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STATEMENT OF HON. J. PERCY PRIEST, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Mr. PRIEST. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of myself, and I am sure many thousands of other people in this particular area, I want first of all to express my very deep appreciation to the subcommittee for coming here today and for holding this hearing on a very vital subject. I do not have a prepared statement and I shall not take a great deal of the time of the subcommittee.
I have studied the water resources and power report of the Hoover Commission. I have studied the views of the majority as set forth in the report. I have read most carefully the separate views of Commissioners Brownell and Flemming and also the separate minority view of Commissioner Farley, and the rather detailed and well-documented separate report of Commissioner Holifield, our colleague in the House of Representatives.
I was impressed somewhat at reading the minority views of Commissioners Brownell and Flemming particularly by one statement, which I copied and which I think expresses, as I see it, pretty largely the essence of any analysis of the overall recommendations made by the Commission. I will read a quote from that which I have. Even though they dissent generally from the report, this sentence in the minority view submitted by Mr. Brownell and Mr. Flemming impressed me a great deal. They say:
* * * when taken togetherthat is, the recommendations
* * * when taken together, would impede the Federal Government in exercising its proper role in the development and use of the Nation's water resources.
Very similar, somewhat, to that is the dissenting view expressed by Commissioner Farley, where he says:
* recommendations in this report come dangerously close to inviting an abdication by the Federal Government of its responsibilities to insure the proper development of this country's great natural resources.
Of course, Congressman Holifield in his report went to great lengths and documented a number of points in the report that he made. I have studied all of these, as well as the recommendations of the Commission, and I find that I am in general concurrence with the exceptionally well-documented minority view as submitted by our colleague, Congressman Holifield, who was a member of the Commission.
I look back, Mr. Chairman, to the early thirties. At that time I was a newspaperman here in the capital city of Tennessee. Prior to 1933 I saw every year—almost every year, without exception—a wild and untamed Tennessee River, and an untamed Cumberland River right here at our backdoor. I saw them annually go into flood stage, destroying millions of dollars worth of property and washing away topsoil, the very best that we have, and the richest soil that we have. There was a job that somebody needed to do; it was a job that was too big for the State of Tennessee to do, in my opinion; it was a job too big for any private interests to attempt.
The Federal Government stepped into this picture in 1933.
Without reviewing all that transpired, I think we can say today, knowing the circumstances, that the Tennessee River is pretty nearly
under pushbutton control today. We do not have those recurring floods.
The point of bringing this into the picture today is simply this: If all of the recommendations of the Commission on Water Resources and Power had been in effect in 1933, I do not see how it would have been possible for this great job to have been done by the Federal Government.
Let me add this one point. I am happy to pause in my statement to welcome our colleague, Mrs. Griffiths, a member of the subcommittee. We are so happy that you are here, Mrs. Griffiths.
A great deal is said in the Commission's report-in the task force's report—about free enterprise, with which I agree. I believe free enterprise must be kept strong and healthy. However, I challenge anybody anywhere in this country to find a spot in the country today where free enterprise is healthier and sounder and on a firmer basis than it is in this Tennessee Valley area.
Mr. Jones. Mr. Priest, you notice in the Commission's recommendations they give a figure on the evaluation of the Federal investment in water resource projects at $14 billion. Nowhere in the report is any estimate made of the increased values of those properties. Just recently you saw an estimate made by the Secretary of Defense of the evaluation of properties owned by the Defense Department.
Do you have any idea, if those valuations were projected, what value would be placed on the $14 billion worth of water resource projects in which the Federal Government has invested?
Mr. PRIEST. Mr. Chairman, I have not had the opportunity to project those values, but I am confident that if they were projected the values which you mentioned would far exceed the total investment of the Federal Government in these various types of flood control and river and power projects. I do not know the figure and I have not had an opportunity to do the mathematics on it. I am greatly interested, of course, in the total effect. I repeat that in my opinion—and Í think anyone who has made a careful study of the recommendations of the commission would agree that the Tennessee Valley development could not have been undertaken and that achievement could not have been reached, giving us pushbutton control of a great river, if these recommendations of the Hoover Commission had been in effect in 1933.
