes.
Mr. REUSS. Mr. Speaker, the tremendous damage inflicted on our Nation's streams by "channelization" under the Department of Agriculture's small watershed program is causing great concern to many Americans. Conservation and environmental groups. State fish and game commissions, and Federal agencies dealing with the protection of fish and wildlife and environmental pollution have been increasingly protesting that the channelization of streams is grievously harming our Nation.
The House Conservation and Natural Resources Subcommittee, of which I am chairman, has been holding hearings on this subject. Last Saturday, as part of our investigation of stream "channelization," several members of our subcommittee toured a "channelization" project, Gilbert Run, in Maryland, to help us understand exactly what "channelization" does to a natural stream. We first viewed photographs taken last year of the stream and its environs before the project work began. We also talked with officials of the Agriculture Department and biologists of the State of Maryland about how the stream used to be. We learned that the stream had been a fast-moving and meandering stream abutted by thickly wooded swamp area—a valuable wetland area which had been perfect habitat for many species of fish and wildlife.
What we saw on Saturday morning at Gidbert Run was a large barren ditch with no more than a foot of water in it. This ditch ran for miles, devoid of almost all vegetation including the trees which formerly lined its banks. The wetland areas we had seen in photographs were dry as a bone. We learned that the stream had been channelized; it was now deeper, wider, straighter, and the water was much shallower.
At our hearings on stream channelization held these last 2 months, many witnesses testified that stream channelization at times may serve or increase available water storage, provide flood protection to bottomland abuting the channel. which is then developed for residences and crops, and increase land values.
However, these witnesses criticized these works as causing a severe decrease in fish and wildlife habitat, impairment of water quality, increase in streambank
erosion and stream sedimentation, greater downstream flooding, and destruction of esthetic values. They charged that getting rid of excess water by channeling it out of a watershed is contrary to the original congressional objective of "holding the raindrops where they fall" within the watershed boundaries.
Even persons primarily interested in agriculture often question whether the stream channelization and drainage programs, which have the effect of increasing agriculture acreage, are consistent with the national policy of discouraging the use of additional lands for production of crops, especially those which are surplus or price supported.
The President's Council on Recreation and Natural Beauty, in its 1968 report entitled "From Sea to Shining Sea" recommended:
Federal flood control and other water resource development programs and projects seek to retain or restore natural channels, vegetation, and fish and wildlife habitats on rivers, streams, and creeks and apply the same policy to federally assisted public and private projects affecting rivers, streams, and creeks.
The evidence and testimony at our subcommittee hearings showed that this recommendation is largely being disregarded by the Department of Agriculture in the conduct of its stream channelization.
We have received letters from many State and international agencies all across the country expressing their views on the "stream channelization" done, or planned to be done, in their State under the Agriculture Department's small watershed program. Members of Congress, and the public, will be interested in their views, and I, therefore, insert at this point in the RECORD representative excerpts from the letters we have received from those agencies, as follows:
EXCERPTS FROM LETTERS
A. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GAME, FISH, AND CONSERVATION COMMISSIONERS
The International Association of Game, Fish, and Conservation Commissioners feels that no individual or group has a right to unnecessarily alter the water courses or to reduce the quality and quantity of water to the extent that it affects its reasonable use by other people. * * *
Channelization, as we have seen it, appears to be contrary to the philosophy and concept established by the Congress with passage of the Water Bank Act.
Numerous small watershed projects to reduce flooding have been constructed under PL 566 on which the Federal funds expended for structural measures are in excess of the amount required to purchase the entire flood plain in fee simple. In some other PL 566 projects, the interest on Federal funds expended for structural measures, if invested at the current annual interest rate, would be
in excess of the total annual flood damage claimed....
The International Association of Game, Fish, and Conservation Commissioners is aware of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Policy Memorandum No. 108. If followed, this document can be helpful but still falls far short of positive action necessary to protect our streams and stream bank habitat. If past experiences are any indicators, Policy Memorandum No. 108 will be subject to broad interpretation by the different State Soil Conservation Service authorities and can be changed without congressional action. For example, Section 8 of the Watershed Memorandum 108 states in part "Even though they may increase cost the last destructive construction techniques are to be used." If the extra cost for providing least destructive construction techniques to protect fish and wildlife result in an unfavorable cost-ratio, will not the more destructive construction techniques be utilized in order for the Soil Conservation Service to justify the project?
