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RESTRICTION OF THE USE OF THE SHORES AND WATERS OF THE
POTOMAC RIVER IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
May 28, 1930.-Ordered to be printed
Mr. Glass, from the Committee on the District of Columbia, sub
mitted the following
[To accompany S. J. Res. 182)
The Committee on the District of Columbia, to whom was referred the joint resolution (S. J. Res. 182) prohibiting location or erection of any wharf or dock or artificial fill or bulkhead or other structure on the shores or in the waters of the Potomac River within the District of Columbia without the approval of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia and the Director of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon, with the recommendation that the resolution do pass.
The purpose of the resolution is expressed in its title. It is intended to exclude unsightly structures from the river front within the limits of the District of Columbia.
Under existing law, the War Department has jurisdiction over the Potomac River. In granting permits for structures on the banks or in the waters of the river, however, the department is concerned solely with question of whether such structures shall interfere with navigation.
With an investment of many millions of the public funds in buildings, bridges, parkways, etc., along the river front of the National Capital, it is vitally necessary that steps should be taken to protect that investment by preventing the undesirable private development for commercial, industrial, or other uses of the historic and beautiful Potomac River.
This resolution also will extend protection to the Eastern or Anacostia Branch of the Potomac within the District, which is now being beautified by an extensive park treatment of its shores.
That there is a real and immediate need for the passage of this resolution is evidenced by the fact that a certain industrial firm, desiring to establish a supply depot on the Potomac, within the District, has been thus far prevented from attaining its purpose only by the great outburst of public indignation against the destruction of the Potomac's beauty.
The controversy developed the astounding fact that the Government's great investment on the Potomac has absolutely no protection against defacement, the War Department being the only agency in charge of the river and exercising only a restricted authority
The committee can not too strongly urge the passage of this resolution
NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION,
Washington, May 27. 1930 Hon. ARTHUR CAPPER,
United States Senate, Washington, D. C. MY DEAR SENATOR: I have the honor to report as follows on S. J. Res. 182:
The wharf property in the District of Columbia was generally reserved for public use under President Washington. Since then Congress has passed legislation from time to time which indicates sufficiently its intention to keep such waterfront property in public ownership, although in some places private owners have built improvements without regard to the title of the United States. The act approved March 3, 1899, gave to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia jurisdiction over all wharf property within the District. The act of April 27, 1912, instructed the Department of Justice to clear the title of the United States to such lands. The act of February 26, 1925, transfers to the Director of Public Buildings and Public Parks the custody and duties, with which the Chief of Engineers was previously charged, in connection with public grounds not assigned by law to any other governmental agency, and a considerable part of the waterfront has already been developed for park use.
An application recently made by the Sun Oil Co. to the War Department for a permit to build a wharf from the Virginia shore into the Potomac River a few hundred feet upstream from the Key Bridge is now under consideration. The zoning commission of Arlington County recommended that this area be zoned residential, but in spite of this recommendation the board of county supervisors issued a permit to the oil company for its oil tank development on land, much of which will have to be acquired for the Washington Memorial Parkway under H. R. 26 recently passed.
The National Capital Park and Planning Commission asked the War Department not to grant the permit, feeling that the granting of this permit would give assent by one department of the Federal Government to something which is against the best interests of the Government as represented by another department. There is a great deal of opposition to the granting of the permit by the War Department on the part of residents of Arlington County, who feel that if the wharf permit is refused the Sun Oil Co, will go elsewhere for its development, the attractiveness of the site now under consideration being largely based upon the slight reduction in cost to it of oil because of its being brought by barge instead of railroad. Evidently this differential will not be of any great advantage to the public, but rather to the Sun Oil Co. in competing with other oil companies located along the branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad near Rosslyn. While I believe the Chief of Engineers, who is acting for the War Department in this matter, is sympathetic with the objections to the Sun Oil Co.'s project, the question has been raised as to whether he can legally refuse to grant the permit for other than navigation reasons, since in this case there appear to be no very good objections to the wharf from the standpoint of navigation.