Mr. Jones. Do you think that the Cumberland River can be doeveloped
Mr. PRIEST. Mr. Chairman, I was coming to the Cumberland River because it is a little closer to me than the Tennessee River, actually, and it is one in which I have been greatly interested, as you well know.
I introduced the bill that your Committee on Public Works, Mr. Chairman, incorporated into the omnibus bill which came out last year, providing for a high dam on the lower Cumberland River, replacing a recommendation which had been made earlier, but revised by the Corps of Engineers, for some smaller dams in that area. Along with that dam was the canal which would connect the Tennessee River with the Cumberland River, backing up from Kentucky Lake.
That is a very unique project. It is one which possibly could not be carried out anywhere else on the North American Continent, and I am not sure it could be carried out anywhere else in the world. It is a project where a very short canal can connect two very large river basins at a point where they flow that close together.
The Cumberland River is a river which is now in the process of development. One of the keystones, I think, in that development is this proposed high dam on the lower Cumberland River. If that dam is built, and I hope it will be built, the canal connecting the 2 channels of the 2 rivers—which is a part of the project and is now authorized as a part of the project in the bill which came out last year from the Public Works Committee of the House-will be one of the great economic assets not only of this entire area comprising the 2 great river valleys, but of the entire Nation.
Mr. Chairman, I come back to your question and say that I do not see how the Cumberland River developed as it is today and with the future projected developments could be accomplished if, as a matter of national policy, we should adopt this Commission's recommendations, and if the Congress should, by legislation and statutes, implement these recommendations. The Army engineers have done a very great job so far on the Cumberland River. I would like to see them continue that job with adequate implementing appropriations and such other authorizations as may be necessary, without being hampered, as I think they would be hampered, if these recommendations of the Hoover Commission should be put into effect.
Now, there are a great many other points in the report that I shall not go into at this time. When the report originally was issued I was greatly disturbed by the recommendation that public-power rates should be based on charges fixed by private utilities. I think that is a recommendation which would set us back many, many years.
There is one other point I wish to make. I was disturbed also by the proposal for river-use tolls. It is a little difficult for me to visualize how this proposal of river-use tolls can be implemented and administered. I suppose that it would be possible to do so, but it is a disturbing factor in the report, to me.
I was also disturbed, being here in the Tennessee Valley area, by the proposal in the Commission's report that the Federal Government build no more steam plants and no more transmission lines. . I point out for the record in connection with that recommendation this particular situation, which is familiar to everybody on this committee, I am sure. We shall not at this time debate whether the Congress acted wisely or whether it did not. That point has passed. However, in 1939 the Congress of the United States approved the sale of the assets of Commonwealth & Southern electric generating and distribution facilities in the entire Tennessee Valley area. It approved that sale to the Tennessee Valley Authority and thereby established the Tennessee Valley Authority as the public utility for an area of 80,000 square miles, affecting to some degree 7 different States. In effect, the Congress said to the Tennessee Valley Authority, “You are the public utility and the electric utility for this area. You do the job of furnishing electricity for the consumers—residential, industrial, and commercial-in this entire area.
I repeat that the point as to whether the Congress did right or whether it did not-and I think it did—is not up for debate in this present day.
Mr. Jones. Mr. Priest, do you not think that the Hoover Commission recommendations make it a subject of debate?
Mr. PRIEST. It is a subject for debate. If there is any serious consideration to be given to these recommendations, the question does naturally arise, and that is why I mention it. But it was adopted as a national policy.
Of course, many of these recommendations would change longexisting national policies with reference to our waterpower and our water resources.
I reread recently the testimony of Mr. Wendell Willkie, who represented Commonwealth & Southern at the time of the transaction or the agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. I reread his testimony before the old Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. The old Military Affairs Committee handled that legislation up until the Reorganization Act of 1946. I do not quote him exactly, but Mr. Willkie, in substance, made these statements before that committee. He said there is not room in the Tennessee Valley for two competing electric utility systems. He said that TVA has a broader job to do in that valley than Commonwealth & Southern. Commonwealth & Southern is interested only in the generation and distribution of electric power. The Tennessee Valley Authority has a much broader program. He said:
We are willing to sell and move out and leave the job up to them. We are satisfied with the price that has been offered and the negotiations that have been held. We think the Congress should approve the sale and leave the Tennessee Valley to do the overall job in this area.
