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The act of Congress providing for the examination and survey reads as follows:
Waterway from Norfolk, Virginia, to Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, with a view to the construction of a channel not less than sixteen feet in depth, upon the most advantageous route between the points named: Provided, That the examination and survey shall be made by a board of engineer officers detailed by the Secretary of War, and any report made shall include the probable cost of any private waterway that it may be to the interest of the United States to acquire in connection with the proposed improvement: Provided further, That the total expense of the examination and of any survey which may be made shall not exceed the sum of five thousand dollars.
In pursuance of the foregoing order the Board met at Norfolk, Va., on August 1, 1902, and subsequently, on September 16 and 17, 1902. At the second meeting representatives of the Board of Trade of Norfolk, and other persons interested, appeared before the Board and presented their views as to the advisability of the improvement. The question of an inland waterway from Norfolk, Va., to the sounds of North Carolina has been advocated for a number of years. About two years ago a report on a preliminary examination and survey was made to Congress, with a view to obtaining a navigable depth of 16 feet at mean low water. The survey, however, extended only from South Mills, N. C., the southern terminus of the Dismal Swamp Canal, to the sea at Beaufort, N. C. The route was fixed by law via Core Sound, leaving no discretion in the selection of a better route should one be found to exist.
The law under which this Board is acting contemplates an examination of the most advantageous route between Norfolk, Va., and Beaufort Inlet, N. C. The total length of this route is about 200 miles. It will vary slightly, however, depending upon the particular line adopted. The route passes from Norfolk up the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, taking advantage of this stream as far as practicable; thence to Albemarle Sound, either by the Albemarle and Chesapeaké Canal, the Dismal Swamp Canal, both of which have been constructed by private corporations, or by some other line to be determined after examination. From Albemarle Sound the route is via Croatan Sound, Pamlico Sound to Core Sound, and through it or to a point on the Neuse River, and through a short canal to Beaufort Harbor.
Although the Board has at its disposal the results of several previous surveys, there is still lacking much necessary information to enable it to determine the most advantageous route. To supply this necessary information a survey will be required.
Ås the cost of the proposed waterway might be dependent, possibly, upon the acquisition of one of the existing canals by the United States, letters were addressed to the presidents of those canal corporations with a view to obtaining information regarding the prices at which the canal properties could be acquired by the Government. As a meeting of the stockholders was necessary in each case to determine the selling price, this information could not be obtained in time for incorporation in this report. It will be sent later.
Each of the existing canals between Norfolk and Albermarle Sound has a depth of only 8 feet; consequently, the commerce availing itself of these water routes is limited to such as can be economically transported in vessels of this draft. At present, this commerce amounts to a little over 400,000 tons per annum, valued at about $4,000,000, upon which is levied no less than $100,000 as canaf tolls. When one takes into consideration that the canals are narrow, the approaches tortuous, and the depth only available to small vessels, it is readily seen that the commercial statistics of the existing trade would form no basis for an opinion as to what might be developed by a deeper, more commodious, and free canal. It is reasonable to infer that much of that commerce which is obliged to take the outside route, for the reason that it could not be transported through the canals upon the present available depth of water, would undoubtedly seek the inside route provided the navigable depths were satisfactory.
The records of the Life-Saving Service show that within the last twenty-five years not less than $3,000,000 worth of property and 67 lives have been lost on the shoals in the vicinity.of Cape Hatteras alone. The records of the losses in the vicinity of Cape Lookout are not immediately available, but the losses are no doubt sufficient to add materially to the aggregate for the two capes, and argue strongly for the existence of a safer route, under existing conditions.