1. Arkansas Game Fish Commission The effects of stream channelization on fisheries resources has been widely documented through scientific research and is readily demonstrable in channeled streams throughout Eastern Arkansas. Generally, we can expect losses of up to 90% of the game fish population in a stream following channelization. Losses to wildlife brought about by drainage projects stem largely from accelerated land clearing for conversion to intensive agricultural uses and timberland site transition which results from decreased ground moisture and reductions in water table levels. The justification of such an environmentally unsound program is highly questionable where agricultural lands are concerned in view of the mounting surplus of croplands in the United States.
2. Idaho Fish and Game Department The impact of federally constructed or financially aided stream alteration on fish and wildlife habitat has long been of concern to the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Studies conducted by our Department have shown that, on the average, six times greater game fish production is obtained from undisturbed stream sections than from stream areas that have been altered through man's activities.
3. (a) Iowa Conservation Commission
We have opposed channelization of any stream or river because of destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, loss of timber, destruction of aesthetic values, and increased downstream flows.
(b) Iowa Department of Soil Conservation
In the State of Iowa the only problems that might arise with channelization would be the destruction of some gamebird habitat due to flooding of brushy areas in gullies and watercourses. There have been no problems in obtaining wildlife mitigation measures to replace these areas lost to flooding. In most cases the local people have given free easements for wildlife mitigation measures and the State Conservation Commission is paying the local cost-sharing of construction of the wildlife and enhancement measures. We have experienced no
problem in Iowa with destruction of fisheries or waterfowl or deer habitat.
The Department of Soil Conservation would like to state that the Soil Conservation Service is doing an excellent job in Iowa in all areas and the only problem involved is lack of sufficient funds to furnish the type of assistance which the local people expect and require for their soil and water conservation programs.
4. Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game
In the past two decades the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission has, through licenses or memoranda of understanding, obtained operational control to certain lands for public hunting benefits on 16 of the 19 major reservoir projects constructed in this state. Development and operations of these recreational lands have been accomplished with state and Pittman-Robertson funds. At the same time, the construction agencies (Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation) have done little to mitigate significant losses to wildlife habitat resulting from project construction. Yet these same agencies tend to discount these losses by pointing with pride to the creation of other recreational benefits. Despite the existence of these benefits it must be remembered that most are the indirect result of construction and would have occurred in any event. These benefits do not in any way mitigate the irretrievable losses of stream fishery and wildlife habitat resulting from the flooding of a stream valley.*
This organization subscribes to the contention that channelization does result in adverse effects on the environment. These include the destruction of stream fishery and wildlife habitat, impaired aesthetic values and a period of increased erosion and siltation following the construction of channel "improvements".
Although the SCS maintains that watershed lakes, with or without stream channelization, regulate and improve downstream flows, such flows may actually be decreased during normal or drought periods as a result of project construction."
Occasionally watershed and other federal water projects provide for the cropping of lands not farmed previously. As a project objective I see this as an unjustified purpose while this nation is still faced with farm commodity surpluses and has other federally financed programs that provide for reduction in croppable acreages.
5. Michigan Department of Natural Resources It is our position that some fault and some past criticisms are due to inadequate efforts of state agencies in being a full-fledged partner. We believe opportunities are available under existing statutes and policy memorandums of Federal agencies to protect our water resources, providing we are given a chance to review them. The directive for filing "Environmental Statements" for each project receiving Federal assistance is a giant step in the right direction to bring the facts before the public and Congress as to adverse effects previously known only to a few conservationists.
6. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission We feel that the works of the Corps of Engineers and the Soil Conservation Service
have had a detrimental effect on the fish and wildlife of Mississippi. Our Commission has adopted a resolution opposing channelization of our streams because of the problems we have encountered.* * *
The clearing of this land for agricultural use has increased the amount of pesticides used to where in some areas we have lost all of our large mouth bass and crappie because of these chemicals. In some lakes the levels of DDT exceed the allowable limits set by F.D.A. regulations.