That was his testimony, and Congress acted in accordance with that testimony. They did approve the sale of these assets to the Tennessee Valley Authority, and they thereby, I say, set up the Tennessee Valley Authority as the electric utility system for this area.
Mr. Chairman, I shall not dwell on this report longer. There is one other point I wanted to mention. That was the recommendation that cities and local governments be charged for the upstream costs of flood control. It is extremely difficult for me to see the wisdom or the practicability of such a recommendation.
I want to thank the subcommittee again for coming here and permitting me to make a brief overall statement, particularly concerning the effect that I think this recommendation would have on the Tennessee Valley Authority, and on the completion of a very well developed plan and program for the control of the Cumberland River.
I know that there are other witnesses here who have no doubt gone into details in their study more than I have been able to do. However, I have studied this report enough to feel that the Congress of the United States must be very, very careful, and must go very cautiously before we reverse national policies that have brought us to this good day in the development and the conservation of our water power and other natural resources.
I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Our next witness is Congressman Joe L. Evins, of Tennessee, who I understand is not able to be with us today, but is being represented by Mr. Franklin H. Brown, of McMinnville, Tenn.
How are you, Mr. Brown? We are glad to have you and we are sorry that Mr. Evins is not able to be with us today, but I am sure you will make a good advocate for his cause. You may proceed, sir.
STATEMENT OF FRANKLIN H. BROWN, McMINNVILLE, TENN.,
APPEARING ON BEHALF OF HON. JOE L. EVINS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Mr. BROWN. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am Franklin H. Brown, of McMinnville, Tenn., a personal friend of Representative Joe L. Evins, of the Fourth Congressional District of Tennessee.
It was the desired intention of Representative Evins that he appear in person here today, but circumstances arising over the weekend prevented his doing so.
Sharing as I do with Representative Evins' views toward public power and the development of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, it is a pleasure to appear before you-at his request—and read, if I may, a statement which he has prepared for this occasion.
May I say that he considers this privilege a personal favor, and I join with him in expressing deep appreciation to the subcommittee for its kind indulgence. Since the statement which I shall read in full text is his, with
your permission I shall speak in the first person throughout its continuity.
The statement of Representative Evins follows:
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, my colleagues, your presence here in the city of Nashville, and in our great State of Tennessee is a most heartening development.
It is well, always, for the business and investigations of the Congress to come as close as possible to the people. In this instance, most particularly, it is a healthy and beneficial thing for the subcommittee to reach into the heart of a vital public power area and to determine what the citizens of our area are thinking in regard to beneficial programs which operate for the prosperity and welfare of the people generally.
I have every confidence in the fairness and integrity of this committee. Certainly, I know the members of the committee and am fully cognizant of their high qualification for the task which has been set for them.
My esteemed colleague and friend, the Honorable Bob Jones, of our neighboring State of Alabama, is preeminently equipped for the leadership in this inquiry, as well as the other members of the subcommittee.
Mr. Jones. I see that Joe always speaks with the voice of authority, does he not?
Mr. Brown. Yes; that is true. [Reading:]
From the point of view of the citizens of our area, the Tennessee and the Cumberland River developments are of first importance. These great developments, however, are not confined to the Tennessee region. They are of national importance and I am aware of no region which has made possible in any greater degree a contribution to our national defense.
May I take this opportunity to call the attention of this subcommittee to four points, in particular:
1. The present Hoover Commission has changed from its original conception, intention, and purpose. It was originally created for the purpose of bringing about recommendations for improved efficiency in Government. I have supported many of these recommendations. Now the concept has changed. The intended version of the Hoover Commission now appears to be one of policy, which diverts from its original course and steps forward to claim a right of the people of this great Nation through their elected Representatives in Congress.