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PROTECTION OF WATERSHEDS OF NAWIGABLE STREAMS.
CoMMITTEE on AGRICULTURE, House of REPRESENTATIVEs, Washington, D. C., Wednesday, February 23, 1910. The committee met at 10.30 o'clock a. m., Hon. Charles F. Scott in the chair. The committee thereupon proceeded to the consideration of the bill (H.R. 11798) to enable any State to cooperate with any other State or States, or with the United States, for the protection of the watersheds of navigable streams, and to appoint a commission for the acquisition of lands for the purpose of conserving the navigability of navigable rivers. The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to an order made some days ago, the committee has met this morning to consider H. R. 11798, commonly known as the Weeks bill, relating to the protection of the watersheds of navigable streams and the purchase or acquirement in other ways of forest lands in the White Mountains and the Appalachians. Mr. Weeks called this morning to say that on account of another hearin it would be impossible for him to be present at the moment, althoug he hoped he might come in later. I notice, however, that Representative Currier, of New Hampshire, who is also identified with this legislation, is present, and I will ask him to make such a statement as he . and to present other gentlemen who wish to be heard on the subject. Let me suggest to members of the committee that the hearing will probably be expedited if gentlemen are allowed to conclude their remarks before being interrupted by questions. Mr. CURRIER. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Weeks expects to return in a few moments, and he asked me to take charge of the hearing until he could get back. We appear here this morning in behalf of a bill which excites a higher § of interest in New England than any other proposition pending before Congress, and I think that is also true P the southern Atlantic States. I shall not address the committee at this time, but shall simply present to the committee certain gentlemen who desire to be heard. I will first ask Representative Peters, of Boston, Mass., to speak to the committee.
STATEMENT OF HON. ANDREW J. PETERS, REPRESENTATIVE FROM MASSACHUSETTS,
Mr. PETERs. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, several gentlemen will address you in regard to this bill, and I shall try to confine my remarks to the phases of the situation that come particularly under my observation, and try to avoid commenting
on parts that will be presented to you more fully by men who are more capable of speaking on them.
I wish to speak, in the first place, of the intense public interest in this matter. It is one in which the people of Boston, of Massachusetts, and of New England generally, take a most keen and active interest. Editorials are appearing in our leading Boston papers, and in the papers all over New England, urging the support of this measure by Congress. I have received communications (I will read the names of just a few of them) from the Massachusetts Mutual Fire Insurance Company, the Pawtucket Gas Company, the Haverhill Board of Trade, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Boston Merchants' Association, the American Civic Association, the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs, the Massachusetts Civic League, the Massachusetts Wholesale Lumber Dealers’ Association, the Massachusetts State Board of Trade, from instructors in our colleges and universities, and from leading citizens in Boston and in the other Massachusetts cities.
I have here an editorial from the Scientific American, which I should like to have go into the record, showing that the recent Paris flood was due to the denudation of certain of the forest lands which drain into the Seine.
(The editorial above referred to is as follows:)
Causes of THE PARIS FLOOD.
There appears to be a consensus of opinion among the French scientists that the causes of the recent phenomenal rise of the Seine, when it reached the record height of 31 feet 2 inches, are to be found more in geological than in meteorological conditions. The basin of the Seine and the streams that are tributary to that river consists of a light absorbent soil; and, as the slopes are gentle, any sudden precipitation is ordinarily absorbed by the ground. In winter, when the soil is either frozen or saturated with the rains, there is a risk that the run-off of a heavy precipitation will be so large and sudden as to overtax the capacity of the river channels. These conditions obtained to a marked degree during the recent continuous heavy rainfall and flood. Meunier, the geologist, is of the opinion that the heavy rains preceding the flood found the soil of the watershed so thoroughly impermeable, because of saturation, that the water ran off as swiftly as it would from the surface of an asphalted or cemented street. Furthermore, it seems to be generally agreed that the denudation of the forests in the higher regions of the watershed has been a contributory cause to the flood. Not only do the trees assist evaporation, but the forest undergrowth also exerts a material influence in retarding the flow of the water.
Mr. PETERs. New England has paid its part toward the forest reserves of the country. Two hundred million acres have been taken in forest reserves in the West, for which New England has paid her part, and pays her part for maintaining them. Those 200,000,000 acres which have been put in forest reserves only affect the watershed which produces slightly over 3 per cent of the water power of the country; whereas the watershed in the White Mountain Forest Reserve (the one which it is proposed by this bill to take) affects 37 per cent of the total water power of the United States. Those figures are taken from the last census.
The importance of preserving the forests for their effect on the streams is too great a one for me to go into. I will quote here from a report entitled “Commercial importance of the White Mountain for