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United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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Federal Departments of War, Interior. Agi-iculture, and Commerce
and Labor, and in the States and their subdivisions; and it must not
involve undulj^ burdensome expenditures from the National Treasury.
The cost will necessarily be large in proportion to the magnitude of the
benefits to l^e confen-ed, but it will be small in comparison with the
$17,000,000,000 of capital now invested in steam railways in the United
States — an amount that would have seemed enormous and incredible
half a century ago. Yet the investment has been a constant source of
profit to the people, and without it our industrial progress would have
been impossible.

The questions which will come before the Inland Waterways Com-
mission must necessarily relate to every part of the United States and
affect every interest within its borders. Its plans should l)e considered
in the light of the widest knowledge of the country and its j^eople, and
from the most diverse points of view. Accordingly, when its work is
sufficiently advanced, 1 shall add to the Commission certain consulting

-members, with whom I shall ask that its recommendations shall be
fully discussed before they are submitted to me. The reports of the
Commission should include both a general statement of the problem
and recommendations as to the manner and means of attacking it.
Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt.



After conference and correspondence between the chair-
man and other Commissioners, a meeting for organiza-
tion was held in the United States Capitol beginning
April 29 and ending May 3. A second meeting and in-
spection trip on the Mississippi from St. Louis to the
Passes took place May 13 to May 23. A third meeting
and inspection trip, first on the Great Lakes from Cleve-
land to Duluth, next on the Mississippi from St. Paul to
Memphis, and then on the Missouri from Kansas City to
St. Louis, took place September 21 to October 13. A
fourth meeting was held m the United States Capitol be-
ginning on November 25, 1907, for the purpose of pre-
paring a preliminary report; it ended February 3, 1908.

At the first session of the meeting for organization (on
April 29), the Commission expressed concurrence in the
designation by the President of Mr. Burton as chairman;
and by viva voce votes Senator Newlands and Mr. McGee
were elected vice-chairman and secretary, respectively.

During the organization and two inspecting meetings,
30 formal sessions were held in addition to informal meet-
ings and conferences. At several of these sessions the en-
tire Commission were present; at no session were there
fewer than five Commissioners; the average attendance
was over 7. During the meeting for the preparation of
this report there were 27 sessions, with an average attend-
ance of 7.

WliOe provision was not made for formal hearings,
experts on matters entrusted to the Commission were pres-
ent by invitation at 24 sessions; of these experts there
were 24 (of whom several attended two or more sessions),
a majority being now or formerly attaches of the Corps of
Engineers, United States Army.

In addition to the formal sessions, the Commissioners
devoted much time to the consideration of the waterways
and related matters; two or three Commissioners jointly
inspected the upper Missouri, the Columbia and Snake,
the Sacramento and San Joaquin, and their leading tribu-
taries ; several employed agencies under their direction in
collating and digesting data relating to canals, water
transportation, etc. ; and most of the Commissioners at-
tended conventions and other meetings connected with
the development of waterways and related interests.

A journal was kept, including brief minutes of the ses-
sions and itineraries of inspection trips, with stenographic
reports of the statements and deliberations of the second
and third meetings; and in addition correspondence was
conducted and a number of useful manuscript and
printed statements were brought together and used in the
deliberations of the Commission.

At the eighteenth session a special committee of one
was appointed to prepare a list of statutes, etc., relating


to water power." Pursuant to action at the twenty-third
session (the President of the United States presiding) a
letter requesting a conference on the conservation of
natural resources was framed and presented to the Presi-
dent on October 4 ; and at the twenty-fifth session a com-
mittee of three was appointed to communicate further
with the President on this matter, and also to prepare, a
preliminary draft of report. The former committee pre-
pared an exhaustive digest of statutes, and the latter
held a number of sessions ; both committees reported at
the fourth meeting.


The investigations and discussions have resulted in
certain statements of fact connected with navigation and
other uses of the inland waterways set forth hereinafter
as Findings, with certain conclusions set forth as Recom-
mendations, and also certain matters still under discus-
sion which are set forth as Inquiries in progress.

The Commission is fully aware that its creation was due
to a demand of the people, and that there exists an expec-
tation in certain localities that the report here presented
will include plans extending in detail to the principal
waterways of the country. To prepare and consider
such plans would require extended study at large expense
by engineers and other experts whose services were not
available. Under the instructions from the President,
and in the absence of funds and of the men and time
required for such study, the Commission was necessarily
confined in preparing this preliminary report to the more
general features of ''a comprehensive plan designed for
the benefit of the entire country," viz, a statement of
principles and an outline of policy, coupled with recom-
mendations which, if adopted, will insure the continuation
of the work and the practical application of the principles
and policy.


