oversight

Construction of Watershed Projects Terminated or Delayed Because of Land Rights Problems

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-07-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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Construction Of
Watershed Projects
Terminated Or Delayed
Because Of
Land Rights Problems 8-744269
Soil Conservation Service   .,
Department of Agriculture




BY THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL
OF THE UNITED STATES
              COMPTROLLER      GENERAL     OF      THE   UNITED   STATES
                             WASHINGTON.    D.C.     20548




B-144269




To the President   of the Senate and the
Speaker  of the House of Representatives

         This is our report     on construction    of watershed     proj-
ects terminated       or delayed because of land rights       problems.
These projects       are administered      by the Soil Conservation
Service,     Department    of Agriculture.

         Our review  was made pursuant     to the Budget and Ac-
counting    Act, 1921 (31 U.&C,    53), and the Accounting  and
Auditing    Act of 1950 (31 U.S.C.   67).

         Copies of this     report are being sent to the Director,
Office of Management          and Budget,  and to the Secretary    of
Agriculture.




                                                    Comptroller            General
                                                    of the United          States




                      50TH ANNWERSARY                    1921 - 1971 --
        ' COMPTROLLERGENERAL'S                             CONSTRUCTION OF WATERSHEDPROJECTS
        ; REPORTTO THE CONGRESS                            TERMINATED OR DFLAYED BECAUSE OF LAND
                                                           RIGHTS PROBLEMS
                                                           Soil Conservation   Service, Department of
                                                           Agriculture  B-144269


        j   DLGEST
                ----


        ;   WHYTHE SURVEYWASMADE
                   The Soil Conservation       Service (SCS) provic&      technical      and direct     fi-
                   nancial assistance       to State and local organizations         for watershed      im-
                   provements to prevent floods;         to reduce damage from floodwater,           sedi-
                   ment,and erosion;       and to conserve,    develop,  utilize,      and dispose of
                   water.     The  assistance    is authorized    by two Federal    .laws:    the Flood
                   Control Act of 7944 (Pub. L. 534, 78th Cong.) and the Watershed Protec-
                   tion and Flood Prevention        Act of 1954 (Pub. L. 566, 83d Cong.).             The
                   laws permit the development of such structures              as dams, dikes,      and
                   levees and such land treatment          measures as seeding,      contour farming,
                   and irrigation.        (See pp. 6 and 10.)

                    Public Law 534 designated        11 large watershed projects      to be developed
                    with Federal assistance;        Public Law 566 provides     general open-end au-
                    thority      for Federal assistance     in small-scale  projects.    Projects   un-
                    der both programs are located         in the upper reaches of rivers      and their
                    tributaries.       (See pp. 8 to 10.)

                    Many of the projects   have been terminated    prior  to completion,  or their
                    construction  has been delayed unduly.      The General Accounting   Office
                     (GAO) made a survey to find out the reasons for the terminations         or de-
                   ,lays and what could be done about them.

    I
    /       FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
                   The major cause of terminated     and delayed projects      was the failure     or
                   delay of local sponsors to acquire      "land rights";    i.e.,   the land, ease-
                   ments, or rights-of-way    needed for the projects.       With certain     excep-
                   tions,  local sponsors are responsible      for acquiring     the land rights     at
                   no cost to the Government.      (See pp. 13 and 17.)      The failures     and de-
                   lays have resulted      in

                       --expenditure       of Federal,   State,     and local     funds   on projects     that
                          may never      be completed,

                       --significant       increases   in project     costs     due to general    rises    in
                          construction       price levels,   and
I
I           Tear
            --._-- Sheet
I

I
I
I                                                                                    JULY 13,1971m
   --long     delays in realizing    benefits from projects       that   may even-
       tually    be camp leted.   (See p. 17.

SCS did not specifically    require    that a preplanning         assessment be made
of the sponsors'   ability  and willingness    to acquire,         by condemnation if
necessary,  the land rights    needed for their projects.             (See p. 18.)

Publie Lciw 566-- the blatershed      Protection     and
Flood Preu, ntioz Act of l354

GAO did not ascertain       the total effect       of the land rights     problem,     but
information obtained       during the survey       indicated  that:

   --At least 46 projects       initiated under this act had been terminated
      because the sponsors      had not acquired the needed land rights.

   --SCS spent an estimated      $2.2 million     for planning the 46 terminated
      projects,   plus $2.1 million    as the Federal share of engineering,
      land treatment,   and construction      costs before the projects   were
      terminated.

   --The 46 projects,    if completed,       would have resulted  in estimated
      benefits  of $4.1 million      a year (in the form of reduced flood dam-
      ages, increased   agricultural      productivity,   water supply,  and rec-
      reation).    Only $30,800 of the estimated        annual benefits  applied
      to improvement structures       completed prior to termination     of the
      projects.    (See pp. 19 to 23.)

Public   Law 534--The    FZood ControZ    Act of 1944

Problems in acquiring     land right:    were delaying   completion  of the major
watershed    projects authorized    by this act.     As of 1955 scheduled com-
pletion   dates for the 11 projects      ranged from 1960 to 1976.     But, as
of 1970, only one project      was finished    and the rescheduled   completion
dates for the other 10 ranged from 1974 to 2021.           (See pp. 24 and 25.)

According  to SCS the estimated    Faderal share of construction    cost alone
for Public Law 534 projects     had increased by about $150 million     from
1955 to 1970 because of general rises in construction       price levels.
(See p. 24.)

SCS officials       advised GAO that the land rights     needed for some of           the
unfinished     portions     of the Public Law 534 projects    would be very          dif-
ficult    to obtain.      SCS, however, had not made detailed         assessments       of
the 10 unfinished        projects  that would identify   specifically       what     had
been done, what remained to be done, and the problems that barred                     com-
pletion.      (See p0 2" j
RECOMMENDATIONS
             OR SUGGESTIONS
       GAO informed SCS of the results       of its sui.r'ey and requested    comments on
       whether anything      could be done to provide assurance that construction
       of projects,     once planned and approved for installation,       will not be
       terminated    prior to completion    or delayed because of land rights       prob-
       lems.     GAO requested SCS to comment specifically       on the feasibility     of
       requiring    project   sponsors:, as a condition    for SCS approval   of projects
       for planning,      to

             --have the legal authority         (power   of eminent     domain)    to acquire      land
                rights by condemnation,

             --demonstrate      that   they have adequate financial     resources  to take the
                necessary    action,     including condemnation,    to acquire land rights,
                and

             --submit   written   statements    that would      commit them to take the neces-
                sary action 9 including      condemnation,      to acquire the needed land
                rights.     (See p. 27.)


AGENCYACTIONSAND UNRESOLVED
                          ISSUES
       SCS agreed that difficulty             in acquiring   land rights  was a major deter-
       rent to steady progress            in completing    watershed projects  and stated
       that it might be helpful             to step up emphasis on

             --appraising     the authority   and willingness         of project    sponsors     to ac-
                quire land    rights  by condemnation,

             --fully     and correctly  informing all concerned people             of land     rights
                 requirements    at each stage of project  formulation,

             --requiring   SCS field   offices     to reemphasize the importance       of pro-
                viding guidance , assistance,        and encouragement  to project     sponsors
                regarding  land rights     requiremel,ts   and of scheduling   regular    and
                continuing   follow-up  on actions that sponsors must take and are
                taking to acquire the needed land rights,          and

             --intensifying     the training    of employees      who work with      project      spon-
                 sors in acquiring    land rights.

       SCS issued a policy memorandum to its field         offices   (see app. II) re-
       emphasizing    the importance     of having project   sponsors with authority,
       financial   resources,    and willingness   to acquire land rights.     The mem-
       orandum stated that

             --sponsors    without the power of eminent domain should               not be accepted
                unless State law precludes   the sponsor from getting               such authority
                prior   to project planning,

