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whole number of sail and steam being, say 18,000, about 16,500 draw fifteen feet and less, and 1,500 draw fifteen feet and over.
Of this whole number, we do not know of one which requires over twenty-four feet, the present available draft over the bar, via GEDNEY's Channel.
It will thus be apparent, that the demand for increased depth of water arises almost exclusively from the foreign ocean steamers, to which our foreign ocean carrying trade is now surrendered; and that the American vessels have been built in deference to the trades and capacities of the harbors to which they ply, of smaller size, and of a model not requiring larger draft of water than generally afforded by nature.
When it is considered what a preponderance in value and importance to its citizens the maintenance of this great coast wise traffic bears over that of our foreign commerce, the enormous number of vessels employed in the former, their constant and frequent entrances and exits, it must be concluded that no measure should be entertained which interferes with its facilities, or in any degree obstructs or contracts existing advantages.
The Committee bas always, and does now most earnestly desire that every possible facility be extended to all commerce, and it has always been the first to apply for any relief of burden or difficulty encountered by any branch thereof. It has entertained and acted on the well founded complaint of the foreign steamship agents and others of the lack of the draft of water required for their largest steamers to ply at this port with ease and freedom, but it sees no reasonable or proper ground for entertaining any measure which even threatens any further sacrifice of our domestic vessel interest, though the foreign trade be thereby advanced. For these reasons, this Committee unanimously are of opinion that the following conditions are a sine quâ non of any plan whereby a change in existing facilities in the entrance to this harbor is to be made :
First. That no plan should be entertained which has for a possible result the destruction, or even increased obstruction of any existing channel now largely used by vessels of any class.
Second. That the plan and channel which should be selected as the one by which the greater draft of water is to be afforded, should be the one which will most nearly approach the following standard in all particulars :
(a.) It should be the one in which thirty feet of water and a width of not less than five hundred feet at mean low tide can be obtained at the least guaranteed cost.
(6.) It should be guaranteed, or so assured by well known natural conditions and laws in actual operation, as not to require guarantee, that it will be practically self-sustaining after once being constructed, and not require large annual appropriations to maintain the depth desired and once attained.
(c.) It should be contracted for, in most positive terms, that neither in the process of the work, or in the results of the plan adopted, shall any interference with the free and constant use of any and all other channels be made, at any time during its prosecution or after its accomplishment.
(a.) It should be that plan which can most speedily be certainly accomplished.
(e.) It should be the most direct and shortest route, and capable of being so lighted as to permit entrance at all hours of night.
It is quite possible that no one plan can be devised which will meet all these conditions, but, in our opinion, each of these has its own value and weight, and if a plan can be devised, embracing them all, a most complete result will necessarily be gained. In default of this, then that plan which comprises and complies with the greater number of these, will unquestionably be best.
This Committee has been to great trouble and expense in obtaining all existing information as to the actual operating influences going on in connection with the channels, and they fail to find on record, or in the possession of any one, the special knowledge which, in a business aspect of the question, it has deemed necessary for any one, however highly educated or skilled, to form exact conclusions as to what forces are in actual operation, and their precise direction and effect. The problem presented is, which of the five existing channels will nearest afford the possible conditions hereinbefore named ? Now we have so limited a knowledge that we do not know, and are of the belief that no one knows the exact nature of the bottom or bar at the mouth of these channels, nor has ever been fully and specifically investigated, the precise volumetric force and direction of the different bodies of water operating directly on these channels, and thus enable some degree of accuracy in considering how far nature can be relied on to maintain a further depth, if artificially effected. It can need no argument to convince a business mind of the value, if not necessity, of ascertaining in advance, every definite element bearing on the question; and it was the admission by all to whom reference has been had, that such knowledge does not exist, and its extreme value, in deliberating on all plans, that prompted this Committee to petition Congress to grant a liberal sum, to be expended not only in perfecting a new survey of the harbor and all the waters connected with the same, but in extending the work to simultaneous tidal observations of various kinds, to be made at a number of different stations, from which and with which an intelligent plan could be devised for permanent improvement, upon the conditions most desirable from all points of view. We have seen nothing to change this judgment, and deem that Congress has practically complied with our petition, by leaving to yourself entire freedom, not only to adopt a plan, but to use your own discretion as to the mode of arriving at a conclusion; and do strongly advise that all needed information be obtained by
such investigation before considering plans, as otherwise any plan and all plaus must be largely tentative and uncertain.
This Committee begs to state to you most emphatically, that it declines, and has always declined to become the advocates of any plan. Its duties are clearly to oppose and protest against any plan, which, in its judgment, threatens injury in any form to existing facilities or advantages of our noble harbor. It has felt constrained, for this reason, to respectfully lay before you conditions which, being complied with, will certainly fully protect us from injury, and protect the Government from useless and improvident experiments and expenditures, and trust that you will see and be impressed with their propriety and reasonableness. They will also venture to suggest to you, that the practice of institutions and business men is, when any great and important building is to be erected, to invité competition of architects, offering a suitable reward for all plans, and a premium for the best plan submitted. This Committee would deem it a wise and prudent step to invite the competition of even the world's talent on so important a matter as opening an improved gateway for the world's commerce to our city and country. Its success will be a national benefit! An error or grave mistake will inflict incalculable injury. This Committee will at all times cheerfully and gladly lend its co-operation, when deemed by you desirable. In the meantime it will rest with confidence in your reputation for the utmost integrity and business ability, to take such wise measures as cannot but meet with the approval of your fellow citizens, and particularly of the Committee on the Harbor and Shipping of the Chamber of Commerce of New York.
