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Pictures and Illustrations.

John P. Altgeld.


Veto of Bill Declaring Policy of the State as to Waterways.

To the Honorable the Senate:

I herewith return without my approval Senate bill No. 457, entitled An act to promote the construction of waterways.

The main provision of the bill is as follows:

"It is hereby declared the policy of the State of Illinois to procure as soon as practicable, the construction of a trunk waterway through the State from Lake Michigan, via the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers, to the Mississippi river, of such dimensions and capacity as to form a homogeneous part of a through route from the Atlantic seaboard, via the great lakes, to the Gulf of Mexico, and it is hereby declared to be the further policy of said State to determine such a system of lateral and subsidiary waterways as shall be permitted by topographical and hydrographical conditions in order that the State may, by appropriate legislation, fully conserve the public interest in said system, to the end that the same be developed with the growth in resources and population and as public necessities shall demand. And in furtherance of the policy herein set forth the Governor is authorized to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, a commissioner of waterways, who shall be a civil engineer of recognized standing and ability on waterway questions, said commissioner to report to the next general Assembly of Illinois such


data and conclusions with estimates, diagrams and maps in illustration thereof as may be germane to the subject, and said report shall be accompanied by recommendations in regard to the means to be employed in carrying out any project that may be matured and the draft of any legislation that may be desirable."

The bill further states that "in projecting said trunk waterway the commissioner shall consider the sanitary and ship canal of Chicago and the connection of the same with Lake Michigan in relation to its use as a harbor for lake shipping; also for ocean vessels in accordance with such plans for connecting the lakes with the Atlantic as may be projected by the commissioners of the United States, and said commissioner is authorized to co-operate with the United States commission and obtain any necessary data bearing upon said projects for ocean navigation."

The commissioner of waterways to be appointed by the Governor and the Senate shall be paid $500 a month for twenty-two months, and he may appoint such assistants as he deems proper, and the bill then appropriates $25,000 to pay these salaries and expenses for the next twenty-two months. Had this bill simply appropriated $25,000 to make a survey of the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers to secure such information in regard to levels, etc., as a proper survey would furnish, there would have been no constitutional objection to it, but it will be seen that this is not the object or purpose of the bill. On the contrary, it is an open and direct declaration of a policy to be pursued by the State. It explicitly commits the State to the policy of undertaking an enterprise; that is, the dredging of a canal that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The Constitution expressly forbids any appropriations being made in aid of railroads or canals. This bill explicitly states that its object is to procure the making of a waterway; that is a canal, and the appropriation is therefore unconstitutional. If such an enterprise is ever undertaken it will have to be done by the Federal Government.

It will be noticed that the canal or waterway is to provide for vessels drawing not less than fourteen feet of water, and is to be of sufficient width to admit of the passage of several large steamers having in tow other boats. It would be similar to the drainage canal now being dug from the western part of Chicago to Lockport, a distance of only about thirty-four miles and which will cost the people of Chicago considerably over $30,000,000. The canal proposed by this bill would commence at Lockport, where the drainage canal now ends, and would run to LaSalle, where it would strike the Illinois river, that is, a distance of about seventy miles. No man could tell exactly what this would cost. But taking other works of a similar character as a criterion it would cost from $40,000,000 to $50,000,000. From LaSalle by way of the Illinois river to the Mississippi river it is in the neighborhood of 230 miles and the average depth of water in the Illinois river is usually given at three and a half feet. At present it is much lower than that. I will not undertake to make an estimate of the millions of dollars that would be required to deepen this so that it would admit the passage of vessels drawing fourteen feet of water, nor of the millions of annual expenses that would be involved in afterward keeping open the channel.

From the mouth of the Illinois river to Cairo by way of the Mississippi river is in the neighborhood of 200 miles, and the average depth of water is usually given at from four to four and one-half feet, but in recent years it


has fallen below that during the summer season, which is the season of navigation, and at present the water in the Mississippi river is so low that the usual steamers plying between St. Louis and Cairo find difficulty in getting through and some smaller boats drawing but little water have been substituted. It would be impossible to estimate the millions of dollars that would be required to deepen the Mississippi so as to admit the passage of vessels drawing fourteen feet of water from Cairo up to the Illinois river, and inasmuch as the Mississippi is constantly shifting its channel it would become necessary to redig the channel every few years.

From Cairo southward for hundreds of miles the average depth of water during the seasons of navigation is usually given at from seven to eight feet, so it will be seen that the project of this bill practically contemplates the digging of a ship canal between 400 and 500 miles in length, besides deepening the depth of the Mississippi river for an equal distance. It would require hundreds of millions to carry out this project and the annual expense alone to keep such a deep channel from filling up would amount to more than any possible benefit which could be derived from such a waterway under existing conditions.

The idea of having a great national waterway from the lakes to the gulf is exceedingly enchanting and would arouse the enthusiasm of our people were it not for the cold fact that, in the first place, it is not practicable, and in the second place it would burden our people for generations with enormous taxes and be of comparatively little benefit if we had it.