Calvin Coolidge photo

Special Message to Congress on Flood Control in the Mississippi Valley

December 08, 1927

To the Congress of the United States:

There is submitted herewith a letter from the Hon. Dwight F. Davis, Secretary of War, transmitting with favorable recommendation the report of Maj. Gen. Edgar Jadwin, Chief of Engineers, containing the plan of the Army Engineers for flood control of the Mississippi River in its alluvial valley.

In my message to the two Houses of Congress at the beginning of the first session of the Seventieth Congress, the flood-control problem of the lower Mississippi and the urgent necessity for its solution were outlined. The general duties and responsibilities of the Federal Government in connection therewith were therein discussed.

The total cost of the recommended project is $296,400,000, distributed over a period of 10 years. This large sum is manifestly justified by the necessities of the situation and the benefits that will result. In determining the distribution of the cost there must be considered not only the people of the valley itself, who receive the major portion of the benefits, but also the great mass of taxpayers who suffer less directly from Mississippi River floods and upon whom most of the burden of Federal taxation falls. It is axiomatic that States and other local authorities should supply all land and assume all pecuniary responsibility for damages that may result from the execution of the project. It would be revolutionary for the Federal Government to establish the precedent of buying part of the land upon which to build protective works to increase the value of the remainder. Similarly it would be very unwise for the United States in generously helping a section of the country to render itself liable for consequential damages. The Federal Treasury should bear the portion of the most of engineering structures for flood control that is justified by the national aspects of the problem and the national benefits. It may even bear 80 per cent of such costs, but substantial local cooperation is essential to avoid waste. The portion this would leave to be borne locally for flood control structures represents an expenditures of about $3, or 30 cents per year for 10 years for each acre in the alluvial valley to be protected every year from Mississippi River floods. The value per acre, including railroads, towns, cities, and other improvements, is estimated at something over $200. It would seem that the States should share with the Federal Government the burden of assisting the levee districts and individual property owners, especially in view of the fact that the States benefit directly by the increased taxes from the land made more valuable by reason of its protection.

The plan transmitted herewith is comprehensive and speaks to me as being adequate in its engineering. I concur in general in the conclusions and recommendations reached in the report, and suggest that appropriate legislation be enacted putting them into effect.


THE WHITE HOUSE, December 8, 1927.

Calvin Coolidge, Special Message to Congress on Flood Control in the Mississippi Valley Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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