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A Zand of sZou>fy drying mud and mosquitoes

storage reservoirs and every other practicable means of regu-
lating the river. We believe in prevention first. We believe
that with floods, just as with epidemics and forest fires, an
ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. We
think that to keep a savage bull shut up is far better than
to be forced to capture and control him after he has got
into the china shop.

There has been no lack of weighty opinion behind our
position. The Inland Waterways Commission was appointed
by President Roosevelt to consider this question. It was
probably (in spite of the fact that I was a member of it) the
ablest and best-equipped body that has ever considered river
problems in America.

In 1907 it made a report, the essence of which was that
every river is a unit from its source to its mouth ; that it
must be handled with due regard to every use of the water
and benefit to be derived from its control ; and that every
good or bad influence on stream flow from the source to the
mouth forests, swamp drainage, soil drainage, levees, and
eveiy other must be combatted or made use of in the un-
ending struggle of men to utilize the earth without upsetting
the natural balance which alone makes it habitable to man.

The report of the Inland Waterways Commission was
transmitted to Congress with a message from President
Roosevelt in which he gave it the strongest and most com-
plete support. And his opinion was not a fleeting one. In
his autobiography he wrote of the report as being "at the
same time sane and simple," "excellent in every way,"
and said :

The plan deserves unqualified support. I regret that it has
not yet been adopted by Congress, but I am confident that
ultimately it will be accepted.

Congress took no action on the report of the Inland
Waterways Commission, and Roosevelt himself is authority
for the statement that it was the Army engineers who de-
feated his plan. Levees and levees only was their cry.

On March 3, 1909, Congress appointed the National
Waterways Commission which again took into account not
only levees but other factors which influence the flow of
streams, and other means for their control.

President Taft, during whose term this commission re-
ported, was the second president who approved that general
idea. President Wilson also, in a letter to the late Senator
Newlands father of our National irrigation policy and one
of the best-posted men on waterways that ever sat in either
House of Congress likewise gave his emphatic approval to
the same general plan.

THUS every commission, outside of the Army engineers,
which has dealt with the question of the Mississippi since
the Civil War, and every president who to my knowledge
has expressed himself upon it, is agreed that the wide view
which utilizes all means and not the narrow view which
utilizes only one or two, the broad grasp and not the local
prejudice, the generous and comprehensive plan and not the
restricted one, ought to control in dealing with our inland
waterways. So did the recent and very important flood
control conference in Chicago. The Army engineers alone


at Washington have stood out against this attitude, but
their opposition has been strong enough to stifle progress.

If the foregoing statement is accurate, then the narrow
policy of the Army engineers in putting all their eggs into
one basket the "levees only" policy helped to cause and
has a direct responsibility for the damage done by the
present flood. And if that is true, then it is not wise to
allow their point of view to be the only point of view con-
sidered in further dealings with this gigantic problem.

If anyone should consider that what I have said about
the Army engineers is unduly severe, I refer to the oppo-
sition of the Corps to the construction of the Eads jetties,
and to its persistent effort to prove that the jetties had
failed long after ships were actually using the deep water-
way they had made. If the Army engineers had had their
way, there would be no jetties today and New Orleans
would not be one of the greatest ports in America.

The Army engineers as individuals are honorable men
of goods intentions. Many of their most distinguished
officers are and have been my highly valued personal friends.
But the Corps, like many another body, has a bad habit here
and there. My contention is that the habit of the Corps
never to abandon an opinion once expressed should not be
allowed to misdirect our national plans.

No one point of view ought to control. I am a forester,

but I know that forests alone will not solve this problem.
I do not insist that what I think forests can do in helping
to solve it what they can do toward the prevention of
erosion and the regulation of stream flow shall be ac-
cepted because I think so.

I do believe, however, that the part forests can play, the
part reservoirs can play, the part spillways and levees and
drainage and dredging and revetment and the rest can play,
ought all to be considered not by the Army engineers alone,
who have already taken their position and will not abandon
it, but by a commission in which every point of view shall
be represented by the best brains available and to which
no conclusion will be sacred just because it is old.