Navigation. i r^Yie possibilities of inland navigation are indicated
by the fact that there are in mainland United States
some 25,000 miles of navigated rivers and at least an
equal amount which are navigable or might be made so
by improvement; there are also some 2,500 miles of nav-
igable canals, and over 2,500 miles of sounds, bays, and
bayous readily connectable by canals aggregating less
than 1,000 miles in length to form inner passages parallel-
ing the Atlantic and Gulf coasts — these being addi-
A-i:i, II. tional to some thousands of miles (reckoned between
leading ports) of regularly navigated waters in lakes and

o The statutes brought together by the special committee form part
of the Appendix, pp. 593 et seq.

* Details appear in the appended statistical and other papers. Mar-
ginal letters and figures refer to paragraphs in Recommendations
(black letters) and Inquiries in Progress (Roman numerals) respect-


land-locked bays. These waterways lie in or along the
borders of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut,
Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massa-
chusetts, Michigan, IVIinnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mon-
tana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York,
North Carolina, North Dakota, Oliio, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, St)uth Carolina, South Da-
kota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wasliington,
West Virginia, and Wisconsin, i. e., 42 States; wliile the
development of rivers for irrigation, j)ower, and other pur-
poses will also render navigable certain waterways in Ari-
zona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and
Wyoming. Although it is not probable that any con-
siderable share of this vast mileage of navigable water-
ways will be improved to a high standard of efficiency at
least at an early date, yet the assured growth of the coun-
try and the capacity of these waters not only for naviga-
tion but for other uses render imperative the necessity
for their control and utilization as an asset of almost
unlimited value. It is desirable that these waterways, of
which portions have been surveyed or improved for pur-
poses of navigation, should be further investigated with a
view to the systematic development of interstate com-
merce in coordination with all other uses of the waters
and benefits to be derived from them.

2. While the railways of mainland United States have Railway con-
been notably efficient in extending and promoting the ^^^ "^"'
production and commerce of the country, it is clear that

at seasons recurring Avith increasing frequency they are °' "■
unable to keep pace with production or to meet the re-
quirements of transportation.

3. Wliile navigation of the inland waterways declined waterway res-
with the increase in rail transportation during the later

decades of the past century, it has become clear that the
time is at hantl for restoring and developing such inland » h i
navigation and water transportation as upon expert ex-
amination may appear to confer a benefit commensurate
with the cost, to be utilized both independently and as a
necessary adjunct to rail transportation.

4. Wliile the decline of navigation in the inland water- Railway com-
ways was largely due to the natural growth and legiti- ^'"^'*^'°""
mate competition attending railway extension, it is also

clear that railway interests have been successfully directed
against the normal maintenance and development of °' ^•
water traffic by control of water-fronts and terminals, by
acquisition or control of competing canals and vessels, by
discriminating tarifl's, by rebates, by adverse placement
of tracks and structures, and by other means.

5. Any complete or practically successful plan for the Railways:
general improvement of waterways must eventually pro- '^^^''^'^y^-
vide for satisfactory adjustment of the relation of rail

lines to such waterways. Since present and prospective
railways reach all parts of the country wliile navigable


waterways are confined to certain natural lines, it is clear
c-E, I. that railways can so control transportation as to leave the
waterways insufficient trailic to support the requisite ves-
sels and terminals. The railways have accordingly, save
in certain exceptional cases, substantially absorbed the
traffic of the country, and unless the present unrestricted
and short-sighted competition between the two systems
is intelligently adjusted they will continue to do so. So
large a portion of railway traffic is free from water compe-
tition that railways can readily afford to so reduce rates
on those portions affected by such competition as to de-
stroy the profits of the water lines without appreciably
affecting the profits of the rail systems which recoup these
reductions by higher rates elsewhere. This has been the
case with most of the great inland waterways, excepting
the Great Lakes where the conditions of water and traffic
approach those of open seas. In spite of the great in-
crease of traffic and the continued improvement of water-
ways, the total river traffic of the country has steadily
decreased both proportionately and absolutely, with the
result that few rivers are used to anything approaching
their full capacity. It will not relieve traffic congestion
to improve our waterways unless the improved water-
ways are used; hence it is ob^aous that relief from the
existing congestion by waterway improvement can be
made permanently effective only through such coordina-
tion of rail and water facilities as will insure harmonious
cooperation rather than injurious opposition.

commcrciiii Q, Existing data as to the nature and amount of the in-
ternal commerce of the country are extremely meager and
incomplete. Such information is essential to the intelli-
gent treatment of the inland waterways, and it is desir-
able that means be employed to obtain it.