The character and volume of commerce passing any course is largely determined by the nature and the facilities offered by the route followed. In the case under consideration the dangers of the outside navigation have placed a limit to the quantity of commodities which can be shipped by that route, and the character of the navigation which the canals afford has placed a limit upon the quantity of freight which can be carried through them. Evidently the commerce through the canals at present would not justify an expenditure of something like $7,000,000 for its benefit, but the experience gained in similar cases shows that a very great improvement in the volume of commerce over a favorably disposed water route follows upon the improvement of that route, and it is reasonably certain that if a satisfactory inland water route from Norfolk, Va., to Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, were constructed not only would a large portion of the commerce which now hazards the outside course be diverted to this route, but the increased facilities afforded by the inland route would develop better methods of transportation and attract a large volume of commerce which at present seeks other channels.
It has been demonstrated that the cheapest method of transporting bulky freight is by means of barges towed by suitable tugs. Previous to the introduction of this method, it cost from $3 to $5 per ton to ship coal from Norfolk to New York and Boston; now the freight rate is from 75 cents to $1.50 per ton, it having been found possible to employ barges northward, owing to the existence of numerous harbors between Norfolk and New York. Southward of the Chesapeake Bay there is not a harbor until Beaufort Inlet is reached, and the risks involved in going such a long distance without any intermediate places of refuge have, so far, prevented the introduction of this method of transportation.
An inland water route would lend, itself, admirably to the method of barge transportation, and the consequent lowering of freight rates would have a very great influence in developing a traffic that at present does not exist.
What advantages would accrue to commerce by the construction of the proposed water route is, in a great measure, speculative. It would offer a safe route for barges from Baltimore to the mouth of St. Johns River, Florida, and possibly to Cuba and other West India islands. It would enable coal, machinery, and manufactured articles to be shipped south, and lumber, cotton, phosphate, and southern products to be shipped north by the most economical method known. According to Captain Lucas's estimate, based upon an extended investigation of this subject and contained in his report of November 22, 1900, the commerce of this route would amount to as much as $115,000,000 per annum.
The possession of such an inland route would be important from a military point of view, and there are not a few who do not hesitate to say that the importance of this feature alone is sufficient to warrant the expenditure of whatever sum that may be necessary to secure its construction.
After due consideration the Board is of the opinion that the proposed inland waterway can be secured for a sum not exceeding $7,000,000; that it is entirely feasible, and that the improvement is worthy.
There are several routes which are possible, and to determine the best of these a survey is necessary. The cost of such a survey is limited by the terms of the law to $5,000. This amount is hardly sufficient to admit of desirable precision, but will permit such examination as to enable the Board to determine the most advantageous route.
The Board therefore recommends that an allotment of $5,000 be made for the contemplated survey. Respectfully submitted.
PETER C. HAINS, Colonel, Corps of Engineers, President.
CHAS. J. ALLEN, Lieut. Col., Corps of Engineers.
JAMES B. QUINN,
Major, Corps of Engineers. Brig. Gen. G. L. GILLESPIE,
Chief of Engineers, U. S. A.
OFFICE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, U. S. ARMY,
October 1, 1902. Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.
The river and harbor act of June 13, 1902, provided for a preliminary examination as follows:
Waterway from Norfolk, Virginia, to Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, with a view to the construction of a channel not less than sixteen feet in depth, upon the most advantageous route between the points named: Provided, That the examination and survey shall be made by a board of engineer officers detailed by the Secretary of War, and any report made shall include the probable cost of any private waterway that it may be to the interests of the United States to acquire in connection with the proposed improvement: Provided further, That the total expense of the examination and of any survey which may be made shall not exceed the sum of five thousand dollars.
In accordance with this item a preliminary examination was assigned to a Board consisting of Col. Peter C. Hains, Lieut. Col. Charles J. Allen, and Maj. James B. Quinn, all of the Corps of Engineers.
The Board, as the result of the examination, submits the within report, finding the project worthy and feasible. A survey is necessary to enable the Board to determine which of the different routes is the best, since no suitable survey exists over a part of the distance. For reasons of economy it is desirable that the survey be made with the least practicable delay. To this end I recommend that it be ordered at once.
G. L. GILLESPIE, Brig. Gen., Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army.
October 2, 1902.
