The five people from Hartford who attended hearings before the public works committee in Washington last week, did not see anything on the entire trip more pleasing or promising than this Grand Neosho Valley.
The route led through the Seventh Street traffic way in Kansas City, Kansas, and across the Fairfax bridge into Missouri. Scattering herds of cattle were seen on feed in Missouri and Illinois. In Illinois great corn cribs were seen and about half of them filled – wise insurance on the 1949 crop. Filling station atten-dants told us it was so dry farmers were delaying planting corn and soybeans. The seed bed was carefully worked – as thoroughly as ground is prepared for alfalfa in these parts.
The first night was spent in Jacksonville, Ill., where the writer’s maternal grandmother attended a female seminary in 1855.
The second day we passed three state capitols, Springfield, Ill., Indiana-polis, Indiana, and Columbus Ohio, and holed in for the night in tourist cabins in Cambridge, Ohio. Highways and railroads tend to parallel each other across the continent so in the night one usually could hear the through rail traffic roaring by. The route from Indianapolis to Columbus crossed two of the flood control dams on the Miami River. A series of five dams were built by the Miami Conservancy district. The legend says they were completed in 1922.
In eastern Ohio we leftthe farming country as we think of it. From there on in it was mountains and industry and farming in small patches. We rode 85 miles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 85 cents. This is the 4-lane road that FDR built through mountains, over streams. Every crossroad and railroad crossing is an overpass or an underpass. Nothing crosses the turnpike. One can enter only at certain points. We passed through two tunnels and under any number of crossroads. One man has the gas, oil and lunch concessions the entire length of the toll road. There are no speed limits posted. Only one’s con-science at the throttle, touching the floor board is the determiner.
Hotel reservations were at the Hotel Washington, Washington D. C. It is on Pennsylvania Avenue, one block from the White House. The capitol is at the end of the street 15 blocks up. The parade for President Dutra1 came past the hotel. From the dining room on the roof one can see all the familiar landmarks of the city, the Capitol, Washington monu-ment, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the famous cherry trees, the Potomac River, Arlington and the spire at Alexandria in the distance.
It was almost like old home week in Washington – one saw many folk from Kansas. The day before the hearing was scheduled Congressman Rees enter-tained the Kansas delegation and all of the people who had gone for the hearing, in the House restaurant – about 40 people attended. The pros sat across the table from the cons. But no glares were detected over the good food. The House restaurant is not a public eating place. Only members of Congress and their guests may be served. It is in the basement of the Capitol and is for con-venience. Members leave the floor long enough to eat. If a roll call buzzer sounds they leave their soup and coffee and dash for the elevator. A round table is reserved for Republicans. The day we were there Joe Martin, McGregor of Ohio, Vursell of Illinois, Ford of Michigan, the latter three members of the public works committee, Anderson of Minnesota and others sat at this table.
Washington is on day-light savings time and likes it. It seems people never go to bed yet the offices are astir shortly after eight in the morning.
Most of the work in Congress is done in com-mittee. Committees meet at 9:30 or 10. The House and Senate usually meet at noon, although the sessions are sometimes called earlier. When the bell rings throughout the Capitol and Senate and House office buildings, members know a vote is to be taken and they scramble to answer roll call. The hearing on the Grand Neosho was interrupted for the Dutra speech before the joint session and for three roll calls in the afternoon.
Each time the committee took a brief recess – not all the committee members were ever present at one time – the chairman, Congressman Will M. Whittington of Mississippi was there all day and the clerk of the committee sat steno typing statements made at the hearing.
Hearings on three projects were scheduled the same day. First was a project in the vicinity of the Elephant Butte dam in New Mexico. The siltation in the reservoir has created problems in the local drainage area. Further-more, New Mexico is in arrears in delivery of water to Texas. Thus we learned that the construction of dams creates problems.
When it came time for hearings on House Document 442 – the preliminary plans for Grand Neosho River, Colonel Gee of the staff of the Chief of Engineers explained the project and answered questions asked by members of the committee. So many letters of protest from Hartford had been written to the committee that they were conscious of the town of Hartford.
After the engineers had made the explanation, the proponents were called. John Redmond led the group, followed by witnesses from Marion, Council Grove, Chanute and Chetopa. Chetopa and the river near the Oklahoma line are really suffering from the Pensacola reservoir in Oklahoma. Where floods from the upper reaches descend they stay and stay because the Pensacola dam retards the fall.
Along late in the afternoon the opponents of the project had the chance to state their case. The delegation was led by Frank Cosgrove who grew up on the river at Hartford and now owns land above Council Grove. We had prepared a brief to show that the benefit cost ratio as shown in the report is not economically sound. The engineers estimate that the average annual benefits will be $34,400. Yet not considered in costs of damages is an annual recurring loss of more than 2 ½ million dollars. These losses were computed from questionnaires circulated in the four areas. They are not guesswork, but actual losses that would occur annually should the reservoirs be constructed.
Smaller reservoirs, which the people in this area desire, can be constructed at less cost per acre foot than the large ones proposed by
the Army engineers. Tied in with smaller reservoirs must be a plan for soil conservation. Surely any-one who has seen the recent rises in the creeks and rivers here realizes the need to hold the silt out of the streams. We need clear running creeks.
The opponents stated their case. The decision of the committee on public works is awaited.
Saturday morning we left Washington at 6:15, before anyone was awake. All day we drove through the famed Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and into West Virginia. We spent the night in Charleston. The next morning we ate breakfast in Ashland, Ky., on the Ohio river, four miles from Ironton where my father was born in 1855. A short stop was made at Calumet Farms. The pedigree of each mare and colt was posted on the stall
door. We saw the famous Kentucky bluegrass. From there we crossed the Ohio into Illinois and in less than a mile crossed the Mississippi into Missouri. It was around the junction of these two rivers that my father’s family floated in 1865. They left Ironton, went down the Ohio to the Mississippi, up the Mississippi to the Missouri and up the Missouri to Hannibal. In 1868 they came by train as far as Lawrence and on to Emporia.
In Springfield, Mo., we left Highway 60 and headed for Pittsburg, Kansas, and on home – 2,773 miles. Good weather the entire trip.
Project Document 442 became public law 81-516A May 17, 1950, then 85-327 on February 15, 1958. Construction began on the John Redmond Reservoir June of 1959 and was completed December of 1965.