Especially I am convinced that the vast expense of this
huge undertaking ought to be lifted from the shoulders of
the taxpayers if that can be done. I believe it can. I believe
that production of electricity by the storage reservoirs
which are needed for flood control will help do it. We
know it can be done at Boulder Canyon on the Colorado.
Why not on the tributaries of the Mississippi?

The Federal Water Power Act already contains the
principle that private power developments below a new
dam are required to contribute to the cost of storage in
proportion to benefits received. That alone would help.
The whole question is worth looking into.

Drainage Basin of the Mississippi River

Map of the Mississippi River Levee Association

From this great funnel-shaped area of 1,240,050 square miles all of
the water must drain off eventually through the Mississippi River.
In Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, the spring flood water piles
up high in the river the small end of the funnel. It has started as
rain or snow from the Appalachians to the Rockies and from Canada

Plan or Perish?


DOG'S house is his castle," said the judge
as he dismissed the case and thereby gave
a fine example of the American spirit of
liberty. It seems that while drunk a man
had crawled into a dog-house. The dog bit
him. The sufferer sued the dog's owner for
damages. The court ruled that the dog was within his
rights, for the house of even a dog is his castle in this
land of liberty.

We all want to be free. The desire is as natural as breath.
But also we want a lot of things that we can get only b}
subjecting ourselves to control, to cooperation, and to

The Mississippi River breaks out. Is this a problem in
liberty or of team-work? This river drains parts of thirty-
one states and a bit of Canada. Millions of people live on
the hundreds of thousands of square miles which it drains.
The river has recently brushed aside most of our attempts
at control. It has demolished several hundred million
dollars' worth of property, drowned over one hundred
people and driven 600,000 others out of their homes. The
spirit of liberty which we all love must step aside. The
river forces us to a stern task of control, cooperation, and

This is really a declaration of war by the river. Will we
run or will we fight ? We think we will fight, but it is n
nation-sized job. The river is always there and may attack
any time. If we cannot plan better for the Mississippi in
the future than we have in the past, we should abandon the
29,000 square miles of flood-land and let it revert to a per-

manent reserve for mosquitoes, bullfrogs, muskrats and
swamp forest trees, although with well-planned care it can
become by far the richest block in all American agriculture.

How came this flood? To begin with, we cut the forests
from the watersheds. At that time timber was so cheap that
a lumberman could not afford to protect it from fire after he
had cut the timber. He had to make a profit, so he moved
on to a fresh tract. The fire followed the lumberman.

Almost before we knew what was happening, we found
that we had eighty million acres of might-be timber-land
quite unproductive because of repeated fires which kill off
the little trees, burn the leaves, trash and the soft spongy
soil that theretofore absorbed the rainfall and helped to
prevent floods. This is particularly true of the mountain
lands of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which furnish
water for the Ohio River floods, contributing to the
Mississippi floods. In a period of freedom for the individual
and abundance of natural resources, we have let anyone who
wished cut the forest from the hill-lands, plow the hills, and
let them wash away in gullies. Think what that means!


Photo by J. C. Bragdon

Federal Street, Pittsburgh, under water in March, 1907. Pittsburgh has a flood-control plan

which will dovetail into any adequate general plan for the Mississippi and its tributaries.

Meantime, it waits and risks another flooding.


person at all who can get permanent or temporary
possession of a farm is free to ruin it. In the era
without plan, farms have been made on land that should
have remained in forest. The farmer had to eat, so, in a
few years, he has often ruined land that with care would
feed a person or a family for generations, for centuries
for ages to come. Thus by plowing land that should not
have been plowed, we have ruined the future food supply
of millions. This gullying is ruin on the spot and ruin down

below, for it increases the rate
of rainfall run-off (floods),
and it also has sent billions of
tons of sand and earth to
choke the river channels,
thereby limiting their powei
to carry off floods.

How came this flood?
Chiefly, it rained. It rained
a lot. It rained a most un-
usual lot. We had no com-
prehensive plan for letting the
water run away safely. There-
fore, we got drowned, in per-
son and in pocket, in mule
and in crop.