Purification. 7 Improvements of navigation in inland waterways in
the main aftect favorably the purity of the waters and the
regularity of the supply, and these objects should be care-
fully kept in mind. The increasing pollution of streams
A, H-i. by soil wash and other waste substances connected with a
growing population reduces the value of the water for
manufacturing purposes, and renders the water supply
for communities injurious to and often destructive of
human life. The prevention of these evils shoidd be con-
sidered in any scheme of inland waterway improvement,
tion^^'™'"*'^' ^- Engineering works designed to improve navigation
affect favorably the regimen of the streams, including
floods and low waters. The annual floods of the United
States occasion loss of property reaching many millions
of dollars with considerable loss of life, while the low
water of late summer involves large loss in diminished
water supply, in reduced power, and in the fouling of
streams with consequent disease and death. It has been
claimed that in specific cases the cost of works required
both to control floods and meet the needs of commerce
would be less than the amount of this loss. It is desir-
able that more detailed information be collected concern-

A, F-I.



A, F- I.



ing the effects of floods and low waters and their preven-
tion by engineering works and other devices.

9. The annual soil wash in mainland United States is Erosion,
estimated at about 1,000,000,000 tons, of which the
greater part is the most valuable portion of the soil ; it is
carried into the rivers where it pollutes the waters,
necessitates frequent and costly dredging, and reduces
the efficiency of works designed to facilitate navigation
and afford protection from floods. The direct and in-
direct losses fi'om this source have not been measured,
but are exceedingly large; and it is desirable that de-
finite determinations be made with the view of devising
means for reducing the loss to the land and preventing
the impairment of the streams for purposes of commerce.

10. Both the regimen of streams and the purity and
clarity of waters are affected by forests and other natural
growth, and by farming, mining, and other industrial
operations over the watersheds m which they gather.
Millions of acres in mainland United States have been
deforested unnecessarily, and the floods and low waters
ascribed to this cause have in some localities occasioned
losses commensurate with the value of the timber.
Means should be devised and applied for coordinating
forestry, farming, mining, and related industries with the
uses of streams for commerce and for other purposes.

11. The effect of wide variations in the level of navi-
gable streams is to render difficult the establishment of
necessary terminals for the handling of traffic, and thus

to interfere seriously with the utilization of our inland ^ ^ ^
waterways. The prevention or mitigation of such vari-
ations would be most helpful to the revival of river traffic,
and means to this end should be adopted in plans for
waterway improvement.

12. The storage of flood waters combined ^\dth the irrigation.
diversion of streams to arid and semiarid lands for pur-
poses of reclamation by irrigation creates canals and also

tends to clarify the waters and increase the seepage or
return waters during times of drought. There have al-
ready been put under irrigation over 10,000,000 acres of
fertile land, adding a quarter of a million homes and sev-
eral hundred million dollars of taxable wealth; and it is
estimated that by fully conserving the waters and by ' ' "

utilizing the water power developed in connection mth
storage and other works, fully three times as much land
can be reclaimed in the western half of the United States.
It is desirable to continue the collection of data with a
view to so adjusting irrigation and power development
w4th navigation and other uses of the streams as to
secure the highest value of the water to the greatest
number of people.

13. Locks and certain other works designed to improve Power.
navigation commonly produce head and store water in
such mamier as to develop power available for industrial
purposes, while works designed to develop power on navi-
gable and source streams affect the navigation and other



A. F-i. uses of river systems; and these uses must necessarily be
considered together. Information concerning water
power in the several States and sections is incomplete, yet
it is kno^\^l to be a vast and intrinsicalh^ permanent asset
which should be utilized for the benefit of the people of
the country, in whose interests it should be administered
with careful regard for present and prospective conditions.
The facts ascertained m certain specific cases furnish a
basis for the claim that the value of the power would pay
the cost of all engineering and other works required in such
cases to control the streams for navigation and other uses.
In the light of recent progress in electrical application, it
is clear that over wdde areas the appropriation of water
power offers an unequaled opportunity for monopolistic
control of industries. Wherever water is now or will
hereafter become the cliief source of power, the monopo-
lization of electricity produced from running streams
involves monopoly of power for the transportation of
freight and passengers, for manufacturing, and for sup-
plying light, heat, and other domestic, agricultural, and
municipal necessities, to such an extent that unless regu-
lated it will entail monopolistic control of the daily life
of our people in an unprecedented degree. There is here
presented an urgent need for prompt and vigorous action
by State and Federal governments.

Reclamation. 14. Any Comprehensive system of improvement of
inland waterways will necessarily affect the drainage or
reclamation of swamp and overflow lands, which are
mainly rich alluvial tracts largely along or near water-
ways. The construction of dikes and levees or bank-
protective works and the deepening of channels are often
closely connected with means of control both of overflow
and of underflow by drainage. It is estimated that there
are 77,000,000 acres of such land, now unproductive,
but which with drainage and protection from overflow
will have an exceptionally high agricultural value; if
divided into 40-acre farms these lands will furnish homes
for some 10,000,000 people.