Besides the objections made by the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, as Director of Public Buildings and Public Parks, I objected to the construction of this wharf on the grounds that, since the boundary of the District of Columbia is high water along the Virginia shore, the wharf would be built on Government land under my jurisdiction and that the wharf would be a violation of the policy previously established and generally adhered to that water-front property in the District of Columbia should remain in public ownership.
Senator Glass and Representative R. Walton Moore were among those who protested to the War Department against the granting of the permit, and I suggested to them the introduction of some such resolution as S. J. Res. 182, in order to provide explicitly by law for the prevention of such developments in the waters of the District of Columbia and give legislative sanction to appropriate action to stop the building of this wharf.
The fact that the boundaries of the District of Columbia run to the highwater mark in Virginia has been established by the Supreme Court's decision in the Morris case. (Morris 1. U. S., 174 U. Š. 196, 227, 230, 234, 240-244.) The Department of Justice has not completed its work of establishing the title of the United States to all of the property on this side of the river and has not gotten to the Virginia shore at all, the cases being very involved and difficult, but a special attorney was put on this job last year and is now making some progress. While it appears that the Government will have to pay damages to those who have been allowed to make improvements, even though they had no complete title to the water-front land, these damages are to cover only the value of the improvements made and the title of the Government to the land seems well established. It would, therefore, be in the interests of the Government not to permit any more improvements to be made in such cases, and particularly to prevent it in this case, so that the value of the land will not be materially increased before it has to be taken over in carrying out the CapperCramton bill recently passed.
In a letter, dated May 17, 1930, Hon. F. Trubee Davison, Acting Secretary of War, indicates that the War Department would not make objection to such a measure, the change in wording suggested by him having been made. In a letter, dated May 24, 1930, Maj. Gen. Lytle Brown, Chief of Engineers, indicates some doubt as to whether the interests of interstate navigation should be subordinated to the action of local authorities.
But in view of the fact that in this case the local authorities are officials of the Federal Government and that in other cases permits for such structures in navigable waters are not granted against the objection of the municipal and State authorities, but that the necessary permits from the State authorities are usually required as conditions to the granting of permits, it appears that the Chief of Engineers' doubts are based on some misunderstanding. Owing to his absence from the city, I am unable to clear the matter up at the present time, but it may be presumed that the Acting Secretary of War's attitude represents that of the War Department.
Under the circumstances I recommend that the measure be favorably reported as essential to insuring, within the limits of the District of Columbia at least, the proper development of the water front and of preventing works that are incongruous and injurious to the National Capital. "It will be noted that this joint resolution gives no authority whatsoever over property or developments outside of the District of Columbia, for which the Constitution reserves exclusive jurisdiction to Congress. Respectfully yours,
U. S. GRANT 3D, Executive and Disbursing Officer. O
Mr. CAPPER, from the Committee on the District of Columbia, sub
mitted the following
(To accompany H. R. 99961
The Committee on the District of Columbia, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 9996) to amend the act entitled "An act authorizing the Commissioners of the District of Columbia to settle claims and suits against the District of Columbia," approved February 11, 1929, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with the recommendation that the bill do pass.
The object of the bill is to amend the present law so as to authorize the commissioners to settle claims and suits to which defense of governmental function could be interposed.
For the information of the Senate and for purpose of comparison with the bill, it should be stated that the subsection of the act to be amended, in defining types of claims and suits which the commissioners may settle, now reads:
(a) Arises out of the negligence or wrongful act, either of commission or omission, of any officer or employee of the District of Columbia for whose negligence or acts the District of Columbia is prima facie liable to respond in damages.
The bill under consideration would broaden this definition to cause it to refer to any claim or suit arising out of the negligence or wrongful act of a municipal official or employee for whose negligence or wrongdoing the District, if a privato individual, would be liable, regardless of whether the complaint was the result of an occurrence involving a municipal or governmental function of the District.
The bill also amends the subsection by a proviso stating that the legislation shall not be construed as depriving the District of any defense to any suit, or to give to anyone any right to insiitute any suit against the District "which did not exist prior to the passage of this act.”