E. ROOT, Secretary of War.
OFFICE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, U. S. ARMY,
September 19, 1903. Respectfully referred to the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, constituted by Special Orders, No. 24, Headquarters, Corps of Engineers, series of 1902, for consideration and recommendation. By command of Brig. Gen. Gillespie:
H. F. HODGES, Major, Corps of Engineers.
BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORA,
Washington, D. C., February 9, 1904. Respectfully returned to the Chief of Engineers, United States Army.
Having reviewed the within report of a Board of Engineers on an examination and survey of a proposed "waterway from Norfolk, Virginia, to Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, with a view to the construction of a channel not less than 16 feet in depth," and having considered all available data bearing upon this subject, the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors respectfully invites attention to its accompanying report of this date. For the Board:
A. M. MILLER,
Senior Member of the Board.
REPORT OF A BOARD OF ENGINEERS ON SURVEY FOR WATERWAY FROM
NORFOLK, VA., TO BEAUFORT INLET, NORTH CAROLINA.
ENGINEER OFFICE, UNITED STATES ARMY,
Norfolk, Va., August 31, 1903. GENERAL: The Board of Engineers constituted by paragraph 1, Special Orders, No. 19, Headquarters Corps of Engineers, United States Army, Washington, D. C., July 5, 1902, has the honor to
a Printed at page 80, herewith.
submit the following report upon a survey of the waterway from Norfolk, Va., to Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. This report is submitted in compliance with the Department's letter of October 3, 1902, and is supplementary to the report upon a preliminary examination of the same route submitted by the Board under date of September 22, 1902.
Since the submission of the report just mentioned the personnel of the Board has undergone a change, Col. Peter C. Hains, Corps of Engineers, having been relieved from duty on the Board, owing to his promotion to the rank of brigadier-general, and the vacancy thus created being filled by the detail as a member of the Board of Capt. E. Eveleth Winslow, Corps of Engineers.
The distance from Norfolk to Beaufort via any of the possible lines for the waterway is approximately 200 miles. A large portion of the area to be considered consists of rivers and sounds already accurately surveyed and mapped by the Coast Survey or Engineer Department. Large portions of the land area have been covered by previous investigations, and consequently all that was necessary at this time was to make surveys of a few sections not previously covered and to make other investigations relative to the comparative feasibility of the different possible routes. This was rendered comparatively easy by the fact that the land throughout the area to be considered is very low and flat, and consequently a survey of one line will, as far as concerns quantities and estimates, do fairly well for other lines parallel and not far distant. Under the circumstances, therefore, the Board considers that it has obtained sufficient data to enable it to reach a proper deci sion as to the merits of the different possible routes, each route being considered in general terms only, the exact location of the different parts of the selected route to be made only after additional detailed surveys shall have been made. These will not be necessary unless Congress shall authorize the construction of the waterway.
The route of this waterway is through the southeastern part of Virginia and the eastern part of North Carolina, a territory a large part of the area of which is taken up by various sounds, rivers, creeks, and other bodies of water; consequently it is but natural that the utilization by commerce of these bodies of water and their connection by canals should have been frequently considered.
As early as 1787 an act was passed by the Virginia legislature authorizing the construction of what afterwards became the Dismal Swamp Canal. The construction of the canal proceeded under difficulties and it was more than thirty years before it was completed. As constructed this canal was passable for boats of small size only, and to overcome this difficulty the construction was begun in 1856 of a new and competing route now known as the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal.
The first interest shown in the matter by the General Government was in 1837. In this year Congress authorized a survey from the southern end of the Dismal Swamp Canal southward to Winyah Bay, South Carolina. Again in 1875 another survey was ordered by Congress, this time of a route for a canal covering generally the same territory as at present under consideration and extending still further south to the Cape Fear River. This work was performed by Mr. S. T. Abert, United States civil engineer, and his long and exhaustive report was published in the Report of the Chief of Engineers for 1876, pages