A plan for a river must
meet all emergencies, and the
emergencies of the river are
made by the weather. Now
the weather shuffles and deals
us a curious and complicated

pack of cards. I read recently
that a certain hand in bridge
will come on the average only



once in some million deals. It is almost that way with the failed, thereby showing us that we must have one plan.

weather. One of the greatest students of erosion has said
that one rain of each year does as much damage as all the
other rains of the year; that one rain of each decade does
as much damage as all the other rains of a decade; and
that it is probable that one rain of each century does as
much damage as all the other rains of the century. There-
fore, a safe and comprehensive plan for flood control must
be able to take care of emergency conditions. If we live
beside a river, we must plan for that or take a drowning
when it comes. For example, the greatest floods of record
at St. Louis, Mo., were in 1796 and in 1844.

We have no comprehensive plan for the Mississippi. For
proof, see the Pittsburgh case. In 1907 the people of Pitts-
burgh got scared. They had reason to be, for in that year
came the worst flood in their history and the record showed
that the floods were coming with greater frequency, and
higher. To push the alarm home, they had the chilling fact
that this record flood of 1907 was produced
chiefly by one of the two rivers that join at
Pittsburgh. Some day Nature would so deal
out her cards that both rivers would flood at
once. What would happen then ? Well, that
is what scared Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh raised some money for a survey
and a plan. The engineers brought in a plan
and recommended a lot of reservoirs in the
mountain valleys upstream. These reservoirs
would hold enough water to take most of the
damage out of the flood. When the water in
the rivers got low, the release from the reser-
voirs would be of great value to water supply
and water power and to navigation. It would
help the people of many cities and states along
the Ohio-Mississippi system.

At this point the people of Pittsburgh discov-
ered that their plan was in reality only a part of
what should be a much larger plan. Being
Scotch, they asked themselves why they should
spend millions for the benefit of the whole

In the absence of a comprehensive plan, the dominating
motive in flood work on the lower Mississippi has been to
"crowd the water out of our neighborhood." This usually
had to mean also to "get it onto somebody else." Does any-
one think there was general mourning in New Orleans late
in May when the Bayou des Glaises, near the mouth of the
Red River, broke and Hooded the Sugar Howl pf Louisiana?
How could they mourn? There was a veritable inland sea
above the Red River levee. Water was piling into it ap-
parently twice as fast, probably more than twice as fast,
as it could flow past New Orleans. A two-foot rise at New
Orleans would have flooded that city and turned it into
a death-trap. No, New Orleans could not and did not
mourn. She sighed a sigh of relief and the next day the
river began to fall at New Orleans. The flood had flowed
over someone else. New Orleans was saved.

This policy of crowding the flood onto someone else has

photo by Lawrence Lee

.. , .
fifteen hundred miles of river and the people

~ L . i L u-

Oneof the great agricultural inventions horizontal terraces holding water


_ Piedmont hills of Virginia. Rain soaks slowly into the terraces

thereon. They not unnaturally decided to wait. w i t hi n ten f eet o f wnere n falls. This makes trees grow rapidly, saves the
Instead of going to work, they joined interests soil and holds back water which would otherwise run off to make floods
with New Orleans in an educational campaign

to make a plan for the entire river. This was financially wise, even gone so far that it has been reported that the people
although Pittsburgh risks a fearful flooding while she waits, on one side of the river, bank A, have tried to dynamite the

levee on the other side, bank B, so that the A-bankers would

WE have no comprehensive plan for the Mississippi escape the flood which they thought had to overtop one
River. For proof, see the chaos on the lower river. bank or the other. But these people were laboring under

the excitement of a menacing calamity. There was a dead-
fall of water up there in the river ready to rush down on
their homes.

