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PROTECTION AND PRESERVATION OF NAVIGABLE

WATERS

MARCH 2, 1931.-Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be printed

Mr. SEGER, from the Committee on Rivers and Harbors, submitted the following

REPORT

[To accompany H. R. 11512]

The Committee on Rivers and Harbors, to whom was referred the bill H. R. 11512, having considered the same, report thereon with amendments, and as so amended recommend that the bill do pass.

The amendments referred to are as follows:

Strike out sections 2, 3, and 4 of the bill, and insert in lieu thereof the following:

SEC. 2. That section 16 of said act be, and the same is hereby, amended to read as follows:

"SEC. 16. That every person and every corporation that shall violate, or that shall knowingly aid, abet, authorize, or instigate a violation of the provisions of sections 13, 14, and 15 of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,500 nor less than $250, or by imprisonment (in the case of a natural person) for not less than thirty days nor more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court, one-half of said fine to be paid to the person or persons giving information which shall lead to conviction. And any and every master, pilot, and engineer, or person or persons acting in such capacity, respectively, on board of any boat or vessel who shall knowingly engage in towing any scow, boat, or vessel loaded with any material specified in section 13 of this act to any point or place of deposit or discharge in any harbor or navigable water, elsewhere than within the limits defined and permitted by the Secretary of War, or who shall willfully injure or destroy any work of the United States contemplated in section 14 of this act, or who shall willfully obstruct the channel of any waterway in the manner contemplated in section 15 of this act, shall be deemed guilty of a violation of this act, and shall upon conviction be punished as herein before provided in this section, and shall also have his license revoked or suspended for a term to be fixed by the judge before whom tried and convicted. And any boat, vessel, scow, raft, or other craft used or employed in violating any of the provisions of sections 13, 14, and 15 of this act shall be liable for the pecuniary penalties specified in this section, and in addition thereto for the amount of the damages done by said boat, vessel, scow, raft, or other craft, which latter sum shall be placed to the credit of the appropriation for the improvement of the harbor

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or waterway in which the damage occurred and said boat, vessel, scow, raft, or other craft may be proceeded against summarily by way of libel in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof.

Following are the sections of the river and harbor act approved March 3, 1899, affected by this bill, and (in black brackets and italics) the amendments proposed:

SEC. 12. That every person and every corporation that shall violate any of the provisions of sections 9, 10, and 11 of this act, or any rule or regulation made by the Secretary of War in pursuance of the provisions of the said section 11, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,500 nor less than [$500] $250, or by imprisonment (in the case of a natural person) not exceeding one year, or by both such punishments, in the discretion of the court. And further, the removal of any structures or parts of structures erected in violation of the provisions of the said sections may be enforced by the injunction of any circuit court exercising jurisdiction in any district in which such structures may exist, and proper proceedings to this end may be instituted under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States.

SEC. 16. That every person and every corporation that shall violate, or that shall knowingly aid, abet, authorize, or instigate a violation of the provisions of sections 13, 14, and 15 of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,500 nor less than [$500] $250, or by imprisonment (in the case of a natural person) for not less than thirty days nor more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court, one-half of said fine to be paid to the person or persons giving information which shall lead to conviction. And any and every master, pilot, and engineer, or person or persons acting in such capacity, respectively, on board of any boat or vessel who shall knowingly engage in towing any scow, boat, or vessel loaded with any material specified in section 13 of this act to any point or place of deposit or discharge in any harbor or navigable water, elsewhere than within the limits defined and permitted by the Secretary of War, or who shall willfully injure or destroy any work of the United States contemplated in section 14 of this act, or who shall willfully obstruct the channel of any waterway in the manner contemplated in section 15 of this act, shall be deemed guilty of a violation of this act, and shall upon conviction be punished as hereinbefore provided in this section, and shall also have his license revoked or suspended for a term to be fixed by the judge before whom tried and convicted. And any boat, vessel, scow, raft, or other craft used or employed in violating any of the provisions of sections 13, 14, and 15 of this act shall be liable for the pecuniary penalties specified in this section, and in addition thereto for the amount of the damages done by said boat, vessel, scow, raft, or other craft, which latter sum shall be placed to the credit of the appropriation for the improvement of the harbor or waterway in which the damage occurred and said boat, vessel, scow, raft, or other craft may be proceeded against summarily by way of libel in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof.

The bill was referred to the Secretary of War, and, as amended, is in accordance with his recommendations. Experience has shown that under existing law, which provides a minimum fine of $500, that juries will not convict in the case of minor infractions of its provisions, and it is the belief of your committee that a reduction of this minimum fine to $250 will bring about a more effective enforcement of the law.

The committee held hearings on the bill, printed copies of which are available to members.

The report of the Secretary of War, referred to above, is as follows: WAR DEPARTMENT,

Washington, February 12, 1931.

Hon. S. WALLACE DEMPSEY,

Chairman Committee on Rivers and Harbors,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C.

DEAR MR. DEMPSEY: Reference is made to your letter of January 31, 1931, inclosing a copy of bill H. R. 11512, with request for the views of this department as to the advisability of enacting all or any of its provisions.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the provisions of the river and harbor act of March 3, 1899, relating to the protection of navigable waters. It is proposed:

1. To reduce the minimum penalty prescribed by the act for violation of its provisions from $500 to $250.

2. To change the phraseology and enlarge the scope of certain sections of the act.

The act of 1899 makes violations of its provisions a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not exceeding $2,500 nor less than $500. To properly protect navigable waters from obstructions it is often necessary to institute prosecutions for minor infractions of the law. In such cases experience has shown that juries are reluctant to convict as they feel that the statutory penalty is out of proportion to the gravity of the offense. It is not improbable that a lesser penalty would conduce to a more effective enforcement of the law. No objection is seen, therefore, to the enactment of the proposed amendment reducing the minimum penalty from $500 to $250.

The department, however, is not prepared to sanction the other amendments proposed in the bill. The present law is comprehensive and has proven reasonably effective, both as a preventive and remedial measure. During the long period it has been in existence its provisions have been the subject of judicial interpretation and decision, and the public has become acquainted with its requirements and meaning. Amendments to a statute of long standing, established validity and settled interpretation, changing its phraseology and enlarging its scope to include things of doubtful pertinency, may lead to confusion and impair the force of the statute. They should not be adopted until the fullest investigation has demonstrated their desirability. If legislation creating new offenses or correcting other abuses is needed to supplement the existing law it should preferably take the form of a separate and independent measure.

After careful consideration of the statements of the proponents and advocates of the proposed amendments, this department is not convinced that it would be wise or expedient to enact any of the provisions of the bill except those relating to reduction of penalty.

Sincerely yours,

о

PATRICK J. HURLEY,
Secretary of War.

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