In one SCS project (Tippah River) fish population studies were done before the stream was channelized. It was found that this stream was carrying 242 pounds of fish per acre of all sizes and species of fish. Approximately two years after it was channelized we found it had only 4.8 pounds of fish per acre of which four pounds were minnows.
At the mouth of this same stream approximately 1500 acres of timber have been killed by silt from this project.
One excellent natural waterfowl area was also drained by the channel.
In other areas silt from the project has killed as much as 1000 acres of timber.
More detail should be given to water retardation rather than moving it off as fast as possible.
The maintenance and operation of mitigation measures should be as rigid as the maintenance and operation of the structures. Now it is left up to the local landowner to do as he pleases. A greentree reservoir built for mitigation in one project is cleared and growing excellent soybeans. * * * Little consideration, if any, is given to the loss of wildlife, fish, and aesthetic values when benefit ratios are computed.
7. Montana Department of Fish and Game We believe dredging, modifying and channeling of rivers and streams conducted by or financially aided by federal agencies is out of keeping with the times. As a matter of fact, the State of Montana enacted legislation as early as 1963 to prevent dredging and channelization of rivers.
It is our contention that channelization and dredging projects can solve local problems on a short-lived basis; however, we believe the long-term detrimental impact far exceeds the short-term benefits. Many of our water courses are valuable trout fishing streams and rivers. We believe they are worthy of protection from the bulldozer and dragline because of the recreation they provide.
8. New Jersey Department of Agriculture
We feel that project results have been highly favorable. In only one case has a fishery resource been affected and local fishermen report better fishing than before. Channel modification apparently permit sportsmen to better utilize this put and take trout stream.
9. North Dakota Game and Fish Department
In North Dakota, the biggest offender with drainage and channelization is the Soil Conservation Service, through its Small Watershed Program (P.L. 566) and technical assistance in legal drains. North Dakota is famous for its millions of small wetlands that are so important to waterfowl production as well as resident wildlife species. Through the P.L. 566 projects, many of these natural
wetlands have been drained and many thousands more are in danger of being drained. Although the P.L. 566 Act provides that these projects are to be constructed primarily for flood control, many projects are designed for removing water from naturally-occurring swamps or wetlands to enhance the lands for agricultural production, with little or no consideration being given to the wildlife losses that are incurred.
Channelization in itself is destructive of wildlife habitat, but it creates a potential for destruction that is far more critical. Channels provide ready-made outlets for. individual landowner drainage using private capital. Without the channel the landowner would have no place on which to drain his water except onto his neighbor below him. In most cases this acted as a deterrent, but a ready-made channel to take away his water leaves the private landowner with no compunction about draining his sloughs and marshes.
10. Oregon Game Commission
The Soil Conservation Service does afford the states an opportunity to comment on its own construction, but when involved in an agricultural assistance project to be built by others, it rarely offers the State a chance for review or comment. This phase of the federal program should be strentghened, since most of the stream channel changes or modifications are done under it. In any federally financed or assisted project that will have an effect on fish or wildlife ppoulations or their habitat, the fish and game management agency should have the opportunity to evaluate the program and recommend changes where needed.
11. (a) South Dakota Department of
The over-all program has been satisfactory but we feel that an emphasis should be given to completion of the programs. The criteria for evaluated benefits on the cost ratio should be changed to get more projects started, and completed. •
The only changes in the stream improvement projects would be more funding and following through on the programs beyond the preliminary study stages.
(b) South Dakota Department of Game
Our Department shares the same concern as that expressed by other Conservation agencies and organizations; stream channelization is detrimental to fish and wildlife and to the ecology of bottom lands.
with We disagree the stated benefits derived from stream channelization projects, as follows:
(a) Flood control-benefits may be derived from flood control within project areas, however, the accelerated flow of waters increases flooding downstream from these projects. This, then perpetuates the need for more dams and/or more channelization. In addition, the drainage of wetlands into these channels only adds more water to create greater downstream problems. If work had been done to retard run-off on the headwaters, the large dams and channelization would be unnecessary.
