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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The facts in the above table indicate that while it is not possible
to maintain a 9-foot stage from Pittsburg to Cairo with reservoirs
alone, such stage can be maintained along the flatter portions of the
river, especially those below Huntington, W. Va., except at steep
points like the Louisville Falls, where canalization is necessary.
These facts are particularly important in view of the report of the
Advisory Board of Engineers concerning future navigation improve-
ments on the Ohio River, which has recently been presented. The
author of the present report is not informed concerning the specific
recommendations made by said Board, but, in view of the showing
made in the above table, he contends that no settled policy wdth
reference to navigation improvements in the Ohio should be deter-
mined on until these possibilities are taken into account. Of course,
it will be necessary to canalize, especially in the upper portion of
the river; but it is claimed as a result of these investigations, that
it is unnecessary to place a continuous line of locks and dams from
the head to the foot of the river in order to insure a 9-foot stage at
all periods of the year. The money that would be expended on
some of these locks and dams might be used to better purpose in the
highland tributaries of the river for the construction of storage

Having now considered the possibilities of conservation in that
portion of the drainage area of Ohio River which has been properly
surveyed, and the effect of this conservation on floods and navigation
in the Ohio, let us consider whether or not the scheme is experi-
mental or whether, after all, the effects have been actually demon-
strated in practice.


There is in Russia at the head of the Volga and Mtsa rivers a great
system of reservoirs that is devoted to purposes of flood prevention
and the maintenance of low-water navigation. The two rivers have
their sources in the same region, but flow in opposite directions. The
country is flat and wooded, and dotted with numerous lakes, which
provide excellent facilities for storing flood waters. A great reservoir
system, therefore, was developed by the Government, an excellent
description of which, together with its effects, appears in the report of
Maj. H. M. Chittenden, U. S. Engineers, entitled "Reservoir sites in
Wyoming and Colorado," House Document No. 141, Fifty-fifth Con-
gress, second session, pp. 36 and 37, from which the following extracts
are taken :

These reservoirs store about 35,000,000,000 cubic feet of water in all, of which
20,000,000,000 can be used in the Volga and 20,000,000,000 can be turned in the other
direction, there being apparently a storage of about five or six billions that can be used
in either direction. The largest and most important of these reservoirs, and one of the
largest in the world in point of capacity, although insignificant in depth and containing
dam, is the Verkhnevoljsky reservoir. So slight is the fall of the stream in this region
that, although the dam produces a maximum elevation of water surface at its site of
only about 17.5 feet, the water backs up a distance of about 60 miles and includes
several lakes. The low-water season capacity of this reservoir is about 14,000,000,000
cubic feet, and the average season storage is much greater. Its effect upon the low-
water flow of the river below the dam is to raise its normal surface 2.8 feet at Rjef, 96
miles below; 1.4 feet at Tver, the mouth of the Tvertsa, 212 miles below, and 0.14 feet
at 410 miles below. At the mouth of the Tvertsa the storage of the Zavodsky reservoir
comes in and helps out navigation below. The total navigable distance on the Volga
over which the beneficial influence of these reservoirs is felt is upward of 450 miles.

On the Msta slope there are no fewer than 10 important reservoirs, all of them being
on the sites of natural lakes, the total storage aggregating about 14,000,000,000 cubic
feet. Aa already stated, about 6,000,000,000 cubic feet of storage which really lies on
the Volga slope, including the Zavodsky reservoir, formerly was and still can be turned
into the Baltic drainage. This entire system of summit reservoirs that can be used to
feed the Msta is called the Vychnevolotsky system. It affords material improvement
to the navigable condition of Msta and Volkhoff rivers during the period of low water.

The system of reservoirs above described is certainly a great success, and upon it
depends much of the prosperity of the surrounding country. It is probably the most
complete example in the world of the joint results of flood prevention and the improve-
ment of navigation produced by artificial reservoirs. It has an importance, however,
which it could not have in this country, even with equal physical advantages, for rail-
roads here do a far greater proportion of the transportation business than in Russia.
But the example shows how far favorable natural conditions can be made to improve
the low-water conditions of streams.