Tear Sheet
-___

                                                3
                                                                                                                       I
                                                                                                                       I
                                                                                                                      I
                                                                                                                      I
                                                                                                                      I
                                                                                               ,                    ’
                                                                                                                    I
        --in    those   cases where State law precludes       the sponsor from obtaining                            I
                                                                                                                    I
            the power     of eminent domain prior   to planning,    assurance must be                               I
            obtained    that the sponsor will   acquire    such authority   as soon as                             I
                                                                                                                   I
            possible    during the project  planning    stage.                                                     I
                                                                                                                  I
       --planning     authorizations should not be requested by SCS field              of-                        I
                                                                                                                  I
          fices   unless it has been judged that the sponsor is willing              to                           I
          proceed with condemnation    if necessary,  and                                                         I
                                                                                                                  I
                                                                                                                  I
       --all  requests   from SCS field    offices for planning        authorizations    are                      I
                                                                                                                  I
          to contain   a discussion   of the sponsor's  authority        and willingness                        I
          to use the power of eminent domain if necessary.                                                      I
                                                                                                                I
                                                                                                                I
     The actions      taken and proposed by SCS should,         if carried out by its                           I
     field   offices,     provide greater    assurance that construction      of future                        I
                                                                                                               I
     watershed     projects    under both Public Law 534 and Public Law 566 will                               I
     not be terminated        prior  to completion    or delayed,   because of land                            I
                                                                                                               I
     rights   problems,     after   planning  has been completed and approved.          (See                   I
     pp. 27 to 29.)                                                                                           I
                                                                                                              I
                                                                                                              I
                                                                                                             I
MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATIclN BY THE COHGRESS                                                                   I
                                                                                                             I
                                                                                                             I
     The primary    purpose of this report   is to inform the Congress of a sig-                             I
     nificant   problem in carrying    out SCS flood prevention   and watershed   im-                       I
                                                                                                            I
     provement projects     under Public Law 534 and Public Law 566 and of the                              I
     actions  taken and proposed by SCS in an effort      to minimize  the problem.                        I
                                                                                                           I
     (See p. 30.)                                                                                          I
                                                                                                           I
    When the Congress authorized    the Public Law 534 projects     in 1944, it                            I
                                                                                                           I
    was the stated  intent that the projects    be completed as quickly     as pos-                        I
    sible.  In view of the long delays in completing      the projects,   the Con-                        I
    gress may wish to consider   requesting   SCS to examine into and report     on                       I
                                                                                                          I
                                                                                                          I
       --the general     nature and extent of flood control      or other water and                       I
           related  land resource     problems existing in the incomplete   portions                      I
                                                                                                          I
           of the 10 projects    and the tyr,?s of benefits   that can be obtained
           by completing    the projects,                                                              I
                                                                                                       I
                                                                                                       I
       --the specific      problems involved    in completing      the 10 projects   under             I
                                                                                                       I
          existing   legislative    and administrative     policies    and procedures,
          and                                                                                         ;
                                                                                                      I
                                                                                                     I
       --the nature and extent      of additional     legislative   authority     or other            I
           acticns needed to facilitate      completion     of the projects.                         I
                                                                                                     I
                                                                                                     I
    Information     provided    by such an SCS examination,      along with this report,             I
                                                                                                     I
    would provide      the Congress with a basis for evaluating          the need for com-          I
    pleting     the incomplete     portions of the 10 projects,       the desired   timeli-         I
                                                                                                    I
    ness of completion,        and the need for specific    legislative     actions    to          I
    facilitate     completion    of the 10 projects.                                               I
                                                                                                   I
                                                                                                   I
                                                                                                   I
                                          3                                                        I
                                                                                                   I
                                                                                                   I
                                                                                                   I
                                                                                                   I
    I   .   .


                Should    the Congress determine        that completion      of the 10 projects.ou         any
                portions     thereof      should be expedited,    lt may be necessary to modify the
                law to reduce the extent to which SCS must rely upon local sponsors and
                residents      to initiate      Public Law 534 subwatershed        projects,     to acquire
                the needed land or land rights,            to share in project        construction    costs,
                and to maintain         the projects.     Any  such  modifications      would    more than
                 likely   increase      the Federal share of the costs of the Public Law 534
                projects.

                Conversely,        should the Congress determine         that the incomplete    portions
                of the 10 Public Law 534 projects              should be given no further      priority,
                a question       arises as to whether the Public Law 534 program should be
                continued      as a separate entity.          As des&ribed on page 10, the basic
                difference       between the Public Law 534 and Public Law 566 programs is
                that Public Law 566 provides             open-end authority     for Federal assistance
                in small-scale         projects.    Should the Public Law 534 program be discon-
                tinued,      assistance      could be provided     under Public Law 566 for any areas
                within     the 10 incomplete       Public Law 534 projects        for which land rights
                may be obtained.            (See P. 31.)
I
I               SCS officials      pointed out that a provision       in the Department   of Agri-
I               culture    and Related Agencies Appropriation         Act for 1971 gave SCS per-
I               manent authority       to reimburse sponsors of Public Law 534 projects        for
I
I               a proportionate       share of the cost of land rights       needed for flood pre-
I               vention features.         The officials    stated that they could not yet project
I
I               what effect     the new authority       would have on completing   the 10 incomplete
I               Public Law 534 projects.            (See p. 32.)
I
- -.




                                  Contents
                                                                        Page

       DIGEST                                                             1

       CHAPTER
             1    INTRODUCTIONAND SCOPE                                   6

             2    NATUREOF WATERSHEDPROGRAMS
                                           AND HOWPROJ-
                  ECTS ARE DEVELOPED                                      8

             3    CONSTRUCTIONOF WATERSHED     PROJECTSTERMI-
                  NATED OR DELAYEDBECAUSEOF LAND RIGHTS
                  PROBLEMS                                               17
                     Public Law 566 projects                             19
                           South Anna project                            21
                           Little River project                          22
                     Public Law 534 projects                             24
                      Actions taken and planned to provide
                        better assurance that land rights
                        will be obtained                                 27
                      Conclusion                                         29
             4    MATTERSFOR CONSIDERATIONBY THE CONGRESS                30

       APPENDIX
              I   Letter dated May 25, 1970, from the Admin-
                     istrator,  Soil Conservation  Service, to
                     the General Accounting Office                       35

         II       Watersheds   memorandum--105                           38

         III      Principal     officials     of the Department of
                     Agriculture       responsible    for administra-
                     tion of activities         discussed in this re-
                     port                                                39

                                   ABBREVIATIONS

       scs        Soil   Conservation    Service

       GAO        General   Accounting    Office
COMPTROLLERGENERAL'S                        CONSTRUCTION OF WATERSHEDPROJECTS
REPORTTO THE CONGRESS                       TERMINATED OR DELAYED BECAUSE OF LAND
                                            RIGHTS PROBLEMS
                                            Soil Conservation   Service, Department of
                                            Agriculture  B-144269


DIGEST
--e--w

WHYTHE SURVEYWASMADE
    The Soil Conservation      Service (SCS) provides      technical     and direct     fi-
    nancial assistance      to State and local organizations         for watershed      im-
    provements to prevent floods;        to reduce damage from floodwater,           sedi-
    ment,and erosion;      and to conserve9 develop,      utilize,     and dibpose of
    water.     The assistance    is authorized    by two Federal laws:        the Flood
    Control Act of 1944 (Pub. L. 534, 78th Cong.) and the Watershed Protec-
    tion and Flood Prevention       Act of 1954 (Pub. L. 566, 83d Cong.).             The
    laws permit the development        of such structures       as dams, dikes,     and
    levees and such land treatment         measures as seeding,      contour farming,
    and irrigation.       (See pp. 6 and 10.)

     Public Law 534 designated        11 large watershed   projects    to be developed
     with Federal assistance;        Public Law 566 provides     general open-end au-
     thority      for Federal assistance    in small-scale   projects.    Projects   un-
     der both programs are located in the upper reaches of rivers              and their
     tributaries.       (See pp. 8 to 10.)

     Many of the projects  have been terminated    prior  to completion,  or their
     construction has been delayed unduly.      The General Accounting   Office
     (GAO) made a survey to find out the reasons for the terminations         or de-
     lays and what could be done about them.


FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
     The major cause of terminated     and delayed projects      was the failure     or
     delay of local sponsors to acquire      "land rights";    i.e.,   the land, ease-
     ments, or rights-of-way    needed for the projects.       With certain     excep-
     tions,  local sponsors are responsible      for acquiring     the land rights     at
     no cost to the Government.      (See pp- 13 and 17.)      The failures     and de-
     lays have resulted      in

         --expenditure       of Federal,   State,     and local     funds   on projects      that
            may never      be completed,

         --significant       increases   in project     costs     due to general     rises    in
            construction       price levels,   and
   --long     delays in realizing    benefits  from projects      that   may even-
       tually    be completed.    (See p. 17.)

SCS did not specifically    require      that a preplanning       assessment be made
of the sponsors'   ability  and   willingness    to acquire,       by condemnation if
necessary,  the land rights    needed for their      projects.        (See p* 18.)

public Lm 566--The Watershed          Protection     and
Flood Prevention Act of 1954

GAO did not ascertain       the total effect       of the land rights     problem,      but
information obtained       during the survey       indicated  that:

   --At least 46 projects        initiated under this act had been terminated
      because the sponsors       had not acquired the needed land rights.

   --SCS spent an estimated      $2.2 million     for planning the 46 terminated
      projects,   plus $2.1 million    as the Federal share of engineering,
      land treatment,   and construction      costs before the projects   were
      terminated.

   --The 46 projects,    if completed,      would have resulted   in estimated
      benefits  of $4.1 million      a year (in the form of reduced flood dam-
      ages, increased   agricultural     productivity,   water supply,   and rec-
      reation).    Only $30,800 of the estimated       annual benefits   applied
      to improvement structures       completed prior to termination     of the
      projects.    (See pp. 19 to 23.)

Public   Lam 534--The    Flood   Control   Act of 2944

Problems in acquiring     land rights    were delaying   completion  of the major
watershed    projects authorized    by this act.     As of 1955 scheduled com-
pletion   dates for the 11 projects      ranged from 1960 to 1976.     But, as
of 1970, only one project      was finished    and the rescheduled   completion
dates for the other 10 ranged from 1974 to 2021.           (See pp. 24 and 25.)