One of the inherent troubles of the situation is the conflict

PE have no comprehensive plan for the Mississippi
River. For proof, see the chaos on the lower river.
By the natural process of dealing with problems where they
arose, we have organized many independent enterprises each
dealing with a part of the river system. The lower Missis-
sippi is in charge of the Mississippi River Commission. This
Commission, created by Congress, has control of the Mis-

of local interests with general interest. A law of Congress

sissippi and its branches as far as a Mississippi flood backs concerning the Mississippi River illustrates the point. When

water up these rivers. The tributaries, Red, Arkansas,
Black, St. Francis and others, flow across the flood plain,
and bring floods to the Mississippi. These tributaries can
flood a section of the plain quite as effectually as the main
river can do it. On the various streams a group of citizens
of Arkansas or Mississippi or Louisiana can get together and,
according to state law, form a drainage district and erect
levees to suit their own ideas a chaos of plans which have

the river gets in flood it breaks the levees from time to time,
spills itself over the lowlands and works its way down to
the Gulf. Hence the demand for prepared spillways and
floodways to take care of the surplus waters without destruc-
tion. It goes without argument that the facts of river loca-
tion, the elevations and the shape of the land, decide where
these spillways should be.

A glance at the map shows Lake Pontchartrain reaching



Courtesy Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station

Erosion in Washington County, Ohio, part o/ the Mississippi
Basin. Water his run off rapidly and carried the soil with it

far inland toward the left bank of the Mississippi River
above New Orleans. It looks as though it might be a nat-
ural place to receive a spillway or two. But it so happens
that Lake Pontchartrain would pour these muddy wateis
into Mississippi Sound, along the south shore of the state
of Mississippi. Therefore, the state of Mississippi becomes
active in Congress with the result that a law forbids the
Mississippi River Commission to even survey for spillways
that would pour water into Mississippi Sound. Fortunately,
since the present disaster, a senator from Mississippi is now
ready to sacrifice the small interest of Mississippi (and it is
a sacrifice) in the interest of the larger good. He has re-
commended the repeal of this prohibition. The fact that
we have had and still have this law, may serve as a crowning
proof of our utter lack of comprehensive planning by which
to accomplish one of the most difficult tasks that man has
ever attempted.

What do we need? (We have a group of economic inter-

Courtesy Pennsylvania Dept. of Forests and Waters

An over-grazed hillside in Parke County, Indiana, tramped by stock from the
adjoining bam-lot. The trees will die, but the roots show how they hold the

earth if given a chance

ests of great importance and of varying degrees of urgenc]
but all contributing to or connected with the problems o
the flood prevention on the lower Mississippi) :

1. Protect the 29,000 square miles of alluvial land on th
Lower Mississippi from flood, if it is worth protecting now a
the necessary cost

2. Protect New Orleans from flood

3. Protect Pittsburgh and Ohio River cities from flood

4. Maintain and improve navigation

5. Reforest mountain lands on headwater rivers

6. Create new waterpower resources by reforesting an
building reservoirs

7. Create a new type of hill farming to prevent quick run
off and gullying

8. Fertili/e the Mississippi flood plain land with flood mu
and make of it another Nile Valley, yielding perpetual harvest

Those are eight wonders. The value of each runs fron
hundreds of millions to billions. Integrating them into on
comprehensive plan is a task involving control, team-worl
and plan, and it must have many points of contact will
political action. Have we the men with minds competen
to handle these elements, integrate them into a whole ami
execute it with reasonable cost? If we have such brain
at our disposal, can politics find these brains, and then car
politics let these constructive brains alone while they work
Or will there be more acts of Congress like the one abou'
Mississippi Sound, with senators log-rolling and killing
appropriation bills because their corner of one of the thirty
one states drained in whole or in part by the Mississipp
is not pleased by something that must be done in the in
terest of the greater good? Be not harsh on the senator
We, the voters, make him do these foolish things. We
could have much better government if we did not makt
the officials play politics instead of punishing them for it.
We have plenty of technical skill and wealth to tam
the Mississippi if it is worth it. The chief stumbling blocks
will be found in human nature.