For a partial demonstration of the effectiveness of the reservoir
method, reference is made to the conditions at the head of Mississippi
River. Here only a part of the possible reservoir development has
been made, but even this appears to have been eminently successful,
as may be shown by a reading of the report of a board of United
States engineers, consisting of Maj. H. M. Chittenden, Maj. Charles
L. Potter, and Capt. W. B. Judson (Report of Chief of Engineers, U.
S. Army, 1906.) If anything, in addition to that which has been
given in previous pages, is needed to prove the usefulness of reservoir
systems, a perusal of this report will fulfill all demands. Here is
a system constructed primarily for the benefit of navigation; flood
prevention was not contemplated, yet, the success of the system in
preventing floods, save in a few particular and unusual situations, is
as great as the success in navigation. The 5 reservoirs making up
this system have a total capacity of over 90,000,000,000 cubic feet,
and will conserve the annual flow from 4,250 square miles of drainage


area, except in extremely wet years. In fact, during only one year
in the past twenty has there been sufficient run-off to more than fill
these reservoirs. The effects on navigation are unmistakable, and
by a further development of the storage facihties in the States of
Mimiesota and Wisconsin the capacity could probably be increased
to 175,000,000,000 cubic feet. Therefore, the effects of these reser-
voirs, as beneficial as they are shown to be along the ^lississippi in
Minnesota, do not represent the highest possibility of such develop-

With reference to their usefulness in preventing floods, objection
has been made that their effect is almost inappreciable at St. Paul
and totally obliterated at Lake Pepin. This might have been pre-
dicted from the first. The reservoirs conserve only 11.8 per cent of
the total drainage area above St. Paul, and therefore, broadly speak-
ing, the severity of the floods at St. Paul will be decreased only in like
proportion. There is a drainage area between the reservoirs and
St. Paul sufficiently large to provide at times a flood-producing run-off.
Of course, this also remains true for the river below St. Paul; at
Winona, ^Minn., for example, the proportion of conserved area to the
total drainage area is only 7.3 per cent. Therefore, the complaint
above noted appears to arise from a lack of consideration of the
facts. No one expects to obHterate floods if only 11 or 12 per cent
of the area is under control. This is well illustrated by the state-
ment of the engineering board above mentioned in its demonstra-
tion that the reservoir system was not responsible for the great
flood of 1905 at Aitldn, Minn. The follo\ving quotation is pertinent:

In the first place, it may be stated that the drainage area above Pine Knoll, exclud-
ing that of the 4 reservoirs above Aitkin, is large enough to produce a flood at Aitkin
in times of excessive rainfall if not a drop of water were coming from the reservoirs.
This area is about 2,250 square miles, and includes several streams like the Prairie,
Swan, and Willow livers. To produce a high flood, say 12,000 cubic feet per second
at Aitkin, would require only about 5 cubic feet per second per square mile, a figure
undoubtedly reached in times of heavy and continuous rainfall. [Report of Chief
of Engineers, 1906, Part 2, p. 1459.]


It will be impossible to give precise facts concerning the cost of
the proposed conservation system. Such an estimate would require
a minute examination of all the physical conditions and a valuation
of the property to be submerged. Relative figures, based upon the
cost of construction of similar reservoirs in other places, are the best
that can be given at the present time. It should be emphasized that
this is not a final estimate, and a detailed investigation might serve to
reduce or increase the amount submitted. The cost of the different
reservoirs per unit capacity will depend principally upon the value of
the land to be submerged. A large part of that covered by the pro-
posed system has only nominal value. On the other hand, some of it
IS good agricultural land, while in a few locations there are coal
deposits. Many of these will be worked out in a few years. Explora-
tion of the coal region shows that by far the greater part of the coal
lies above the proposed flow lines.

We will use as a standard of comparative costs 97 artiflcial storage
reservoirs of various sizes that have been erected in America, Europe,



India, and other places or which have been projected for erection,
with costs carefully estimated. Such a comparison is, of course,
merely relative and too great weight should not be given to it; yet,
inasmuch as a wide variety of conditions is covered by these reservoirs
and the costs thereof vary according to such conditions, it may be
expected that the reservoirs contemplated in this ]Daper will approxi-
mate in some degree those costs, and the estimate will have the advan-
tage of being based on work actually achieved or which has had the
minute study of competent engineers.

It has been found from an examination of these figures and, indeed,
it is a matter of common observation among engineers, that the
greater the capacity of any reservoir, the smaller the cost per unit
capacity. Classifying these capacities and determining the cost per
cubic foot per second per year we have the following statement:

Capacity in millions of cubic feet.

Cost per
foot per

of reser-

Less than 10..

10 to 50

50 to 100

100 to 500

500 to 1,000....
1,000 to 10,000.
10,000 to 20,000
Over 20,000...


112, hOO







Examination of the various items making up each class in the
above table shows that they are fairly uniform and, save for an
exceptional entry here and there, there are no unusually wide
departures. The averages in each class are justly representative of
the class.

We will now consider the cost of the reservoirs specified in tables
previously given. There are in the proposed system two reservoirs
of capacity of 500 to 1,000 million cubic feet. The foregoing table
shows that such reservoirs cost $20,775 per second-foot yield.
Multiplying the yield of each of the two reservoirs above noted by
$20,775 the result is $1,050,000. Following the same process
throughout the entire system, we secure the following statement:

Estimated cost of reservoirs shown in proposed system

Number of reservoirs.

