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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of a good humus in these forests is imperative and the extension of
the protective cover, either of dense chaparral or of forest, over the
foothill land is advisable. Reforesting these watersheds not only
reduces the severity of the floods to which these mountain torrents
are subject, but frequently converts a stream with intermittent flow


into a perennial one, or greatly augments the dry-season flow of those
subject to the violent fluctuations.

There is urgent necessity also for planting the banks of small
streams to lessen the constant corrasion which is taking place.


This river and its tributaries have nearly 800 miles of navigable
water. It will eventually be developed into one of the great water
highways, although its value may be lessened by the lact that a

Sortion of it is situated in British Columbia, and its full use may be
eferred on account of the navigable stretches being interruptea by
intervals of rapids, gorges, and canyons. Many^ of the rapids and
falls, however, may be avoided by canalizing, yielding at the same
time commercial power. Portions of the Columbia are already
navigable far up into Idaho to the Clarks Fork. The Pend d'Oreille
is regularly plied by steamers between Newport and lona, and could
be navigated through the lake and for a long stretch beyond but
for falls above Newport. Boats Hkewise ply regularly on the St.
Joseph, St. Marys, and on the Snake River to LeWiston, above which
place the river passes through the canyon carved in the basalt plains.
But long stretches of the Lewis Fork are navigable up to a point 480
miles above the mouth of the Columbia, and this could be extended
much farther. Even on the upper portions of several of these
streams there are many miles of deep placid water. The tidal chan-
nels of both Columbia and Willamette extend for more than 100 miles
above their mouths.

The salient feature of the Columbia is its evenness of flow and its
clearness. The streams which most closely resemble it are those of
New England, but the flow of the Columbia is probably more uniform
than that of any other large stream of the United States. This
condition is due to several causes.

There are two sources of its tributaries: The coast and Cascade
Mountain regions on the west, which chiefly affect the flow of the
Willamette; and the Cordilleran area of Idaho and Montana, in
which lie the headwaters of the main river. Between these two
mountain regions are extensive areas of plains and elevated rolling
plateaus, unforested and with scant rainfall, dissected by several of
the large streams, but the source of few small ones within their limits.
Over the western mountain area the rainfall is heavy, from 60 to
70 inches; it decreases on the eastern slope of the Cascades in the
plains areas to less than 15 inches, rising as the Rocky Mountains are
approached to 20, and attaining, in the mountains of northern Idaho,
and on the headwaters of the Clarks Fork, a maximum of 35 inches;
and in southeastern Idaho and Wyoming, on the headwaters of the
Lewis Fork, a maximum of 30 inches. This precipitation is rela-
tively slight, but it is of a character to render it available for soil
absorption; while the prevailing surface conditions are likewise
highly favorable. The precipitation during the summer is extremely
low compared with that during the winter, out is in the form of gentle
showers, giving the fullest opportunity for entire absorption, with a
very small amount of surface run-off. The winter snowiall is heavy,
especially in the eastern mountains, and the deep snow banks, in
canyons, gulches, and north hollows, protected by the dense forests


of conifers from sun and wind, melt gradually during spring and sum-
iper, maintaining a steady stream flow. Tliis not onl}^ compensates
for the deficiency of the summer rains, but their absence is favorable,
since thev would accelerate the melting of the snow. The snow-
drifts and fields of the liigh peaks of the Cabinet, Coeur d'Alene, and
Bitter Root moimtains, and of the Continental Divide frequently last
until reenforced by those of the succeedino; winter. In the Willa-
mette the snow-water flow is uninterrupted, for it is largely fed by
the glaciers and perpetual snow fields of Mount Hood and Mount

The torrential spring flood of the northeastern States from the
warm spring rains on trie A\'inter's snow, and the high earlj^- summer
flow of the streams of the Southwest from the rapid melting of the
mountain snow imder the high temperature of early summer, are both
much reduced on the Columbia. The freshet season extends from
May to July, and the rise betw^een extreme liigh and low water is only
22 feet on the Columbia, compared with. 50 feet on the Cape Fear, a
characteristic southeastern stream. The temperature of the short
summers at tliis high latitude is further modified by the excessive
humidity of the North Pacific coast and the large number of fog^y
days during summer, even when there is no rain, the product of the
moist western winds. This makes the melting of snow in the moun-
tains of Idaho and Montana a gradual process, frequently occupying
the entire summer. The northern tributaries are naturally for these
reasons less erratic in their flow than the southern, and several lakes
add to their stability of flow. Occasionally, however, a w^arm chinook
\\and will melt much of the snow during April, or even in March, caus-
ing high turbidity and floods on streams like the Clearwater and Lewis
Fork. These, however, are exceptional and usually of short dura-
tion. The flood season, w^hen the streams are very muddy, is usually
two months later.