Coordination. ^5 The coutrol of watcrways on which successful
navigation depends is so intimately connected with the
prevention of floods and low waters, and works designed
ror these purposes; with the protection and reclamation of
overflow lands, and works designed therefor; with the
safeguarding of banks and maintenance of channels, and
works employed therein; with the purification and clari-
fication or water supply, and works designed therefor in
conjunction with interstate commerce; with control and
utilization of power developed in connection with works

A. F-i: II. for the improvement of navigation; with the standard-
izing of methods and facilities and the coordinating of
waterway and railway instrumentalities; and through-
out the larger area of the country with reclamation by
irrigation and drainage, and works designed primarily
for these purposes — that local and special questions con-
cerning the control of waterways should be treated as a



H, I: III.

Relief of con-

H, I: I.

general question of national extent, while local or special
projects should be considered as parts of a comprehen-
sive policy of waterway control in the interests of all the

16. Governmental agencies whose work is related to the
use and control of streams are now in existence in the Fed-
eral Departments of War, Interior, Agriculture, and Com-
merce and Labor; and it is desirable in order to prevent
duplication of work and fimction and to avoid unnecessary
delays in the development of the inland waterways that
means should be provided for coordinating all such

17. While precise figures are not now obtainable, it is
safe to say that the current value of our inland transporta^
tion facilities (of wliich railways form all but a small per-
centage) exceeds one-eighth of our national wealth; yet
these facilities are so far inadequate that production is
impaired and the growth of the country is retarded.
While trustworthy estimates can not be made without
further data, it is reasonable to anticipate that congestion
of interstate commerce can be obviated in large measure
by juchcious improvement of waterways adapted to barge
and boat traffic, at a figure much less than that estimated
by competent authorities for so increasing railway facili-
ties as to meet present needs. It is desirable that addi-
tional data be obtained by requisite expert investigation.

18. It is conservative to estimate that judicious im-
provement of the waterways of the country will confer
direct benefits through increased transportation facilities
which will exceed the cost, while the collateral benefits
will be at least comparable with the gain to commerce.
Under a coordinated plan, such collateral benefits as the
enhanced value of lands reclaimed by irrigation and
drainage, the value of water power developed, the
increased values due to the prevention of floods and low
waters, and the great benefits of purified and clarified
water, will more than balance the cost of the works.

19. In a comprehensive system of waterway improve- Adaptation.
ment and control designed to meet present and future

needs, the practicability of any project will depend not
alone on local and general demands of commerce, but
measural)ly on attendant natural and industrial con-
ditions, including nature of banks and bed, suitability of ■"• •"••
the ground as a foundation for works, volume of water
and liability to floods and low stages, configuration of the
watershed and its susceptibihty to control by judicious
agriculture and forestry or by reservoirs and other means,
local and general demand for pure water supply, amount
and value of available water power incident to the works,
proximity and cost of structural materials, relations to
existing and prospective projects on the same and neigh-
boring waterways, and all other physical and economic
factors entering into or tending to counterbalance the
cost; and the local surveys or plans for any project
should take account of all such natural and industrial


B, G; I, II.

B, I; I, II.

B. H, I; I, II.


conditions and be adapted to the attainment of inaxi-
muni benefits at the ininimuni cost.

Physical data. 20. Existing data concernino; the volume, regimen, and
other physical features of most streams are meager and
imperfect. Since plans for improving and controlling the
waterways and utilizing the waters must rest on these
facts, it is desirable that means be employed to extend
and perfect physical data relating to the navigable and
source streams of the countrj^

Distribution. 21. The benefits of a comprehensive system of water-
way improvement will extend to all the people in the
several sections and States of the country ; and the means
employed should be devised so far as possible to distribute
the cost equitably through cooperation between Federal
agencies. States, municipalities, communities, corpora-
tions, and individuals.
Administration. 22. In Order to iuiprovc the inland waterways for navi-
gation and at the same time coordinate the agencies and
means of transportation, develop the collateral benefits
of waterway imiDrovement, adapt all natural and indus-
trial conditions related with waterways to the attain-
ment of maximum benefits at the minimum cost, and
perfect means for distributing the cost equitably between
Federal agencies. States, municipalities, communities,
corporations, and individuals in a prompt and efficient
and economical manner, it is desirable to maintain an
administrative agency wdth large powers for the investi-
gation and elaboration of projects under suitable legisla-
tive regulation.

Conservation. 23. The immediate use of natural resources in the rapid
development of the country are often allowed to stand in
the way of more beneficient and permanent utilization.
This is especially true of all resources connected with

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