Capacity in mil-
lions of cubic feet.



.500 to 1,000

1.000 to 10,000

10,000 to 20,000....
Over 20,000

SI, 050,000






At first glance the costs above suggested seem large, but there are
two considerations which will ameliorate the severity of the first
impression. The first is that the cost for such a reservoir system will
be progressive. The scheme involved is not one that can or should
be carried out at one fell swoop, but, on the contrary, it forms the
nucleus of a policy which, if adopted, could be the guide to Govern-


ment expenditures in future years. The Government will probably
expend an equivalent sum of money for some form of improvement
in the Ohio basin during the next twenty years, and therefore the
real question to be faced is whether the money shall be expended for
permanent improvements in the shape of reservoir construction or
shall be expended for canalization and for temporary expediencies,
such as dredging. After all, it comes down to a question of which is
the best way to expend a given sum of money.

The second feature to be taken into consideration is that the value
of any project is not determined by the amount of money used in its
construction, but by the final utility of the project. If the value of
the proposed system be placed alongside the total cost for construc-
tion, assuming the above estimate to be fairly representative, it will
be seen that the scheme may be cited as a "gilt edged" investment.
Some of the values resulting from the construction of the proposed
reservoir system have been cited in previous pages. They may be
classed as follows:

1. Benefits to navigation. — The reservoir system will make the
construction of many of the proposed dams along the Ohio unneces-
sary. These dams will cost over $1,000,000 each. The effective
cost of the reservoir system will therefore be reduced by an amount
equivalent to the cost of the locks and dams that it would be neces-
sary to construct in the Ohio if said reservoir system were not installed.
Again, navigation on all the conserved tributaries will be improved,
and many costly proposed improvements on said tributaries will be
rendered unnecessary. Tennessee River, for example, between
Riverton and the mouth would be converted into a great navigable
highway, with a guaranteed 9-foot channel. The upper sections of
the river would be similarly benefited. The cost of the proposed
improvements in these tributaries, made unnecessary by the reservoir
system, should be credited to said system, thereby reducing its effec-
tive cost. Because the author is not in possession of the late report
concerning canalization of the Ohio, he is unable to venture an opinion
concerning the amount of money which should be credited to the
reservoir system by reason of the above considerations.

2. Benefits arising from flood prevention. — This is a vast item — no
definite estimates can be made. An estimate of the damage caused
by the January and March floods of 1907, compiled from local reports
along the valley, amounted to more than .$100,000,000. This esti-
mate included destruction of real and personal property and inter-
ruption of trade, but did not include depreciation. This is the most
serious of all flood losses. Trade can be recovered, buildings can be
restored, and commodities can be replaced, but the depreciation of
real property or the stalling of its development by reason of flood
menace is a factor that will persist as long as floods are imminent.
The ultimate loss is far greater than all the other factors of flood
damage. The proprietor of a great manufacturing establishment on
the banks of the Ohio, in discussing with the wTiter the value of the
deep waterways movement, stated that, so far as the real interests
of his company are concerned, the desirability of the proposed 9-foot
channel is not to be compared with the need for flood relief. He
said, in effect:

We can prosper without the water transportation, but we can not withstand the flood
losses. If floods persist we must move.

31673— S. Doc. 325, GO-1 32



If any method can be devised by which the United States Govern-
ment can reahze a fair return on the additional water power created
by the proposed storage system, the entire cost of the reservoirs will
be returned to the Treasury. Charges for the power need be main-
tained only until the cost of the system of reservoirs has been repaid,
after which, if it be determined wise, the water rights can be turned
over to the water users, after the manner prescribed in the reclama-
tion act of 1902. Let us consider some of the possibilities of power
production :

The total fall in the Ohio at Louisville is said to be about 27 feet.
A large part of this fall is obliterated during flood seasons, especially
when such floods involve the Wabash, Cumberland, and Tennessee
rivers, as well as some of the tributaries entering the Ohio above
Louisville. It has been estimated that if the tributary basins were
conserved up to their maximum the fall at Louis\dlle would be at
least 22 feet. For purposes of safety we will consider only 18
feet available. Now, the capacity of the reservoirs proposed in tliis
paper, on the Ohio tributaries above Louisville, is such as to provide
for a flow at Louisville during six months of the year of 67,000 cubic
feet per second. The unconserved drainage area above Louisville
may safely be expected to provide at least an equivalent amount
during the remaining six months of the year. Considering then an
assured flow of 67,000 cubic feet per second at Louisville and an 18-
foot fall, there is indicated an available horsepower of about 110,000.
This figure involves only 80 per cent efficiency on power wheels.
This amount, figured at $20 per horsepower-year, is equivalent to a 3
per cent income on $73,000,000.