According  to SCS the estimated    Federal share of construction     cost alone
for Public Law 534 projects     had increased  by about $150 million     from
1955 to 1970 because of general rises in construction       price levels.
(See p. 24.)

SCS officials       advised GAO that the land rights     needed for some of           the
unfinished     portions     of the Public Law 534 projects    would be very          dif-
ficult    to obtain.      SCS, however, had not made detailed         assessments        of
the 10 unfinished        projects  that would identify   specifically       what     had
been done, what remained to be done, and the problems that barred                     com-
pletion.      (See p. 25,)
RECOMMENDATIONSOR SUGGESTIONS

    GAB informed SCS of the results        of its survey and requested      comments on
    whether anything      could be done to provide assurance that construction
    of projects,     once planned and approved for installation,        will not be
    terminated    prior to completion     or delayed because of land rights       prob-
    lems.     GAO requested    SCS to comment specifically     on the feasibility     of
    requiring    project    sponsors , as a condition    for SCS approval   of projects
    for planning,      to

       --have the legal authority        (power   of eminent     domain)    to acquire      land
          rights by condemnation,

       --demonstrate      that they have adequate financial     resources  to take the
          necessary    action , including condemnation,     to acquire lend rights,
          and

       --submit   written     statements    that would    commit them to take the neces-
          sary action    4 including     condemnation,    to acquire the needed land
          rights.     (See pa 27.)


AGENCY ACTIONS AND UNRESOLVEDISSUES

     SCS agreed that difficulty       in acquiring   land rights  was a major deter-
     rent to steady progress      in completing    watershed projects  and stated
     that it might be helpful       to step up emphasis on

       --appraising     the authority   and willingness        of project    sponsors     to ac-
          quire land    rights  by condemnation,

       --fully    and correctly  informing all concerned people             of land     rights
          requirements    at each stage of project  formulation,

       --requiring   SCS field   offices     to reemphasize the importance        of pro-
          viding guidance , assistance,        and encouragement   to project     sponsors
          regarding  land rights     requirements     and of scheduling   regular    and
          continuing   follow-up  on actions      that sponsors must take and are
          taking to acquire the needed land rights,          and

       --intensifying     the training    of employees      who work with     project      spon-
           sors in acquiring    land rights.

     SCS issued a policy memorandum to its field         offices    (see app. 11) re-
     emphasizing    the importance     of having project   sponsors with authority,
     financial   resources,    and willingness   to acquire    land rights.   The mem-
     orandum stated that
       --sponsors    without the power of eminent domain should              not be accepted
          unless State law precludes   the sponsor from getting              such authority
          prior   to project planning,
       --in those      cases where State law precludes    the sponsor from obtaining
           the power     of eminent domain prior to planning,   assurance must be
           obtained    that the sponsor will acquire such autharity     as soon as
           possible    during the project   planning stage.

       --planning   authorizations  should not be requested by SCS field             of-
          fices unless it has been judged that the sponsor is willing              to
          proceed with condemnation   if necessary9 and

       --all  requests from SCS field    offices for planning authorizations     are
          to contain a discussion   of the sponsor's   authority and willingness
          to use the power of eminent domain if necessary.

    The actions      taken and proposed by SCS should,         if carried out by its
    field   offices,     provide greater     assurance that construction    of future
    watershed projects         under both Public Law 534 and Public Law 566 will
    not be terminated         prior to completion     or delayed,  because of land
    rights    problems,     after   planning has been completed and approved.         (See
    pp. 27 to 29.)


MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE CONGRESS

    The primary purpose of this report    is to inform the Congress of a sig-
    nificant   problem in carrying  out SCS flood prevention   and watershed im-
    provement projects   under Public Law 534 and Public Law 566 and of the
    actions  taken and proposed by SCS in an effort    to minimize the problem.
    (See p. 30.)

    When the Congress authorized    the Public Law 534 projects   in 1944, it
    was the stated  intent that the projects    be completed as quickly   as pos-
    sible.  In view of the long delays in completing the projects,      the Con-
    gress may wish to consider   requesting   SCS to examine into and report   on

      --the general nature and extent of flood control         or other water and
          related  land resource problems existing    in the incomplete   portions
          of the 10 projects    and the types of benefits   that can be obtained
          by completing   the projects,

      --the specific      problems involved    in completing     the 10 projects   under
          existing  legislative    and administrative     policies   and procedures,
          and

      --the nature and extent of additional     legislative   authority         or other
          actions needed to facilitate completion     of the projects.

    Information     provided by such an SCS examination,        along with this report,
    would provide the Congress with a basis for evaluating              the need for com-
    pleting     the incomplete    portions of the 10 projects,       the desired timeli-
    ness of completion,        and the need for specific   legislative     actions  to
    facilitate     completion    of the 10 projects.

                                         4
Should the Congress determine           that completion    of the 10 projects      or any
portions     thereof      should be expedited,    it may be necessary to modify the
law to reduce the extent to which SCS must rely upon local sponsors and
residents      to initiate      Public Law 534 subwatershed     projects,     to acquire
the needed land or land rights,            to share in project     construction    costs,
and to maintain         the projects.    Any such modifications      would more than
 likely   increase the Federal share of the costs of the Public Law 534
projects.

Conversely,        should the Congress determine         that the incomplete    portions
of the 10 Public Law 534 projects              should be given no further      priority,
a question       arises as to whether the Public Law 534 program should be
continued      as a separate entity.          As described    on page 10, ihe basic
difference       between the Public Law 534 and Public Law 566 programs is
that Public Law 566 provides             open-end authority     for Federal assistance
in small-scale         projects.     Should the Public Law 534 program be discon-
tinued,      assistance      cou‘ld be provided under Public Law 566 for any areas
within     the 10 incomplete        Public Law 534 projects       for which land rights
may be obtained.            (See P. 31.)

SCS officials      pointed out that a provision       in the Department of Agri-
culture    and Related Agencies Appropriation         Act for 1971 gave SCS per-
manent authority       to reimburse sponsors of Public Law 534 projects        for
a proportionate      share of the cost of land rights        needed for flood pre-
vention features.         The officials    stated that they could not yet project
what effect     the new authority       would have on completing   the 10 incomplete
Public Law 534 projects.            (See p. 32.)
                                CHAPTER1

                       INTRODUCTIONAND SCOPE

      The term "watershed" means the area of land from which
water drains to a given point,  such as a stream, marsh, or
lake.   The land areas drained by small streams make 'up the
watershed of the larger stream into which they flow.    Thus
a major river basin is made 'up of thousands of small water-
sheds.

       Water that runs off the land too rapidly    can cause
floods that take lives and can damage top soil, crops, homes,
highways, and utilities.     Soil and other debris carried into
streams and lakes can spoil fishing,     can decrease storage
capacity for municipal water supply, can increase the cost
of filtering    water for municipal use, and can interfere    with
hydroelectric    plants.

        The Soil Conservation        Service, Department of Agricul-
ture,     is   responsible    for the  administration      of section 13 of
the Flood Control Act of 1944 (58 Stat, 905) and the Water-
shed Protection         and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 (16 U.S.C.
1001 to 1008).          Those acts, commonly referred        to as Public
Laws 534 and 566, respectively,            authorize    the Secretary of
Agric,ulture       to provide technical     and direct financial       assis-
tance to State and local organizations               in the planning and
installation         of watershed improvement projects         to prevent
floods;      to reduce damage from floodwater,          sediment, and ero-
sion; and to conserve, develop, utilize,               and dispose of wa-
ter.

     Construction of many projects           under the two SCS water-
shed programs has been terminated1           prior to completion or


1When construction       of a project has been unduly delayed be-
 cause of improper actions or inactions            by the sponsor, SCS
 places the project        on an inactive   list and terminates    SCS
 assistance   until    the sponsor takes the action necessary to
 res'ume construction.         As used throughout    this report,  the
 word "terminated"       refers to projects     that were on the inac-
 tive list as of June 30, 1969.

                                     6
has been delayed for long periods,     CA0 made a survey to
obtain information  concerning the causes for the termina-
tions and delays and to identify   actions which could be
taken by SCS to minimize them.

      Although our survey was made primarily          at SCS headquar-
ters in Washington,     D.C., we also visited      the SCS State of-
fices in Maryland and Virginia         and one area office     and one
work unit office     in Virginia,      Cur survey included discus-
sions with SCS officials       and reviews of pertinent      laws, pro-
cedures, directives,     and general project      data.    Becuse of
the actions taken and proposed by SCS near the end of our
s'urvey, our examination      of detailed   records for specific
projects   was limited   to one Public Law 534 subwatershed
project   and two Public Law 566 projects,




                                   7
                              CHAPTER2

            NATUREOF WATERSHEDPROGRAMS
                                     AND HOW

                     PROJECTSARE DEVELOPED

      Section 13 of the Flood Control Act of 1944 (Pub. L.
534) designated   11 large watershed projects to be undertaken
by the Department of Agriculture.    Section 13 states,  in
part 9 that  those 11 projects

     "are hereby adopted and authorized          in the inter-
     est of the national       security   and with a view to-
     ward an adequate reservoir         of useful and worthy
     public works for the postwar construction              pro-
     gram ***:      Provided *J;* that when the existing
     critical    situation    with respect to materials,
     equipment, and manpower, no longer exists and in
     any event not later than immediately following
     the cessation      of hostilities    ila the present     war,
     the projects      herein shall be initiated      as expedi-
     tiously    and prosecuted as vigorously       as may be
     consistent     with budgetary requirements       ***."