I am, with great respect,
Your obedient servant.
The letter was unanimously approved, and ordered to be engrossed and signed by the Chairman of the Committee on the Harbor and Shipping, and by the officers of the Chamber, and forwarded to the Secretary of War.
The President laid before the Chamber the following communication he had received from Lieut.-Col. WALTER McFARLAND, of the Engineer Corps, in charge of the Harbor Improvements, giving an account of the improvements made during the season, and their condition at its close :
ENGINEER OFFICE, U. S. ARMY,
NEW-YORK, November 4, 1886. JAMES M. BROWN, Esq.,
President of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of
New-York: Dear Sir : The end of the working season is approaching, and it will doubtless be of interest to you and to the other members of the Chamber of Commerce to learn in what condition it leaves the New-York Harbor Improvements.
At Hell Gate, the work of removing the debris of Flood Rock, blown up by General Newton in October, 1885, has been carried on until a middle channel eighteen (18) feet deep at mean low water, and between 300 feet and 400 feet wide, available for nine-tenths of the vessels that pass through the Sound, now exist between Flood Rock and the Mill Rocks. Within the past week this channel has been buoyed by the Light House Service. As the opening of this channel is entirely due to the exertions of General Newton, I think it might, very properly, be named the Newton Channel.
Harlem River : The legal difficulties, which for a number of years have stood in the way of beginning this improvement are, according to an opinion recently given by the United States District Attorney for the Southern District of New-York, nearly or quite at an end ; and it seems probable that work upon this improvement may be begun this spring.
Gedney's Channel: Where there was formerly a depth of twentyfour (24) feet of water in this channel for a width of four hundred (400) feet, we have now secured a depth of twenty-five (25) feet for á width of nine hundred (900) feet.
This has been a work of very difficult execution, because at first there were no dredges in this country capable of doing the work, and they had, therefore, to be built for the purpose. When built, like all new machines, they were found to contain imperfections which it took time to remedy, and, of course, great delays in the execution of the work occurred.
I have recommended that a part of the last appropriation for New-York Harbor be applied to the further deepening of this Channel, and also to the deepening of the shoal places near the junction of the Swash and Main Ship Channels, and in the vicinity of FLYNN's Knoll.
These recommendations now await official action. It is not expected that much more can be done during the rough weather of winter, but it is hoped that everything will be in readiness for effective work in the spring.
It will afford me pleasure to keep the Chamber of Commerce informed of the progress of the work. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, (Signed,) WALTER MCFARLAND,
Lieut.- Col. of Engineers.
The communication was ordered to be placed on file.
Mr. Higgins submitted the following report on the communication of the Hon. JOSEPH NIMMO, Jr., on the subject of Harbor and Coast defences, referred to the Committee at the last meeting of the Chamber :
To the Chamber of Commerce :
Your Committee has had under consideration the communication of the Hon. Joseph Nimmo, Jr., on the subject of Defences of New-York Harbor and Long Island Sound. The repeated reports of this Committee, made to your honorable body, have placed on record its unanimous opinion of the unwarranted hazard incurred by, if not culpable neglect of, the General Government, in leaving its most important and absolutely indispensable harbor in the defenceless condition it now is in. And the unanimous action of the Chamber and its petitions to Congress, in pursuance of recommendations from its Committee, attest to the conviction prevailing with us, that action of no ordinary character is required on the part of Government at once, and without hesitation. The very able remarks of Mr. Nimmo in his communication furnishes more than a reasonable and convincing argument in favor of the most liberal expenditure in this direction, that complete protection against a foreign enemy requires. In addition to the well known fact of the considerable period of time required to produce guns of the requisite character, we would call attention to a prevalent error that even the system of torpedoes and torpedo boats, so universally acknowledged to be a necessity, is one that can be immediately, or even in short space of time, availed of. These, as now constructed, require a very extensive preparation of peculiar materials not at all to be found on hand at any establishment in this country, and which, no one of them, would have any inducement to prepare, unless under a contract with the United States Government. This branch of defence, therefore, as well as the other of guns and fortifications, require prompt action on the part of Government, to be at all available as a resource. It may be further said that no prudent merchant ever is willing to assume and personally run risks which can be readily insured for a low rate of premium, and which form no part of his own legitimate mercantile hazards. No merchant would argue that sea perils on his valuable cargo were not to be insured, because the weather looked fair and promised to be favorable during that entire voyage. Nor would he be deemed justified in assuming the risk himself, because he had in a previous instance, or in a number of instances, escaped all loss or damage. Far less can any nation, looked upon with envy and jealousy by all other principalities and powers, with any business prudence wilfully neglect to insure its citizens against fearful, if not irreparable injury and loss, and permit even the possibility of such an event and result by its own utter indifference to the warnings and entreaties of those who not only have the power of dictation, but who must pay all the expense of protection, on the plea that no foreign power now threatens us or has threatened us for many years, or is likely to threaten us for years to come. An expenditure of one hundred millions of dollars may be required to give this complete system of defence to our whole coast. The present rate of cost of money to the United States Government does not exceed three per cent. The annual cost, therefore, of such an investment would be three millions of dollars,