These eight problems of the Mississippi fall into twc
groups: i, protective; 2, preventive and restorative. Th
protective problems are urgent. People must be saved frorr
flood. There is no time to wait. The
next flood should find Pittsburgh, New
Orleans and the Mississippi flood plair
so fixed that the flood reaches the sea
without serious harm to man or his

Protective works should be pul
through as quickly as a plan aided bj
steam and electricity can do it.

THE preventive and restorativi
problems are not so urgent. Thej
can be distributed over a period ol
years. Let us first consider the lesi
urgent, the preventive and restorativt
ones. These are chiefly concerned wit!
checking the swift run-off.

We need reforesting. Millions oi
acres of hill and mountain land ir
Mississippi drainage are almost 01
quite unproductive and lack the lea)
mould of the forest floor. This con-
dition prevails because fires have re-
peatedly swept over the area. We ar<
using timber four times as fast as il
is being grown. A timber famine looms



in America. For timber alone, therefore, we should re-
forest large areas of gutted Appalachian upland. There is
not space to explain it here, but individuals with small
mountain tracts of timber-land are almost helpless in the
face of fire, the great enemy of the forest in America.

IN Sweden or Norway, France or Germany, Switzerland
or Austria, large blocks of such upland are in forest, per-
fectly cared for and owned by the state. It is time that
we started a vigorous policy of reforesting and fire pro-
tection in the East. We need it for the forest ; it will
contribute to flood prevention, to the improvement of navi-
gation, of water supply and of water power. It should be
added that reforesting will be more important relatively to
Pittsburgh than to New Orleans.

We need waterpockets on our watersheds. If you make
in the ground a hole, or a furrow, or a basin, so shaped
that the water cannot run out of it, it may fill up with
water during a heavy rain. The water gradually soaks
into the ground and waters the trees or other plants within
its reach. Waterpockets help to stop erosion and to feed
springs. The waterpocket has been used chiefly as an
agricultural device. I have seen it in China, in the Malay
peninsula, in Algeria, in Porto Rico, in Minnesota, in Penn-
sylvania and in Virginia. In each of these places it was
an independent invention to promote the growth of field
crops (China), rubber trees (Malaya), olive trees (Algeria),
coffee trees (Porto Rico), grape vines (Minnesota), or
apple trees (Pennsylvania and Virginia). The Virginia
inventor assures me that his waterpocket land has had
run-off for years. The inventor, Mr. Lee, is an

Much more significant is the rather extensive use of a
similar device by a power company in North Carolina. The
company wants its water-wheels to run. To do this the
stream must run. To maintain stream-flow this company
catches the rain water in hundreds of little tractor-made
trench-reservoirs on the hillside, called "terrace with back
ditch." These terraces hold the water
until it soaks into the earth to flow out
later as spring water. It also makes
trees grow faster.

This field water storage is one of
the great inventions. Suppose they
caught a third or a half of the run-off
of Appalachia within ten yards of the
place where it fell and made it soak
into the ground. See how this would
stop floods, increase water-power and
increase tree growth. Pittsburgh should
take notice. Why let North Carolina
get ahead? And North Carolina was
not trying to save a city from destruc-
tion either.

We need a tree crop agriculture for
the hill country. In different sections
of southern Europe I have seen hill-
sides covered with crop yielding trees
olive (butter substitute), English
walnut (meat substitute), chestnut
(wheat and corn substitute), acorn
yielding oak (corn substitute), carob

Photo by Alfred Gaskill, courtesy U. S. Forest Ssrvice

A model spruce wood at Siegsdorf, Qermany. Reforesting
not only grows timber it saves soil and holds back water

roots and grass held the soil in place. In America, lacking
such crops, we have plowed hillside to put in corn, cotton
and tobacco. These crops favor erosion greatly and the hill-
sides have washed away, making a terrible destruction of
resources and adding to the total volume of floods a double
contribution of water and mud.

Meanwhile our native trees are amazingly rich in crop
possibilities. Walnut, hickory, pecan, persimmon (pig feed),
honey locust bean (bran substitute), oak tree (corn sub-
stitute), and many others. The secretary of agriculture
has and can get men who would like to make these trees

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