     The following    map shows the names and locations              of the
11 designated   Public Law 534 projects.
PUBLIC LAW 534 WATERSHED   PROJECTS
        The Watershed      Protection       and Flood Prevention          Act of
1954 (Pub. L. 566) did not designate                 specific     watershed     proj-
ects but provided         general     open-end    authority      for Federal
assistance       in small-scale       projects.      Although      Public    Law 534
projects     are much larger        in size than Public          Law 566 proj-
ects,    Public     Law 534 projects        are divided      into numerous sub-
watershed      projects    which are comparable           in size to Public
Law 566 projects.

        Public   Law 534 and Public        Law 566 projects          usually      are
located     in the upper reaches of rivers               and their    tributaries.
Watershed      improvements      include    such structures         as dams,
dikes,    and levees and such numerous land treatment                     measures
as seeding,       contour    farming,    and   irrigation.         Some   of the
various     watershed     improvement     structures       and land treatment
measures are illustrated            in the following        SCS photographs.




Swimming   beach at earthfill   dam in Middle-South   Branch   Forest   River watershed   project,   Walsh County,
North Dakota.




                                                      10
Earthfill  dam, grassed waterways,   terrace   systems, contour       farming, and roadside erosion control   in the
Swedcburg     Watershed,   Saunders County,    Nebraska.      Benefits include flood control,  improved   fish and
wildlife  habitat,  and reduced soil erosicn   and siltation.




 Earthfill   dam in Old Tom    Crcs:I\ watershed    project,  Warren County,   Illinois.   Benefits   include   flood
 prevention,    imptovcd fi&   .md \:iidl,!c  hdbit<iic, and recrcdtion.


                                                          11
Channel improvement          in Waianae   Iki watershed   project,   Oahu,   Hawaii.     Primary   benefit    is reduced   flood
damages.




 Earthfill   flood control     and recreation   dam in Spaulding      Pond   Brook     watershed   project.    New   London
 County,     Connecticut.

                                                              12
       Public Law 534 subwatershed projects        and Public Law
566 projects    are initiated     and sponsored by local organiza-
tions representing       the people living   in the project   areas.
Local sponsoring organizations        include conservancy districts,
counties,    or other local governmental bodies established
under State laws to carry out soil and water conservation
programs.     Generally,    the local sponsor or sponsors must ob-
tain State approval of a proposed project          prior to submitting
an application     to SCS for assistance,

       Upon receipt    of an application,     SCS makes a preliminary
investigation     into the feasibility      of the proposed project,
If SCS determines that the proposed project           is feasible,    it
will provide technical       assistance   in developing    a detailed
project plan.       Detailed planning includes making estimates
of the benefits      and costs of the proposed project,

       Watershed project     benefits   include reduced damages from
flooding,    sedimentation,    and erosion;      increased agricultural
production;    municipal water supply; and recreation.              Public
Law 566 provides that a proposed project             not be eligible      for
Federal assistance      unless the benefits        to be derived from
the project    during its estimated useful life exceed the
costs a Although there is no similar           legal requirement      for
Public Law 534 projects,       SCS policy requires        that Public Law
534 subwatershed projects       be justified       in the same way.

      The detailed   project   plan sets forth a description   of
the types of structures      and improvements to be installed,
their estimated benefits      and costs, and the sequence in
which they are to be installed.        The plan sets forth also
the responsibilities     to be carried out by SCS and the proj-
ect sponsors and must be signed by SCS and the sponsors
prior to the beginning of project       construction,

      Under the law and SCS policy,   the principal   responsibil-
ities  of local sponsorsp in addition    to the responsibility
of assisting   in the planning of the project,    are to

      --acquire  the land, easements, or rights-of-way  needed
         for the project,  generally at no cost to the Govern-
         ment,



                                     13
                                                                               ’




      --pay a share of the cost of installing            watershed    im-
         provements, and

      --maintain    the project.

       Project sponsors acquire the land, easements, or rights-
of-way by donation from the landowner; by purchase from the
landowner; or9 if necessary and if the sponsor has the power
of eminent domain, by condemnation.            Public Law 534 provides
that SCS may acquire,        in the name of the United States, land
needed for flood prevention        features    (as distinguished        from
such other features as recreation,          agricultural     irrigation,
and municipal water supply) of the 11 designated projects.
SCS officials     advised us that it was not SCS policy to use
such authority,     primarily    because of the extra administra-
tive burden that would be placed on the Government as an
owner of land within a project,           There is no similar        legal
provision     for Public Law 566 projects.

       Principal   responsibilities     of SCS are to provide engi-
neering services and construction          contract    administration
assistance     (if requested by the sponsor) and to pay the
Federal share of the cost of installing            watershed improve-
ment structures     and certain     land treatment measures.          Fur-
suant to the law, SCS is authorized          to pay

      --all  engineering   and construction costs applicable            to
         the flood prevention   features of a project,

      --all   engineering costs and a proportionate      share 1 of
         the construction  costs of any improvements for the
         purposes of conserving,    developing,   using, or dispos-
         ing of water for agricultural     purposes,
      --all   engineering  costs and a proportionate    share1 of
         the construction   costs of any improvements for public
         fish and wildlife   or recreation  development, and


'Under discretionary  authority          granted in the law, SCS has
 determined that a proportionate            share is up to 50 percent
 of the cost.



                                    14
      --in certain      instances,  up to 50 percent of the cost
         of land, easements, or rights-of-way       and minimum ba-
         sic facilities      for public fish and wildlife   or recrea-
         tion development.

        The costs incurred by SCS in providing      project planning
assistance   prior to construction     are not considered as part
of project   construction    costs for the purpose of cost shar-
Fng. Generally,      however9 State and local funds are expended
on project   planning,    On the average, State and local plan-
ning costs are equivalent      to about two thirds of tht Federal
funds expended for planning.

        Because the Federal share of construction   costs de-
pends upon the purposes to be served by the project,      the
amount of the Federal share varies from project     to project.
On the average, the Federal share has been equivalent       to
about 58 percent of the total cost of a Public Law 566 proj-
ect, excluding planning costs,     For Public Law 534 projects,
SCS records do not show separate amounts for project      con-
struction   costs and planning costs.   On the average9 the Fed-
eral share of construction    cost and the Federal planning
costs have been equivalent    to about 51 percent of the total
cost of a Public Law 534 project.

        Under Public Law 566, if the estimated Federal share of
the construction     cost of a proposed project  is $250,000 or
more or if any one structure     will retard 2,500 to 4,000 acre-
feet of water, the work plan must be approved by the agricul-
tural committees of both the House and the Senate.        If any
one structure    will retard more than 4,000 acre-feet    of water,
the work plan must be approved by both the House and Senate
Committees on Public Works. Work plans for individual        Pub-
lic Law 534 subwatershed projects      are not subject to con-
gressional    approval,

        After the detailed  project   plan has been approved, con-
s%ruction of the project     can begin, provided that sufficient
Federal funds are available      and the needed land, easements,
or rights-of-way    have been acquired by the sponsor.      The law
and related    SCS policy require that Federal assistance     not
be provided for the construction      of improvements until   the
needed land, easements, or rights-of-way       either have been
acquired by the sponsor or are being acquired under condemna-
tion proceedings    by the sponsor,
     Under SCS procedures,  however, large projects   are usu-
ally broken down into construction  units and work can proceed
on a unit when the land, easements, or rights-of-way     for that
unit have been acquired.   There is no legal requirement     for
the sponsor to assure SCS prior to or during the planning
stage that the needed land, easements, or rights-of-way     will
be obtained.