(b) Improved navigation-increased sedimentation loads will certainly add to naviga
tion problems. Dredging will become another costly operation.
(c) Reduction in erosion-this is doubtful. Silt is settling in stilling areas to create long-term problems, Silt comes from the uplands and erosion of stream and lakeshores. Increased water velocity will increase erosion of stream banks, unless these channels are to be concrete-lined.
(d) Increase in water supply for nearby communities-it is difficult to grasp the meaning of this statement of benefit. The same flow should occur in the streams, only for a shorter period of time. The faster runoff time can only result in lowered groundwater tables, therefore, less available water. (e) Increased recreational opportunitieshow was this determined? With less stream bottom wildlife habitat, fewer trees and fewer numbers and species of fish, the reverse will be true. Recreational opportunities for photographers and observers of nature, fishermen, hunters, mushroom-pickers, etc. can only be diminished.
(f) More cropland acreage-probably true, but again the destruction of stream-bottom habitat and its ecology can only mean less fish and wildlife, including both game and non-game species.
(g) Enhanced aesthetic values-ridiculous. (h) Increased income to local residentsperhaps from the croplands, but not from other sources.
(1) Improved fish and wildlife habitatthis is impossible. With the statement of (f) above, coupled with the destruction of stream bottom woodlands and river meanders and pools, the reverse is true.
12. (a) Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Stream improvement projects which have been federally financed or those planned for construction under such programs remain a great concern of ours. The rate of alteration of our natural streams, for reservoir construction, stream channelization and navigation canalization projects result in the piecemeal destruction of fish and wildlife habitat and scenic waterways. Consequently, we feel it is mandatory that alternatives to channelization and reservoir construction be considered by all agencies concerned.
We suggest, for example, that channelizing a stream to facilitate flood runoff, might be less economical than purchasing the floodplain or at least the easements to permit flooding thereon. Such an approach would eliminate the need for channelization, would prevent encroachment upon the floodplain, would help preserve the natural state of streams, and would undoubtedly reduce losses of prime wildlife and fish habitat. The wood duck and grey squirrel, for example, are almost totally dependent on a bottomland environment and the hardwoods usually found adjacent to a stream.
(b) Teras Department of Agriculture
We in agriculture recognize the necessity for high-quality water to achieve the everincreasing yields that we expect year after year. We also have a deep feeling for the land and for the wildlife habitats that exist. Watershed projects have associated with them a cost and agricultural production has its associated price that we must pay. It is my opinion that technical advances must not
be stopped because of the unwanted side effects associated with these advances. Technology has given us the degree of affluence that we enjoy today and I feel that the task that lies before us is to eliminate the unwanted side eeffcts rather than eliminating technology.
Inasmuch as you request information on specific stream improvement projects, I' should say that this Department does not have any objection to any projects that are under construction at this time. There are some projects proposed for the future whose merit we would question in light of possible detrimental environmental and other side effects.