The value of power on the ISIonongahela dams has already been
cited, as well as that on the proposed Youghiogheny dams. An esti-
mate is also given on a previous page of the value of total indicated
horsepower made available by the proposed reservoir system in the
Great Kanawha basin. Assuming only one-half of this available for
economic development, there would be the equivalent of a 3 per cent
income on $155,000,000.

The Allegheny, the Cumberland, and especially the Tennessee,
might be cited further, but inasmuch as this is not a water-power
report the purpose of this section, viz, to show the possibilities of
good returns on the proposed investment, will be amply served by the
examples given.

In closing, the author begs leave to state that the determination of
the enormous water supply possibilities in the Ohio basin, discussed
in previous pages, constitutes a part of the work of the United States
Geological Survey.


By Joseph A. Holmes
Chief Technologist, U. S. Geological Survey


January 27, 1908.

Sir: Supplementing my letter of November 21 in response to a
letter of October 19 from the Hon. Theodore E. Burton, chairman,
Inland Waterways Commission, I respectfully submit the accompany-
ing preliminary report by Mr. Joseph A. Holmes, expert in charge of
the technologic branch of the Survey, in answer to Mr. Burton's
inquiries concerning the relative cost of available masonry, concrete,
and reenforced concrete for dams and other engineering works in. the
United States, and as to the relative cost and efficiency of steam
engines and internal-combustion engines, with special reference to
the various fuels accessible to and available for navigation and indus-
trial purposes along the lines of water transportation in the United

These inquiries from the chairman of the Inland Waterways Com-
mission are similar to those which are received at intervals from a
number of other Government bureaus as well as from persons in
charge of general building and construction work throughout the

All these inquiries illustrate the need for the same information in
the work of the Government, and in the development of the industries
of the country, namely: The attainment of liigher efficiency and
economy in the development of power and in the building and con-
struction work of the country.

As illustrating the importance of these investigations I may call
attention to the fact that the expenditures of the Federal Govern-
ment for construction w^ork and for fuels now aggregate from
$45,000,000 to $50,000,000 per annum; while the expenditures of
the country for similar purposes are not less than $2,500,000,000 per

Very respectfully, Geo. Otis Smith,


The Secretary or the Interior.


The inquiries concerning the relative cost, efficiency, and avail-
ability of masonry, concrete and reenforced concrete, brick, and tile
for use in engineering works, and the relative advantages of steam
engines and internal -combustion engines in utiHzing the fuels for



inland navigation and other purposes, which are discussed in this
prehmiiiary report are set forth in the following letter from the
Chairman of the Inland Waterways Commission:

Washington, D. C, October 19, 1907.
The Secretary of the Interior.

Sir: Pursuant to recent action by the United States Inland Waterways Commission,
I have the honor to solicit information concerning certain matters connected with
prospective improvement of the waterways of the interior, viz, the relative advantages
of concrete and stone construction for dams and other engineering works; the relative
advantages of reenforced concrete for such works, and also for bridges over larger
streams; the relative cost of stone, ordinary concrete, and reenforced concrete con-
sidered with special reference to sources of materials in: (1) Interior United States;
(2) the Rocky Mountain region; (3) the Pacific slope; and (4) the Atlantic slope;
and the relative advantages of steam engines and internal combustion engines, with
special reference to corresponding sections of the United States and also to prospective
use in connection with inland navigation .

Any expert information on these matters would be appreciated, particularly along
the lines of recent investigation and practice of those branches of the Interior De-
partment dealing with, engineering works and with testing of structural materials
and fuels.

Yom-s respectfully, Theodore E. Burton,


W J McGee, Secretary.

The inquiries of the Inland Waterways Commission as to the rela-
tive advantages, cost, and availability of masonry, concrete, and
reenforced concrete for engineering works, have already been
answered in part by the chief engineer of the United States Reclama-
tion Service in a letter addressed to the Hon. T. E. Burton, chairman
of the Commission, on November 26, 1907 — a copy of which letter is
herewith appended.

In answer to the Commission's further inquiry as to the relative
cost of stone, concrete, and reenforced concrete, considered with
special reference to materials available in different parts of the coun-
try, especially along the inland waterways, additional data are given

Concerning the relative advantages of steam engines and internal
combustion engines in utilizing the fuels along the inland waterways,
for navigation and other industrial purposes, a brief statement is
given in the latter half of this report.


Both this inquiry and that concerning the cost and availability of
masonry, concrete, and reenforced concrete are matters now under
investigation, and additional reports will be submitted to the Com-
mission from time to time as progress is made in these investigations.

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 55 of 83)