      Appropriations   for fiscal   years 1969-71 for the two
watershed programs, which cover the Federal share of the di-
rect costs of installing     watershed improvements and SCS plan-
ning and other administrative      costs, are shown below,

                                                Fiscal year
                                           1969     1970    1971

                                                  (millions)

Flood prevention    (covers planning
   and Federal share of installa-
   tion cost of Public Law 534 proj-
   ects)                                  $19.9     $20.7      $ 20.7
Watershed works of improvement
   (covers Federal share of the in-
   stallation  cost of Public Law 566
  projects)                                57.9      66.3        76.0
Watershed planning     (covers planning
  cost of Public Law 566 projects)          6.4        6.8        6.1

    Total                                 $84.2     $93.8
                                                     ---       $102.8
      SCS is headquartered in Washington,     D.C., and has about
3,150 State, area, and work unit offices      throughout the 50
States and in Puerto Rico and the Virgin      Islands.
                               CHAPTER3

               CONSTRUCTIONOF WATERSHEDPROJECTS

                       TERMINATEDOR DELAYED

                 BECAUSEOF LAND RIGHTS PROBLEMS

      The major cause for numerous watershed projects         being
terminated   prior to completion    or their construction     being
delayed has been the failure     or delay of project      sponsors
in acquiring    the land, easements9 or rights-of-way       needed
for their projects.      SCS has recognized this fact as a major
problem for several years,

       Failures     and delays in obtaining   land, easements, or
rights-of-way       have resulted in (1) expenditure     of Federal,
State, and local funds for planning and installation              costs
on projects      that may never be completed,     (2) significant       in-
creases in project       costs due to general rises in construction
price levels,       and (3) long delays in realizing     benefits     from
projects     that may eventually    be completed.    We did not make
a detailed      review to measure the total effect of the land
rights1    problem; however, information      obtained in our survey
showed that:

      --At least 46 projects     initiated     under Public Law 566
         had been terminated    because the sponsors had not ac-
         quired the needed land rights.         We estimate that SCS
         spent $2.2 million   for planning the 46 projects,
         SCS spent $2,1 million     additional     on the 46 projects
         as the Federal share of engineering          costs; land
         treatment costs; and, in three of the projects,          con-
         struction  costs for certain      structural    units where
         land rights were obtained,

      --SCS estimated that the 46 terminated    Public Law 566
         projects,  if completed, would result  in total bene-
         fits of $4.1 million   a year. Watershed improvement


1
 Hereinafter,  the term "land rights"  means the land, ease-
 ments, or rights-of-way   needed to complete watershed proj-
  ects.
                                                                            ,


        structures were installed in only three of the proj-
        ects, and the estimated benefits  applicable to those
        structures amounted to about $30,800 a year.

      --As of 1955 SCS-scheduled completion dates for the
         11 major projects  authorized     by Public Law 534 ranged
         from 1960 to 1976.    (See sch. on p. 25.)        As of 1970,
         only one project was finished       and SCS-rescheduled
         completion dates for the PO other projects         ranged
         from 1974 to 2021.    SCS officials     advised us that a
         major cause for the delays in completing these proj-
         ects had been the failure     of project    sponsors to ac-
         quire land rights.

      --According  to SCS the estimated Federal share            of con-
         struction costs alone for the Public Law 534            projects
         increased by about $150 million   from 1955 to          1970 be-
         cause of general rises in construction   price          levels.

       Although SCS guidelines  and directives     provided for a
general evaluation,    prior to planning,    of the ability    and
willingness    of the sponsor to carry out a project plan, SCS
did not specifically    require that a preplanning      assessment
be made of the sponsor's ability     and willingness     to acquire
the needed land rights.

       The land rights   problems    are discussed   in detail     in the
following    sections.




                                    18
PUBLIC LAW 566 PROJECTS

      The following  tabulation     shows the status at June 30,
1969, of all applications      received by SCS for assistance   in
watershed protection    and flood prevention     projects under
Public Law 566, as summarized from SCS records.

                                                      Projects

     Applications    received                           2,795
     Applications    pending action,     dis-
       approved,or    withdrawn                        -1,284

     Approved   for planning                             1,511

     Suspended or terminated         during
       planning stage                                      183
     Still    in planning stage                            314
     Pending final approval of completed
        plan                                                77
     Terminated during installation         stage           57
     Still     in installation    stage                    642
     Installation       completed                          238

                                                         1,511

SCS records show that, as of June 30, 1969, cumulative         Fed-
eral obligations     for Public Law 566 projects    were about
$587 million,    including  about $74 million    for planning.

       As shown above, 57 projects     were terminated  during the
installation    stage-- after planning had been completed and
approved.    Information    obtained from SCS headquarters    showed
that at least 46 of the 57 projects       had been terminated   be-
cause land rights had not been acquired,

       SCS records do not show the amount of planning costs
incurred   for specific    projects.    On the basis of average
planning costs for each project,        we estimated that Federal
funds of about $2.2 million        had been expended for planning
the 46 projects    that were subsequently      terminated   because
land rights had not been acquired.         In addition,    SCS records
show that Federal funds of about $2.1 million           were expended
on the 46 projects      for engineering   designs; for accelerated

                                   19
land treatment;      and, in three of the projects,    for construc-
tion of certain      structural  units where land rights were ac-
quired.

       We did no% ascertain     the amount sf State and local
funds expended on the 46 terminated        projects,   On the ba-
sis that State and local. planning costs are generally        equiv-
alent to about two %hirds of the Federal funds expended for
planning,    we estimate that State and local. funds of abou%
$1.4 million     were expended in planning the 46 projects.
SCS records show that additional       State and local funds of
about $7.4 million       were expended on land rights,   land
treatment,    construction    contract administration,   and con-
struction    prior to the termination    of the 46 projects,

       According to SCS estimates the planned watershed im-
provement s%ructures in the 46 terminated                projects   would
have resulted     in benefits--in      the form of reduced flood
damages, increased agricultural           productivity,       water supply,
and recreation-.-of    $4,1 million       a year.       But watershed
structures    were installed      in certain areas within only
three of the 46 projects         before the projects         were terminated.
On the basis of SCS data for the three projects,                  we estimate
that $30,800 of the annual benefits            are applicable       to the
completed structures.

       We inquired  into the extent to which the sponsors of
the 46 projects    had legal authority   to acquire land rights
by condemnation in the event %hat they could not persuade
land owners %o either donate or sel.1 %he land rights,       In-
formation obtained from SCS showed %ha% the sponsors of
eight of the 46 terminated     projects  did not have the power
of eminent domain and that the sponsors of the remaining 38
projects   had the power of eminent domain but either did no%
attempt or were unable to use it.       We inquired into 10 of
the 38 projects    and were told by SCS State office repre-
sentatives
      --that     the sponsors of six projects        did ~405,have legal
         authority    to levy taxes to obtain        funds needed for
          acquiring   land rights and that the        people living   in
         the project     areas were not willing       to grant taxing
         au%hori%y to the sponsors and
      --that      the sponsors of four projects    had taxing au-
          thority    but that the people living     in the project
         areas were not willing      to approve   tax levies to ob-
          tain funds to acquire land rights.

      Our inquiry  into 50 of 100 projects   approved for plan-
ning during fiscal    year 1969 showed that the sponsors in
nearly all the 50 projects     had the power of eminent domain.
The information   presented above regarding   the 38 projects
which were terminated     even though the sponsors had the
power of eminent domain indicates     that SCS had no means
of ensuring that sponsors would be willing      and able to use
such power.
        The 46 projects    discussed previously     were specifically
identified    in SCS headquarters      records as being terminated.
Information     obtained in our survey indicated       that completion
of certain    projects   that had not been identified       as being
terminated--we      did not ascertain     how many--had been delayed
because the local sponsors had not acquired the land rights.
To illustrate     the type of problems involved,       information    re-
lating to two such projects--       the South Anna and the Little
River watershed projects        in Virginia--is   presented below.

South Anna project
       SCS authorized the South Anna project for planning as-
sistance in November 1958.       In April 1965 SCS and the sponsor
had completed the planning and SCS authorized         Federal cost
sharing and technical    assistance   in installing    the planned
watershed improvements,      The project was planned to provide
watershed protection    and flood prevention      for 234,000 acres
of land for 100 years.     Total costs, excluding planning
costs, were estimated at $5,946,000,       of which $2,947,000 was
estimated as the Federal share.

      The South Anna project plan provided for constructing
59 structures,   consisting  of 26 floodwater-retarding     struc-
tures, three multi-purpose    reservoirs   for flood prevention
and municipal water supply, and 30 stream channel improve-
ment structures0    The planned structures     were grouped into
12 construction   units.



                                   21
       According to the plan the 12 units of the South Anna
project were to be completed within 10 years, or by April
1975. As of January 1970 only one unit--consisting            of one
dam and some channel improvement work--had been substan-
tially   completed.       Construction   had not been started on the
other 11 units because the land rights had not been ac-
quired.     SCS officials     told us that the project sponsors
were still    making efforts       to acquire land rights needed for
those units.

       On the basis of available         data, we estimated that SCS
incurred costs of about $42,000 in planning the South Anna
project.     As of June 30, 1969, SCS had obligated         $419,650
additional    for installation       costs; thus the total Federal
obligations     for the project      amounted to about $461,650,
SCS estimated that the benefits           from the South Anna project
would be about $171,000 annually over the estimated loo-year
life of the project,       including     about $6,000 annually from
the one construction       unit that was substantially      completed,
Estimated benefits     of about $165,000 a year relate to the 11
construction     units that are being delayed because land rights
have not been acquired.