Washington Department of Natural
I am not completely satisfied with the procedures followed by the Corps during the initial project planning. For example, forest land reporting appears to be assigned to the Forest Service as a primary responsibility. Since many of the dams affect lands administered by the Forest Service, they naturally devote a good part of their available manpower to study the impacts flood control projects will have on lands under their jurisdiction. The Department of Natural Resources has the responsibility for fire protection and the administration of the Forest Practices Act initiated to maintain forest land productivity. Both functions apply to all State and private forest lands in the State. The State owns some two million acres of forest lands as well as a million acres of other upland property that is primarily devoted to agricultural uses. In addition, the Department manages some 2,000,000 acres of Stateowned tidelands, shorelands and beds of navigable waters. I feel that the Department should have a major responsibility for interpreting the impacts of project proposals on State and private forest lands and, of course, for any impacts they have on any other Stateowned lands. At the present time the primary responsibility for providing this information on State and private properties seems to lack specific designation. Currently, direct input by the Department and private owners is through comments they submit in correspondence and at public hearings rather than contributing effectively to original data compilation. This procedure does not allow equal participation by State Agencies with resource management responsibilities since the State Game and Fisheries Department submit basic information in their respective operating areas. It is essential that agencies representing all major resources have an equal opportunity to contribute to the data used for initial project evaluation. ・ ・ ・
Since elk are the most important animals involved in this project, the Corps has selected prime bottom lands along the river for mitigation purposes. It is difficult to understand the justification for such action when one considers that all of the timber growing capacity on the area being flooded has been Iost and, in addition to this, five hundred acres more of prime timber producing land is completely eliminated as a commercial timber producing resource. No action is proposed to replace this loss in timber production. 14. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Our Department is becoming increasingly concerned with the P.L. 566 program as it
moves from the severely dissected landscape of western Wisconsin to the flat-to-gently rolling lands of eastern and southeastern Wisconsin. Here stream channelization is the primary project measure applied for "agricultural water management" and flood control. In eastern and southeastern Wisconsin our concern is not only with damage to the fishery resource but more importantly with destruction of valuable wetland habitat. Some of the proposed projects and channelization efforts are: West Fork Fond du Lac Watershed-25 miles of channelization; Maunesha Watershed-14 miles of channelization; Neenah Slough Watershed-11 miles of channelization; Bear Creek Watershed-22 miles of channelization; and Brillion-Spring Creek Watershed-14 miles of channelization. Some of the projects in this part of Wisconsin even propose channelization in areas acquired by our Department for preservation of wetlands.
While wetlands are important segments of wildlife habitat throughout Wisconsin they are especially important in the eastern and southeastern sections of the state. As studies are completed we find that wetlands are a more important component of the landscape than we had originally realized. They truly are an integral part of the ecology of the total watershed. Wetlands support a variety of desirable and often times unique plant life. They trap and store nutrients from runoff, thus helping to reduce lake eutrophication. They assist in stabilization of lake levels and stream flows, and they reduce stream sedimentation. They also contribute to atmospheric oxygen and water supplies. Once considered as "waste lands" these wetlands are now looked upon by regional planning commissions as vital open space areas which importantly contribute to diversity of the landscape and provide people with new recreational and educational opportunities.
Over 50 percent of the original wetland areas in 14 southeastern Wisconsin counties have already been lost as a result of indiscriminate ditching and draining (in many cases with federal financial assistance). While various proposals to protect existing wetlands and still permit channelization for the benefit of agricultural water management (drainage) and flood control have been discussed with the Soil Conservation Service, there is no assurance that our efforts will be successful. We are not only concerned with the loss of wetlands immediately adjacent to the stream, but also with the loss of wetlands some distance from the proposed channel improvement projects. Inadequate outlets previously prevented the drainage of some of these outlying wetlands and not all landowners were willing to invest in collection structures and pumping systems. With proposed P.L. 566 channelization in the vicinity, drainage of these wetlands would now be economically feasible...
The original concept of the Small Watershed Program-planning for the management of soils, waters and vegetation on a comprehensive basis was and still is generally supported in principle by most resource managers. But we question the administrative freedom that permits the continued planning of wetlands destruction. We
Our subcommittee recently concluded 7 days' of hearings called to evaluate the effects of stream dredging and modification programs-the small watersheds "stream channelization” projects authorized by Public Law 566 on the quality of our environment.
We set out to learn the answer to a question of prime importance: Are those Federal agencies which conduct, authorize, or provide financial assistance for stream channelization projectsprincipally, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Tennessee Valley Authority-complying with congressional mandates: First, to consider carefully possible adverse effects on fish and wildlife, in order to avoid or minimize them; and second, to protect and enhance our Nation's recreational opportunities and the quality of our waterways.
We heard testimony from proponents of stream channelization that these projects may
Increase available water storage;
Provide flood protection to bottom land-which is then developed for residences and crops;
Decrease mosquito populations; and
Critics of channelization testified that although these projects are designed primarily to facilitate navigation and flood control, they also
Adversely affect fish and wildlife hab