While the equable flow of these streams is primarily a result of the
climatic conditions, the influence of the forest is serviceable in pro-
tecting the snow from evaporation and lessening the rapidity of its
melting. It is of greater value in lessening erosion.

On tne plains the rainfall is of such character, both in distribution
and amount, that there is scant erosion. Although the silts of the
Priest, Pend d'Oreille, and other agricultural river valleys of the east-
ern headwaters are incoherent, the Hmited rainfall precludes the possi-
bility of excessive erosion, unless at times of concentrated precipita-
tion, a character of rainfall to which tliis region is seldom subjected.
Should erosion of these soils take place, however, the placid portion
of the Pend d'Oreille and other streams offer suitable situations for

Of the portion of the basin of the Columbia River in the United
States 46,343,197 acres are protected by national forests. One-fifth
of this area is barren or poorly wooded upper slopes, w^ith only scant
protective features, while one-third has been burned and is either
naked or in various stages of restocking. The burned area has come
into existence largely within the past twenty-five years.

Fires are more frequent in the forest area that is not under Gov-
ernment control, and the humus conditions are poorer than in the
national forests. Fortunately, however, over most of the burned
areas the humus has not been entirely destroyed or the absorptive


condition of the soil greatly impaired. This has been due in part to
the character of the fires, in part to the character of the forests and
humus, and in part to the climate.

While the fires have been destructive, killing the timber as well as
burning the ground cover, reburnings of the same area are not frequent
or periodic, as in the Southeastern States and portions of the South-
west. The humus had accumulated to great deptlis before being
burned, and a single fire only burned through the drier superficial
layer. The burning of the humus is, moreover, frequently checked
by light summer rains.

For this reason, that the destruction of the humus is incomplete,
the facies of the soil toward absorption of rainfall and erosion has
scarcely been disturbed. Exhausting tillage will in time reduce the
humus, and extensive denudation and cultivation of the slopes will
produce conditions more favorable for erosion. As repeated fires
occur in the forest, the vigor appertaining to a virgin soil will be
depleted, as in many portions of the Appalachians. With the
destruction of the humus the forest will become open, scattered
clumps of trees, admitting the sun and wind, which will not only
accelerate the melting of the snow but lessen the soil permeability
and produce those conditions which are favorable to erosion. While
this condition favoring erosion exists in the eastern portion of the
basin in the Rocky Mountains, its maximum obtains under the high
precipitation of the Coast and Cascade Mountains, But with ade-
quate humus and slope protection within the spheres of high precipi-
tation, the at present almost insignificant silt burden of the streams
will not increase under natural conditions to damaging proportions.
At present drifting sands on the river banks in places are a menace,
and^they may be the origin of the sand which forms the bars in the
estuary channels.

Many of the streams on the lower portion of the basin acquire their
constancy from glacier sources. Some of them bear a considerable
amount of coarse sand, but most of them not sufficient to affect their
clearness. The glaciers, and the excellent humus even within the
burnt forests, produce most favorable conditions for equable stream
flow and low-silt burden.

The few other streams in the Northwest are of minor importance,
and present largely the same conditions which obtain in the Columbia

The chief need of the Columbia basin is maintenance of the present
forest cover and reestablishment of normal humus conditions where
the forests have been burned.


In addition to their physical effects upon streams, the forests
exert a strong influence upon the purity of water for domestic uses.
The waters from forested watersheds are generally free from patho-
logic bacteria and, considering that they are surface waters, are of
excellent quality for municipal supplies. Many of the smaller
cities and a few of the larger cities, like Portland, Oreg., use such
water, and find it satisfactory, even without filtration.

It is especially desirable that small cities and towns which are near
primarily pure sources, such as forested mountain streams, should
use these rather than wells and springs or than the water of large


rivers which has received contaminated matter from the towns.
The use of such pure water not only checks the spread of water-
borne diseases in the town using it, but since its sewerage has propor-
tionately fewer typhoid bacilli, it tends to lessen the transmission
of the contagion to other towns at lower points on the rivers which
use the sewage-contaminated water for drmking purposes. Purified
waters are onty relatively pure, their quality depending upon the
original amount of contamination. But if the purity or the water
from a forested watershed is further safeguarded by filtration, a
water of the highest quality is obtained.

The case of the typhoid fever epidemics in the Kennebec River
Valley, as described by Whipple and Long,*^ is one of contagion, trans-
mitted from the upper towns to the lower, the impurity of the water
increasing as it received the impurities of each successive town, with
the increased prevalence of t}^hoid fever epidemics. Another case
is that of Wilkinsburg, Pa., a city which uses the water of the Alle-
gheny River. The river receives above Wilkinsburg the sewage of
nearly 20 to\Mis. Numerous outbreaks of disease in the upper towns
have been transmitted to the lower, and the health of the people of
Wilkinsburg has been affected by nearly eveiy such outbreak in the
towns above it.