      We reviewed the files          of the SCS field offices      involved
in the South Anna project          to ascertain     what information     SCS
had, prior to planning,        to indicate      that the needed land
rights would be obtained.           The files indicated      that SCS had
received statements from the sponsors that there was con-
siderable    local interest      in the project but did not indicate
whether local sponsors had power of eminent domain.                  scs
field office     representatives       advised us that the sponsors
did not have power of eminent domain and had attempted to
acquire land rights by donation from the landowners.

Little   River   project
                      --
       SCS authorized  the Little    River project     for planning
assistance   in October 1959. In December 1961, after the
planning was completed and approved, SCS authorized            Federal
cost sharing and technical      assistance    in installing    the
planned watershed improvements.         The project was designed
to provide watershed protection        and flood prevention      for
33,500 acres of land.     Total cost of the project,        excluding


                                     22
planning costs, was estimated at $959,000,                 of which $361,000
was estimated as the Federal share.

      The   Little River project    plan was for the construction
of four earthfill     dams to provide floodwater       and sediment
storage for the estimated 50-year life of the project.               Also,
stream channel improvements were planned.           The planned im-
provements were grouped into four construction           units,    and
each unit consisted of a dam and channel work below the dam.
As provided in SCS regulations,        Federal' assistance      for the
construction    of the improvements could not be provided for
any part of a construction      unit until the land rights were
obtained for an entire unit.
      According      to   the   Little   River   project   plan,   all   four
construction     units were to have been completed within
5 years, or by the end of December 1966. As of March 1970--
more than 3 years after the estimated completion date--only
one of the four construction      units had been completed.
Construction     had not been started on the other three units
because the sponsor had not secured the land rights.        SCS
officials    advised us that the Little   River project would
probably be terminated.

       On the basis of available      data, we estimated that SCS
had expended about $45,000 to plan the Little           River project.
Also, SCS obligated      about $196,000 for installation         costs
(including    preconstruction    services and construction        costs);
thus the total Federal obligations          for the project     amounted
to about $241,000.       As part of the basis for authorizing
assistance    for the project,    SCS estimated that the total
benefits    of the project would be about $21,400 a year over
the 50-year life of the project,         including  about $6,900 a
year for the construction       unit that was completed.         The re-
maining estimated benefits--about          $14,500 a year--will
probably never be realized.

       SCS State officials   responsible  for the Little    River
project  stated that the sponsor did not have the power of
eminent domain and had attempted to acquire land rights by
donation from the landowners,       There was no indication     in
the field office    files that any attempts had been made to
acquire the power of eminent domain.


                                         23
        PUBLIC LAW 534 PROJECTS

               As previously    mentioned, section 13 of the Flood Con-
        trol Act of 1944 authorized       the Department of Agriculture      to
        undertake flood control projects        on 11 specific    large water-
        sheds.     Originally   the act limited    the authorized    flood con-
        trol measures to land treatment measures designed to reduce
        water runoff and erosion and to slow down stream flow.             The
        Federal cost for the 11 projects,        including   the Federal
        share of construction      costs and Federal planning costs, was
        originally     estimated at $91 million.

              Beginning in 1951 the annual appropriations         acts autho-
        rized the inclusion   of floodwater    detention   structures   as
        part of the 11 projects.     The Department of Agriculture       and
        Farm Credit Administration    Appropriations     Act for fiscal
        year 1956 (33 U.S.C. 7Olf-3) provided permanent authority
    I   for such structures.

               In 1955 SCS revised the cost estimates to include the
        estimated costs of the floodwater      detention structures    and
        to provide for general increases in construction        price lev-
        els since the original    estimates had been made in 1944. As
        a result,   the estimated Federal cost for the projects       was
I       increased to $288 million.      As of 1955 SCS-scheduled comple-
I
        tion dates for the 11 projects     ranged from 1960 to 1976.

               As of March 1970, only    one of the 11 authorized   proj-
        ects had been completed and      SCS-rescheduled completion dates
        for the 10 remaining projects       ranged from 1974 to 20.21. As
        of June 30, 1969, the total      Federal obligations   for the 11
        projects,   including Federal    planning costs, amounted to
        about $330 million.

              As of March 1970, SCS estimated that the Federal cost
        of the 11 projects,      including   Federal planning costs, had
        increased from $288 million        (estimated in 1955) to about
        $527 million.     SCS estimated that $150 million       of the total
        increase after 1955 was due to construction         price level in-
        creases.    The March 1970 estimate was based on 1966 prices.
        SCS has observed that price levels in the 1966-70 period
        have increased even more sharply than during the 1955-66
        period and that the 1970 increase alone was about 11 percent.
        Therefore,    the increase in the estimated Federal cost due to

                                          24
rises         in construction   price levels since 1955 is substan-
tially          greater than the $150 million   estimated by SCS.

     The following   table shows,                                                for each of the 11 projects,
the estimated Federal costs and                                                  completion  date as of 1955
and the estimated percentage of                                                  completion,  Federal costs,
and completion   date as of March                                                1970.

                                                        As estimated   in 1955                      &estimated        in March 1970
                                                         Federal                                                Federal
                                                            cost     Completion              Percent      cost (note a) Completion
                    Projects                           (millions)        &&!                complete        hillio4s)            &&
Buffalo      Creek, lew York                                $     4.7            1964              100           $    4.6           1964
Colorado        (Middle)      River,     Texas                   29.9            1968               59               41.9           1978
Coosa River,         Georgia and Tennessee                        8.1            1970               84               16.4           1974
Little      Sioux River,         Iowa                            25.6            1976               51               40.2           2021
Little      Tallahatchie         River,    Missis-
    sippi                                                        14.3            1970               87               27.3           1975
Los Angeles River,             California                        19.4            1965               50               58.1           1991
Potomac River,           Pennsylvania,
    Maryland,       Virginia,        and West
    Virginia                                                     15.5            1976               61             37.9             1976
Santa Ynez River,             California                           3.8           1960               60             12.3             1981
Trinity      River,      Texas                                    80.1           1369                56           1ll.i             1980
Washita River,           Oklahoma and Texas                      47.6            i965                78             89.9            1975
Yazoo River,         Mississippi                                39.3             1970              61.            E(6.4             1977

      Total                                                 $W                                     A2            $526
                                                                                                                  -.k 7
aIncludes   obligations to June 30,                  1969       (total   about    $330 million),          and estimated     costs   to com-
 plete,   based on 1966 prices.



       SCS headquarters     representatives       advised us that the
completion     of the 10 remaining projects         was being delayed
primarily    because of the failure         of local sponsors to ac-
quire land rights.        They explained      that the land rights    for
some of the unfinished        portions     of the 10 projects    would be
very difficult      to obtain.      These officials     also stated that
they had not made detailed          assessments of the 10 projects        to
identify    specifically    what had been completed, what remained
to be done,,    and   the problems     that barred completion.

        Information   obtained by us concerning       the Potomac River
project     confirmed that the failure      to acquire land rights
was causing long delays in completing          that project.       The Po-
tomac River project       is divided into 27 subwatershed projects,
including     the South River project     in Virginia.      Planning for
the South River project was completed prior to January 1955,
when SCS authorized       construction  to begin.       The project     was
to provide watershed protection        and flood prevention         for
156,700 acres during its estimated 50-year life.               The total
cost was estimated at $1.8 million,         of which the Federal
share was estimated at $1.4 million.

       The South River project     plan originally       provided for
constructing   16 floodwater-retarding       structures,       all of
which were to be completed by 1960. The plan was revised to
provide for constructing      two additional     floodwater-retarding
structures.    As of January 1970, 10 of the originally
planned structures    and the two additional         structures    had
been completed and two of the originally           planned structures
had been deleted from the plans.

        Construction  of the remaining four structures  had not
been started because the sponsors had not secured the land
rights.     SCS inspection  reports state that these structures
will probably never be built.

       We noted that construction    of   several other subwater-
shed projects   in the Potomac River      project,   such as New
Creek-White's   Run in West Virginia      and Lower North River in
Virginia,   was being delayed because      land rights had not been
acquired.

       The failure of local sponsors to acquire land rights
for Public Law 534 projects      has the same effects     as previ-
ously described with respect to Public Law 566 projects.              In
addition   to the significant    cost increases being experienced,
planning costs have been incurred for projects         that might
never be completed, the realization       of projested   benefits     is
being delayed, and, in some cases, projected         benefits   might
never be realized.      Regarding delays in realizing       benefits,
an SCS economist's    evaluation   of the Public Law 534 program
several years ago pointed out that
      --without      adjustments for price changes or program mod-
         ifications,      it could be assumed that losses in bene-
         fits due to delays in project      completion were proba-
         bly equal to at least $2 for every dsllar not being
         spent on the projects      and
     --when increased prices and program modifications     were
        considered,    the dollar value of lost benefits was
        greatly   increased for each year of delay in complet-
        ing the projects.

