Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker Transmitting Report of Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy.
Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)
On many occasions, I have expressed my concern for the need to manage wisely America's water resources. For all our people, this country's inland streams and coastal waters are a source of well being, both material and spiritual.
But they are also the source of great personal hardship. Despite our flood control achievements in the past 20 years, which have averted an untold number of disasters, our river system and coastal waters are still dangerous friends. They still cost us, every year, more than a billion dollars of our wealth.
It need not continue this way.
For three decades we have been engaged in a continuous effort to control flood losses. Over $7 billion has. been invested since 1936 by the Federal Government in flood control projects. Each year these projects save lives and prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage throughout the country. Clearly we must and will continue to support these established programs.
But a Great Society cannot rest on the achievements of the past. It must constantly strive to develop new means to meet the needs of the people.
To hold the Nation's toll of flood losses in check and to promote wise use of its valley lands requires new and imaginative action.
Nature will always extract some price for use of her flood plains. However, this Nation's annual flood damage bill of more than $1 billion per year is excessive, even in a growing economy. Beyond the dollar loss the accompanying toll in personal hardship cannot be calculated. In addition, opportunities are being lost to use flood plain lands effectively for recreation and wildlife purposes.
I believe that we can and must reduce these losses. At the Administration's request, a special Task Force has submitted a report drawing upon the combined experience and judgment of the Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Tennessee Valley Authority, State and local agencies, and outside experts for providing guidance in dealing with flood losses by a wide variety of means.
The Federal interest in this matter is beyond doubt. The Federal effort to cope with the problem will be unsparing. But I cannot overemphasize that very great responsibility for success of the program rests upon State and local governments, and upon individual property owners in hazard areas. The key to resolving the problem lies, above all else, in the intelligent planning for and State and local regulation of use of lands exposed to flood hazard.
The Task Force report lays stress on actions which can and should be immediately undertaken
--to improve basic knowledge about the flood hazard,
--to coordinate and better plan for new developments on the flood plain,
--to initiate a program of technical information and services to managers of flood plain property,
--to move ahead with studies aimed at a practical national program for flood insurance,
--to adjust, through executive action and legislation, Federal flood control policy to sound criteria and changing needs.
I commend the consultants' report to the attention of the Congress and to the public at large. I strongly support its basic approach to the problem of curbing flood damage waste. Some of its recommendations can be carried out immediately. Others will require further study.
As a first--and immediate--step to carry out the recommendation of the Task Force report, I am today issuing an Executive Order directing Federal agencies to consider flood hazard in locating new Federal installations and in disposing of Federal land.
A great deal can be accomplished within the scope of existing authorities. I am asking, through the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, that agencies of the executive branch begin immediately taking additional action and conducting studies in accord with the Task Force recommendations.
Some of the Task Force proposals would require legislation. I am requesting the appropriate Federal agencies to study these proposals and make recommendations to me for later submission to the Congress.
There is a role for each level of government in a successful flood damage abatement program. There is likewise a responsibility on all participants, from the individual citizen through many elements of Federal establishment, to contribute to the program's success. Let us begin today a renewed and cooperative effort to attack this problem.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The report, dated August 1966, is entitled "A Unified National Program for Managing Flood Losses, A Report by the Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy" (Government Printing Office, 89 pp.). The report is also printed in House Document 465 (89th Cong., 2d sess.).
On the same day the President signed Executive Order 11296 "Evaluation of Flood Hazard in Locating Federally Owned or Financed Buildings, Roads, and Other Facilities, and in Disposing of Federal Lands and Properties" (2 Weekly Comp. Pres. Does., p. 1042; 31 F.R. 10663; 3 CFR 1966 Comp., p. 139).
Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker Transmitting Report of Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239204