With the rapid increase in the density of population in the eastern
States and the further congestion of towns along the important
rivers, the sanitation of the streams presents a vital problem. The
solution of this problem can properly begin with the general use, by
towns in the hilly and mountainous portions of the country, of water
from forest-covered watersheds at the heads of the rivers.

Moreover, so far as the forest increases the minimum or diy-season
flow of streams, it adds, by dilution, to the relative purity of the
water, fewer impurities being contained in a ^ven volume. Like-
wise, by lowering flood crests, fecal and other impure matter which
accumulates alon^ the banks of a stream in a thickly populated
region, especially m and near cities and towns, is not swept into the
streams, but undergoes harmless destruction by natural decay. Tliis
lessens the impurities of flood water.



As the influence of the forest has decreased, on account of the
smaller area of normal forest, engineering methods of stream control
have become necessary. Such artificial means of control must be used
to compensate for the cleared land which is in the farms. They
must be proportionately extended on account of the large areas of
waste land, wliich has its soil hardened and baked by the sun and is
unabsorptive, and to compensate for the forest which has been lum-
bered and burned, and the soil of which has partly lost its porousness
and storage capacity.

The value of engineering methods of control depends, however, on
how thoroughly tbe headwaters of the rivers are forest protected.
In those regions where forest influences are high there is a limit
beyond which engineering means of control fail. The forest, acting

ojournal New England Water Works Association, Vol. 19, No. 2.


not over one limited portion of a watershed but over a great portion
of it, produces certain conditions which can never be entirely replaced
by engineering methods. The dam, the reservoir, the settling bed,
and tne levee influence only the reaches of the stream below them.
The forest at headwaters influences the regime of the entire river.
When the influence of the forest decreases below a certain limit, engi-
neering works are futile; their efficiency rapidly fails, and even their
very existence is threatened. The storage capacity of the reservoir
and settling basin is destroyed by the' sediment which is washed
from the bare and hardened slopes; the bed of the canal is filled with
silt; the channel of harbor and river is choked in spite of the dredg-
ing. The accumulation of the detritus from the scourings of unpro-
tected soils threatens the levees by the gradual raising of the river
bed and requires the continual extension of the jetties. As the
floods at headwaters become liigher, with more erratic stream flow,
the very dams wliich are built to restrain them are endangered; the
canals and locks on their banks are swept away, the abattis, cribbing,
and dike are destroyed or rendered useless.

The work of the engineer to protect and develop the large river
becomes useless unless it is protected by the forest. In the Appalach-
ians, in the Rocky Mountain region, and in the Southwest, and indeed
wherever forest influences are liigh, the river engineer and the for-
ester must work hand in hand.


[Note. — The earliest movement toward developing the inland water-
ways of the country began when, under the influence of George Wash-
ington, Virginia and Maryland appointed commissioners primarily
to consider the navigation and improvement of the Potomac; they
met in 1785 in Alexandria and adjourned to Mount Vernon, where
they planned for extension, pursuant to which they reassembled with
representatives of other States in Annapolis in 1786; again finding
the task a growing one, a further conference was arranged in Phila-
delphia in 1787, with delegates from all the States. There the delib-
erations resulted in the framing of the Constitution, whereby the
thirteen original States were united primarily on a commercial basis —
the commerce of the times being chiefly by water.

Next in importance to this initial waterway movement was its
continuation by Albert Gallatin as Secretary of the Treasury. The
body of his report, now just a century old, forms a summary of facts
and principles not only of great historic interest but of no small
practical value even to-day; the extended appendix, relating as it
does to localities and conditions of diminished relative importance,
is of less value; though some of the contributions, like that of Robert
Fulton, remain of much interest. Gallatin's work, in conjimction
with that of George Washington, may be said to have inaugurated
the waterway policy of the United States.

The next epoch in the movement was marked some seventy years
later by the investigations and report of the Windom committee,
although the plans and recommendations of Senator (and Secretary)
Windom and his colleagues received less attention than was antici-
pated, of course by reason of the rapid growth of interest in railways.
Perhaps the most notable result, albeit rather an indirect than a
direct one, appeared in the improvement of the Passes at the mouth
of the Mississippi with the development of navigation in that river
through the Eads jetty system, which opened an era in river control
by engineering devices. The Windom report, too, is of both historic
and practical interest, although the appended matter pertaining
to special localities and passing conditions is of less value.

The body of the Gallatin report is reprinted from the edition
appearing in "American State Papers," Misceflaneous, vol. 1 (1834),
pages 724-741 ; of the voluminous appendix, extending to page 921,
only the Fulton report is reprinted in the following pages. — W JM.l



(Communicated to the Senate, April 6, 1808.)