                                  26
ACTIONS TAKEN AND PLANNEDTO
PROVIDE BETTER ASSURANCETHAT
J&?D RIGHTS WILL BE OBTAINED

       We informed SCS of the results      of our survey by letter
dated April 20, 1970, and requested SCS to advise us whether
there were any actions that could be taken to provide assur-
ante that construction        of projects planned and approved will
not be terminated      or delayed because of the failure      of proj-
ect sponsors to acquire the needed land rights.            We re-
quested SCS to comment specifically        on the feasibility     of
requiring    project   sponsors, as a condition   for SCS approval
of projects     for planning,    to

      --have the legal authority   (power of eminent domain)         to
         acquire the needed land rights by condemnation,

      --demonstrate  that they have adequate financial     re-
         sources to take the necessary actions,  including     con-
         demnation, to acquire the needed land rights,     and

      --submit written   statements that would commit them to
         take the necessary action,   including condemnation, to
         acquire the needed land rights.

       In its letter   dated May 25, 1970 (see app. I>, SCS
agreed that difficulty      in acquiring land rights was a major
deterrent    to steady progress in completing watershed projects
and stated that it might be helpful      to step up emphasis on

      --appraising     the authority and willingness of project
         sponsors    to acquire land rights by condemnation,

      --fully   and correctly  informing   all concerned people
         of land rights requirements     at each stage of project
         formulation,

      --requiring   SCS field offices   to reemphasize the impor-
         tance of providing   guidance, assistance,     and encour-
         agement to project   sponsors regarding    land rights re-
         quirements and of scheduling     regular and continuing
         follow-up  on actions that sponsors must take and are
         taking to acquire the necessary land rights,       and


                                   27
      --intensifying       the training  of employees who work with
         project     sponsors in acquiring   land rights.
        SCS stated that the specific       actions we had suggested
were worthy of consideration        but should not be rigidly           ap-
plied because of the varied types of project             sponsors and
the differences      in State laws under which the sponsors must
operate.      SCS stated also that a requirement         that sponsors
firmly commit themselves to using the power of eminent do-
main before they are thoroughly          acquainted with the actual
land rights involved could often jeopardize             a~-~g-
                                                             possibility
of initiating     projects,  particularly      in economically     de-
pressed areas where a watershed project            could be most bene-
ficial.

      Although SCS expressed the reservations         described
above, it issued a policy memorandum to its field offices
dated May 22, 1970 (see app. II>, reemphasizing          the impor-
tance of having project      sponsors with authority,      financial
resources,   and willingness    to acquire land rights.        The
memorandum stated that

      --sponsors   without the power of eminent domain should
         not be accepted unless the applicable   State law pre-
         cludes the sponsor from obtaining   such authority
         prior to project  planning,

      --in those cases where State law precludes the sponsor
         from obtaining    the right of eminent domain prior to
         planning,   assurance must be obtained that the sponsor
         will acquire such authority     as early as possible dur-
         ing the project    planning stage,

      --planning    authorizations     should not be requested by
         SCS field offices      unless it has been judged that the
         sponsor is willing      to proceed with condemnation,  if
         necessary,   and

      --all    requests from SCS field offices    for planning au-
         thorizations    are to contain a discussion   of the spon-
         sor's authority    and willingness  to use the right of
         eminent domain if necessary.
.




    CONCLUSION

          Under the law and SCS policy,   SCS must rely upon proj-
    ect sponsors and local residents    to acquire land rights    for
    their projects.    We believe that SCS should take all reason-
    able measures, as early as possible    in the planning   stages
    of proposed projects,    to provide assurance that land rights
    will be acquired,   by eminent domain if necessary.    Such as-
    surance would tend to

         --avoid premature Federal involvement   in watershed
            projects  and reduce the extent to which the Covern-
            ment would incur planning and other costs on projects
            which may never be completed,
         --avoid     increased    costs that result  from rising con-
            struction     price   levels during periods of long delay,
            and

         --speed    up the realization        of project   benefits.

           The actions taken and proposed by SCS should, if
    carried out by its field offices,      provide greater assurance
    that construction     of future Public Law 566 watershed proj-
    ects and Public Law 534 subwatershed projects       will not be
    terminated    or delayed, because of land rights problems,
    after planning has been completed.




                                         29
                               CHAPTER4

            MATTERSFOR CONSIDERATIONBy THE CONGRESS

       The primary purpose of this report is to inform the
Congress of a significant     problem in carrying   out flood pre-
vention and watershed improvement projects       under Public Law
534 and Public Law 566 and of the actions taken and proposed
by SCS in an effort    to minimize the problem,

        The Public Law 534 projects   were specifically      authorized
by the Congress in 1944 in the interest       of national     security
and with the intent that they be completed as quickly as pos-
sible.     (See pe 8.) Although SCS is responsible        for assist-
ing local organizations    in carrying   out the projects,       the
rate of progress in, and assurance of, completing the proj-
ects depend greatly upon the initiative,       interest,     and ca-
pabilities    of local sponsors and residents     of the project
areas.

        As previously    discussed,  the completion of 10 Public
Law 534 projects      has been delayed for many years, and SCS
officials     advised us that some portions     of those projects
would be very difficult        to complete because of problems in
acquiring     land rights.     Also, SCS headquarters   had not made
detailed    assessments of the 10 incomplete projects       to iden-
tify specifically      what had been completed, what remained to
be done, and the problems that barred timely completion.
(See p. 25.1

        In view    of the status of the 10 incomplete Public Law
534    projects    and the apparent difficulties  that have been
and    will be    encountered in completing them, we believe that
the    Congress    may wish to request SCS to examine into and re-
port    on

        --the general nature and extent of flood control or
            other water and related    land resource problems exist-
            ing in the inco,nplete portions    of the 10 projects and
            the types of benefits   that can be obtained by eomplet-
            ing the projects,




                                  30
      --the specific     problems involved      in completing  the 10
         projects   under existing   legislative     and administra-
         tive policies    and procedures,     and

      --the nature and extent of additional   legislative          au-
         thority or other actions needed to facilitate           com-
         pletion of the projects,

        Information     provided by such an SCS examination,        to-
gether with the information          in this report,    would provide
the Congress with a basis for evaluating             the need for com-
pleting     the incomplete portions       of the 10 projects,    the de-
sired timeliness        of completion,    and the need for specific
legislative      actions to facilitate      completion   of the 10 proj-
ects.

         Should the Congress determine that completion of the
10 projects     or any portions     thereof should be expedited,     it
may be necessary to modify the law to reduce the extent to
which SCS must rely upon local sponsors and residents            to
initiate     Public Law 534 subwatershed projects,     to acquire
the needed land rights,        to share in project  construction
costs, and to maintain the projects,          Any such modifications
would more than likely       increase the Federal share of the
costs of the Public Law 534 projects.

        Conversely,     should the Congress determine that the in-
complete portions        of the 10 Public Law 534 projects        should
be given no further         priority,     a question arises as to whether
the Public Law 534 program should be continued as a separate
entity.     As described on page 10, the basic difference             be-
tween Public Law 534 and 566 programs is that Public Law 566
provides general open-end authority              for Federal assistance
in small-scale       projects.        Should the Public Law 534 program
be discontinued,        assistance      could be provided under Public
Law 566 for any areas within the 10 incomplete Public Law
534 projects      for which land rights may be obtained.



      In January 1971 we provided a draft of this report to
SCS to obtain its views on the "'matters for consideration   by
the Congress" and to obtain any further   comments on the re-
port in addition  to those made in its letter  to us dated


                                    31
May 25, 1970.     (See pp. 27 and 28.)  On January 19, 1971, we
met with the SCS Deputy Administrator     for Watersheds and
other SCS officials    who advised us that SCS did not object
in concept to our matters for consideration    by the Congress
and that it had no comments to add to its letter      of May 25,
1970.

        During the meeting SCS officials    pointed out that, un-
der a provision      in the Department of Agriculture         and Related
Agencies Appropriation      Act for 1971, Public Law 91-566 en-
acted on December 22, 1970, SCS now had permanent authority
to reimburse sponsors of Public Law 534 projects              for a pro-
portionate     share of the cost of land rights needed for flood
prevention    features-- the Federal Government's share to be
determined by the Secretary of Agriculture           giving consider-
ation to the national      interest.   The officials       stated that
they could not yet predict what effect,         if any, the new au-
thority    would have on completing the 10 incomplete Public
Law 534 projects.




                                  32
APPENDIXES




 33
                                                                                      APPENDIX I

 UNiTED        STATES         DEPARTMENT      OF AGRICULTURE
 SQ1L    CONSERVATIOtd          SERWCE
  Washington, D. C. 20250




                                                                   MAY 25 1970

 Mr. Victor Lowe
 Associate Director, Civil Division
 United States GeneraS. Accounting Office
,Washington, D. C. 20548                2
Dear Mr. Lowe:

This is in response to your letter         of April 20, 1970, which includes some
findings   and suggestions for improving the watershed protection         and flood
prevention    programs.    We commend the survey team for accurately      identifying
one of the major deterrents        to steady progress in watershed project      con-
struction    and completion,   i.e.,   the sponsors' difficulty   in acquiring     needed
land rights.

