TESTIMONY OF JIM ROBINSON, JR.
OF PINHOOK, MISSOURI
BEFORE THE UNITED STATES SENATE
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
June 18, 2002
††††††††††† Chairman Jeffords, Senator Smith, Senator Bond and Members of the Committee:
††††††††††† Again for the record, my name is Jim Robinson and I am here on behalf of the people of Pinhook, Missouri.† Pinhook is located in the Southeastern corner of Missouri in the Birdís Point/New Madrid Floodway about half-way between Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis just a few miles from the Mississippi River.† I have lived there most of my life.† The land that I farm was purchased by my father when we moved from Tennessee.† My people were not allowed to own certain lands or live in town.† We were only able to purchase the land that the Mississippi River flooded.† We cleared the land with our own hands with axes and mules.† We built up our own community and are proud of what we have and what we have done.† Pinhook is our home and it is what I want to pass along to my children and grandchildren.
††††††††††† My entire life I have lived with floods on the Mississippi River destroying what I have worked for.† Where we live the Mississippi River backs up through a 1500-foot hole in the levee that was left there when the levees were built in the 30's.† So every few years the river comes up and backs through that hole and we get flooded.
††††††††††† I donít know how many of you have ever been through a flood and know what it is like to have raw sewage in your home.† What it is like when you get out of bed in the morning to have to wade through that mess.† To have your children live in it.† For them to have to ride in a tractor drawn open-wagon through the water just to get to a school bus.† My people should not have to live that way year after year.
††††††††††† If I go north to St. Louis I see fine homes surrounded by big levees, or if I go south to Memphis I see that same thing.† Those people have been able to build their levees and protect their homes.† I donít want to take that away from them, I just want the same thing for us.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††††††††† There has been a project on the list for years that would close our levee and give us some relief.† And we thought we were close to ending the problem.† But then in 1986, Congress raised the local cost share and we were told that we had to come up with 35% of a multi-million dollar project.† We farm some, our children work in small factories, we pay taxes, but we cannot afford 20 million dollars.
††††††††††† Finally in 1993 through the Enterprise Community program we were able to get some help and the local share was reduced back down to 5%.† I thought we were going to get to close that hole.† The Corps of Engineers went to work and we were on our way.† That was nine years ago and we had a flood again this year.
††††††††††† I have met with people here in Washington and they all seem like they want to help, like they understand what we are up against.† But every time we get close, somebody from the EPA or Fish and Wildlife Service says the Corps has to go study some more.† I am tired of studying the same old mud.
††††††††††† I have heard about what some of you want to do to the Corps of Engineers.† All of the technical stuff is for someone else to comment on.† I want to talk to you a little about the people that this will effect.† I have lived along the Mississippi River my whole life, I helped evacuate homes in the Flood of 1937, we worked day and night.† Over the years the Corps has built levees for the city areas and has slowly worked down to us Ė it has taken most of my life for them to finally get to us.† Now, after all of that work has been done you want to say to us that is it, no more unless you pay for half of it.† You did not say that to the city folks, but after all these years when we finally are going to get our share you want to cut our piece in half.
††††††††††† And you and I both know that there is no way a farming community in the Mississippi Delta is going to be able to pay for half of any water project.† This is not reforming the Corps of Engineers, that is just a nice way of saying you people are not going to get any help.† It looks better in the newspapers to say you are reforming something.†††††††††††† †††††††††††
††††††††††† I was here in Washington over two years ago for a meeting with the EPA, Fish & Wildlife, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Corps.† I was told then that the problems that were delaying our project would be fixed.† Since then the only ones that have not drug their feet have been the Corps.† Everytime someone comes down to look at the project they promise me that they are going back and find a solution and I never see them again, I see someone else who tells me the same thing.† But I always see the same faces from the Corps and they come back and tell me that they are ready to build, but they canít because the other agencies hold them up.† From where I sit it looks like you are trying to reform the wrong group.
††††††††††† Another point that I understand that is being considered is how the Corps figures its benefits.† Some people donít want them to use increased crop production as a benefit.† Is there something wrong with trying to make a living farming now?† I farmed all last week and if I can increase how many bushels of soybeans I harvest this fall I think that is good.† It is good for me, it is good for my family and it is good for this country.† Farmers grow food and pay taxes and that has to benefit everybody.
††††††††††† That concludes my prepared remarks.† I will be glad to answer any questions that you have.