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The Friends of Old man River



To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

We read with interest and, we admit, with misgivings, your editorial on the Mississippi Valley Association, entitled, "In the Valley of Debt," whch was reprinted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on February 7.

It is commendable that undergraduates should take such an interest in public affairs. In is alarming that they should be so un-informed. We have always had a high regard for Harvard University and its tradition of reverence of truth and impartial evaluation of facts. We find it difficult to reconcile our admiration for the university with the carelessness with which your editorial regards the truth. . . .

In the first place there is not even the remotest semblance of truth in your opening statement that a "group of Congressmen" are members of the Mississippi Valley Association. The fact is, which we will be happy to verify for you, that no member of Congress has over been solicited for membership, or has over sought membership.

Small Appropriations

You state in the editorial that Congress has appropriated funds for the Missouri Basin "which have thus far totaled more than a billion dollars." The records are readily available in Washington and show that to date the total appropriations for the Pick-Sloan plan are much less than a billion dollars.

You charge that the Pick-Sloan plan is being planned for twice as much water as exists in the entire river. It would be interesting to know on what facts, or even estimates, this charge is based. The only actual studies of the water in the Missouri Basin have been made a committee of state engineers. These studies of the records for a fifty-year period show that the average annual flow at Yankton, S. Dak, is approximately 23,500,000 acre feet, which is more than 1,000,000 acre feet in excess of the amount estimated to be needed for all purposes. The figures have been checked by hydraulic engineers and include the records for the 12-years drought cycle from 1930 to 1941.

You charge that the Pick-Sloan plan does nothing "about the thousands of acres of farm land which wash down the Missouri each year." Again it would be enlightening to know on what facts this statement is based. The Department of Agriculture is actively participating in the Pick-Sloan program. A number of the Valley states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota, are among the leaders in the nation in soil conservation districts. A substantial portion of the Pick-Sloan funds is allotted so soil conservation. The fact is that the Missouri Basin is now doing and has done a far better job of conserving its soil than is being done in the Tennessee Valley under a regional authority.

Private Contractors

You change that the federal agencies participating in the Pick-Sloan plan are "wasting millions of dollars by hiring out their projects to private contractors." A little investigation might have informed you that it is and has been the policy of Congress that the work be done by private contractors. There is no evidence that any money is "wasted" under this policy. On the contrary, the government is able to save a sum probably as great as the amount you allege is "wasted."

You are terribly concerned about the government--and bear in mind it was the Congress and not Pick-Sloan which authorized the nine-foot channel on the Missouri--wasting additional millions to develop navigation when commerce on the river is negligible. It is true that the only commerce on the river is now the regular services of the Federal Barge Lines. It is also true that the channel is not yet completed and cannot be used profitably until the job is finished. . . .

Carp and Criticize

We are not a carping critic. The Mississippi Valley Association, with members in 23 states and three decades of construction service in the Mississippi Valley needs no defense. its record speaks for itself. We can even overlook the misguided enthusiasms of youth--but we are concerned, as we feel you must be, with what the reflection upon your university must be from the callow disregard of truth evidenced in your editorial. We can't help wondering if old John Harvard and the long line of distinguished searchers for truth who have taught there, rest easily in their graves. Lachlan Macleay, President,   Mississippi Valley Association

1.) Press announcements of the Mississippi Valley Association's meeting included the names of a number of congressmen who would be at the meeting. Our editorial never stated that these congressmen were "members of the Mississippi Valley Association."

2.) Past and projected appropriations for Pick-Sloan run to nearly eight billion dollars.

3.) The St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Nation, both of which have written extensively on Pick-Sloan, are responsible, for the twice-as-much-water-as-exists information.

4.) The same sources point out that Pick-Sloan soil conservation is so deficient that engineers expect the project's dams will be silted up within a few years.

5.) TVA, which did much of its own building, has turned in one of the lowest construction-cost records of any government project.

6.) The Brookings Institution, an independent economic research organization, says the cost of development of a nine-foot channel on the Missouri would be far over the value of the possible river-borne commerce it could create.

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