For your convenience, we have first    commented on the specific questions you
list at the end of your report.     Additional comments have been added as
supplementary information.
                             SPONSORS' ABILITY TO ACQUIRE LAND RIGHTS

You asked if it             would be feasible  for SCS to require       as a condition      to pra-
viding planning             assistance  that sponsors:

        (a)     have legal       authority   to acquire   land rights    by eminent      domain;

        (b)     demonstrate       that they have financial      resources   needed to acquire
                land rights;        and

        (4      submit written   statements that would commit them to take necessary
                action including    eondemnation to acquire needed land rights.
These items are certainly    worthy of consideration.     In fact, SCS has gradually
changed its policy to include them as the need became apparent.          Experience
has shown, however, that such requirements      in preplanning    stage should not
all be rigidly  applied nationwide because of the varied types of sponsors
and differences   in State laws under which these sponsors must operate.

Although      much progress        has been made in recent      years   to acquaint      sponsors
and the general public with the social and economic values of the Small
Watershed Program in all parts of each State, there are still        many sponsors
dealing with their first   project.     In such cases, sponsors are usually quite
apprehensive about using their authority       to condemn their neighbor's  land
before they know more precisely      what is involved.   This problem is especially
prevalent   in the more economically    depressed areas - the very areas where


                                                     35
!:l

j’    APPENDIX I

       Mr. Victor   Lowe


       'be watershed proNgram can be most beneficial.             Often in these areas the
       idsidents'    major possessions are their home and the land surrounding it.
       Any action which tends to threaten their right to these possessions is
       viewed with considerable       an;dety.      Therefore,  to insist  that sponsors
       firmly     commit tt; :mselves to the use of condemnation authority       in such areas
       befcre they are thoroughly         acquainted with the actual land rights involved
       can often jeopardize       any possibility     of completing a watershed work plan.
       The sponsors are inclined        to reject the entire program and deny themselves
       and their neighbors the one hope for overcoming their economic plight.
       They would rather accept conditions           as they are than risk the possible loss
       of their home and land for some unknown or, in their estimation             uncertain,
       promised benefits.
       Having condemnation authority         does not of itself    guarantee that local
       sponsors will use this authority         or that it necessarily      speeds up project
       installation.     This point is clearly indicated         by the fact that condemna-
       tion authority    was available     prior to authorization      of planning for 40 of
       the 5'7 inactive   projects.      Sponsors of at least 10 of these projects        could
 I     not legally    commit condemnation authority       until a plan was completed and
       presented to the courts.         Thus, it would be legally      impossible to require
       such special purpose district         sponsors to exhibit     condemnation authority
       prior to authorization       for planning.     (See Legislative    Examples in the
       Additional    Comments section of this reply.)         [See GAG note, p. 37.)

       Other factors   also significantly    affect   the sponsors' use of their author-
       ities  and the rate of project     completion.    In recent years the lack of FHA
       loan funds is delaying actions in obtaining         the necessary land rights.  In
       some cases, easements already acquired have expired because of lack of
       Federal construction    funds.
       There is no easy solution     to this very complex problem.            Thus for the reasons
       cited above, we feel that our policy regarding criteria              for planning author-
      ization    should remain sufficiently   flexible     to permit continued work with
      individual    sponsors within their particular       authorities.        Adopting too rigid
       requirements    would deny PL-566 planning assistance to many qualified             and
       capable sponsors of watershed projects       -because of lack of adequate condemna-
      tion authority     at this stage in project     development.        (See "Policy Changes"
      and ItRecent Emphasis by SCS" sections for further            information.)
                                                                      [See GAO note, p. 37.1
                                   POSSIBLE ACTIONS BY SCS

      You also asked      if there may be any actions which SCS could take to assure
      that projects,      once planned and approved for installation,     will not be
      inactivated    or   extensilely    delayed because of local sponsors' failure   to
      acquire needed      land r-i ;hts.

      This is a Federally-a   isted program based on local initiative  and direction
      as contrasted to a FeLtirally-controlled program.   SCS can move only as fast




                                                .36
                                                                                 APPENDIX I

 Mr. Victor      Lowe


 as local sponsors are able and willing       to carry out their responsibilities.
 As indicated   above, we feel SCS has gone about as far as it can within          the
 limits   of our authority  and funding to counsel and encourage sponsors and
 yet not deny Federal assistance     contemplated    by the law. Nevertheless,       in
 addition   to actions already taken by SCS over the years, continued and
  stepped-up emphasis on the following     items may be helpful:

       1.     Require State Conservationists      to include in their     request for
              planning authorization      their appraisal   c"' the sponsors'   authority
              to obtain land ri hts by condemnation aIld their willingness           to use
              such authority.     'i See attached Watershed Memorandum -105 issued as
              a result  of recommendations and discussions         with you.)

       2.     Direct State Conservationists     to      reemphasize our existing       policies
              to see that all concerned people          are fully    and correctly   informed
              about projectneeds,    land rights        requirements,      and recommendations
              at each major decision point in          project   formulation.

       3.     Require State Conservationists      to reemphasize the importance      of
              providing    SCS guidance, assistance,     and encouragement to project
              sponsors regarding land rights      requirements.     This would include
              a review of responsibilities      and work assigned to land rights
              specialists    (or others assigned these duties)      to make sure that
              they include a schedule for regular and continuing         follow up on
              actions sponsors must take and are taking to acquire the necessary
              land rights.

       4.     Direct the State Conservationists       to intensify  efforts    to properly
              train SCS personnel who must work with sponsors in acquiring             land
              rights.     Experience has shownthat line officers     - District      Conser-
              vationists,    Area Conservationists,     and State Conservationists       -
              must become personally     involved   and provide strong direct      leader-
              ship.

 We welcome any suggestions          your staff may have and look forward to a continu-
 ing beneficial relationship          as they proceed with their assignment.

 Sincerely,




                Administrator

 Attachments:        "Additional     Commentst'  [See     GAOnot?.]
                     Watershed     Memorandum - 105




GAOnote:          This    attachment     is not    included       in this     report.

                                                  3?
       Washington,   D. C. 20253




WAT,BRSHEDSbZEZiORANWM-
                      105

Re:   Authority         of Sponsors   to Acquire   Land Rights



This memorandum reemphasizes              the importance      of having sponsors of watershed
projects    with authority,         financial    resources,     and willingness    to acquire land
rights    necessary     to install      the projects.       To date, more than 100 projects
have been suspended or terminated              during the planning        phase and more than 50
have been declared         inactive     after  being approved for operations.          The General
Accounting     Office     has crlled      our attention     to the fact that    (I) Pack of
legal authority       for spo.lsors to condemn land and (2) lack of sponsors’
willingness     to condemn may contribute             to this inactivity.

Before submitting    a request      for planning     authorization,     state conservationists
are to personally    assure themselves         that sponsors who will        be expected to
acquire  land rights     have the legal right        of condemnation     of land for the pro-
ject purposes,    or will   ,lcquire     such authority      through procedures     established
by state   law at the earliest       opportunity     during the planning       phase.    Only in
those cases where state law precludes             the establishment     of a proper organi-
zation until   a plan for works of improvement             is submitted    to the courts should
we accept sponsorship      without     right   of eminent domain.

 In addition      to having t:te legal authority         to acquire    land by condemnation,      if
necessary,      sponsors must also be willing          to exercise     this right.     We recognize
that an early discussion             of condemnation   may be distasteful       to some organi-
zations.       Nevertheless,       we believe   state conservationists       and their    staffs  can,
in most instances,         make a valid ap‘raisal        of the sponsors9 willingness          to
condemn.       Planning    authorization      should not be requested       unless it has been
judged that the sponsor ‘5 are willing             to proceed with condemnation        if it is
required     for timely      installation.

All requests   for planning    authorizations       are   tc contain    a discussion   of the
sponsors 8 legal right    to acquire     land, using      right   of eminent domain if nec-
essary,   and a narrative   statement      concerning     the willingness     of the sponsors
to condemn.    Fully describe    those cases where          legal authority     cannot be obtaine
until   a plan has been developed.




STC
DIR
EWP
wo
                                                   38
                                                  APPENDIX III


                  PRINCIPAL OFFICIALS 3F

               THE DEPARTMENTOF AGRICULTURE

       RESPONSIBLEFOR ADMINISTRATION OF ACTIVITIES

                 DISCUSSEDIN THIS REPORT


                                       Tenure of office
                                       From            To
                                                       -
                 DEPARTMENTOF AGRICULTURE

SECRETARYOF AGRICULTURE:
   Orville  L. Freeman             Jan.    1961     Jan.    1969
   Clifford  M. Hardin             Jan.    1969     Present

ASSISTANT SECRETARY,RURAL DEVEL-
  OPMENTAND CONSERVATION:
    John A. Baker                   Aug.   1962     Jan.    1963
    Thomas K. Cowden                May    1969     Present

                 SOIL CONSERVATIONSERVICE

ADMINISTRATOR:
   Donald A. Williams               Jan.   1953     Jan.    1969
   Kenneth E. Grant                 Jan.   1969     Present

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATORFOR WATER-
  SHEDS:
    Hollis R. Williams              Apr.   1959     Present




                             39