Treasury Department, April 4, 1808.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit a report respecting roads and
canals, prepared in obedience to the resolution of the Senate of the
2d of March, 1807. It has been unavoidably delayed much later
than was desirable, or had been expected. Although early steps had
been taken for obtaining the necessary information, the most impor-
tant documents were not received till long after the commencement
of the session, some, indeed, within the last ten days. To analyze
the whole, to select, arrange, and condense the most interesting facts
was also a work of some labor. Time has not permitted to present
the report in a more satisfactory form; but the mass of facts which
has been collected wall, it is hoped, be of some public utility.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your most obedient

Albert Gallatin.

Hon. George Clinton, President of the Senate.

The Secretary of the Treasury, in obedience to the ' resolution of
the Senate of the 2d March, 1807, respectfully submits the following
report on roads and canals :

The general utility of artificial roads and canals is at this time so
universally admitted as hardly to require any additional proofs. It
is sufficiently evident that whenever the annual expense of transporta-
tion on a certain route in its natural state exceeds the interest on the
capital employed in improving the communication, and the annual
expense of transportation (exclusively of the tolls) by the improved
route, the difference is an annual additional income to the nation.
Nor does in that case the general result vary, although the tolls may
not have been fixed at a rate sufficient to pay to the undertakers the
interest on the capital laid out. They, indeed, when that happens
lose; but the community is nevertheless benefited by the undertak-
ing. The general gain is not confined to the difference between the
expense of the transportation of those articles which had been for-
merly conveyed by that route, but many which were brought to
market by other channels will then find a new and more advantage-
ous direction, and those which on account of their distance or weight
could not be transported in any manner whatever will acquire a
value and become a clear addition to the national wealth. Those
and many other advantages have become so obvious that in countries
possessed of a large capital, where property is sufficiently secure to
induce individuals to lay out that capital on permanent undertak-
ings, and where a compact population creates an extensive commer-
cial intercourse, wathin short distances, those improvernents may
often in ordinary cases be left to individual exertion without any
direct aid from Government.



There are, however, some circumstances which whilst they render
the facility of communications throughout the United States an
object of primary importance naturally check the application of
private capital and enterprise to improvements on a large scale.

The price of labor is not considered as a formidable obstacle,
because whatever it may be it equally affects the expense of trans-
portation, which is saved by the improvement, and that of effecting
the improvement itself. The want of practical knowledge is no
longer felt, and the occasional influence of mistaken local interests
in sometimes thwarting or giving an improper direction to public
improvements arises from the nature of man and is common to all
countries. The great demand for capital in the United States and
the extent of territory compared, witn the population are, it is be-
lieved, the true causes which prevent new undertakings and render
those already accomplished less profitable than had been expected.

1. Notwdthstandmg the great increase of capital during the last
fifteen years, the objects for which it is required continue to be more
numerous, and its application is generally more profitable than in
Europe. A small portion therefor is applied to objects which offer
only the prospect of remote and moderate profit. And it also hap-
pens that a less sum being subscribed at first than is actually requi-
site for completing the work, this proceeds slowly; the capital
applied remains unproductive for a much longer time than was
necessary, and the mterest accruing during that period becomes, in
fact, an injurious addition to the real expense of the undertaking.

2. The present population of the United States, compared with
the extent of territory over which it is spread, d.oes not, except in the
vicinity of the seaports, admit that extensive commercial intercourse
within short distances, which in England and some other countries
forms the prmcipal support of artificial roads and canals. With a
few exceptions canals particularly can not in America be undertaken
with a view solely to the intercourse between the two extremes of
and along the intermediate ground which they occupy. It is neces-
sary in order to be productive that the canal should open a commu-
nication with a natural extensive navigation which will flow through
that new channel. It follows that whenever that navigation requires
to be improved, or when it might at some distance be connected by
another canal to another navigation, the first canal will remain com-
paratively unproductive until the other improvements are effected,
until the other canal is also completed. Thus the intended canal
between the Chesapeake and Delaware will be deprived of the addi-
tional benefit arising from the intercourse between New York and
the Chesapeake until an inland navigation shall have been opened
between the Delaware and New York. Thus the expensive canals
completed around the falls of Potomac wdll become more and more
productive in ' proportion to the improvement, first, of the naviga-
tion of the upper branches of the river, and then of its communica-
tion with the western waters. Some works already executed are
unprofitable: many more remain unattempted, because theii- ulti-
mate productiveness depends on other improvements too extensive
or too distant to be embraced by the same individuals.

The General Government can alone remove these obstacles.
With resources amply sufficient for the completion of every prac-
ticable improvement, it will always supply the capital wanted for

.31673— S. Doc. .32.^, H0-] 35


any work which it may undertake, as fast as the work itself can
progress; avoiding thereby the ruinous loss of interest on a dormant
capital, and reducing the real expense to its lowest rate.

With these resources and embracing the whole Union, it will com-

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 61 of 83)