Mississippi River flooding – present and future

The Old River Control Structure complex, showi...

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Flooding threat along Mississippi River is a test of man vs. nature.  WashPost, May 22, 2011. Although the article does a good job describing the current flood control measures, structural and non-structural, the most compelling part of it is the account of what future flood events might be in store.

For example, Bayou Chene is a major concern for public officials and residents in low-lying communities. Floodwater will sluice past the high walls of Morgan City on its way to the gulf, and then take a sharp left, into Bayou Chene, and attempt to flow back north, into a lake that could swamp Morgan City from the rear. To stop that from happening, engineers have sunk a barge, 480 feet long, in the mouth of Bayou Chene. They’ve rammed sheets of steel in front and back, and flanked it with giant boulders. The top of the barge juts above the water line. It’s an emergency dam, a fat finger in the dike.“This is not something that somebody drew up on the back of an envelope. Engineers thought this through,” Fleming said.

The chemistry of that floodwater is also raising concerns. Anna Hrybyk, program manager for an environment organization called the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said the floodwaters could inundate hundreds of abandoned petrochemical waste pits. “Some of these waste pits are like a New York City block long. They’re huge. And they’re not covered. And they’re not lined. Imagine 25 feet of floodwaters running over these things.”

The ultimate fear for the Army Corps is that the Mississippi’s primary distributary, the Atchafalaya, could capture the majority of the river flow, which could devastate the shipping and petrochemical industries on the lower Mississippi. Preventing the Atchafalaya from doing that has been the job of an elaborate apparatus called the Old River Control Structure….

See full text for discussion of future vulnerabilities and risk.

1 thought on “Mississippi River flooding – present and future

  1. Living in a hazardous area, Louisiana has allowed the oil and gas industries and other extractive industries to EXTRACT and now largely left to the future like much of the Soviet Empire’s remains the USA will find that Louisiana needs literally billions of federal dollars to try and maintain a liveable quality of life. The Petrochemical industry should be given the chance to repair the damages they have caused in Louisiana but probably will escape justice. And of course as always a largely corrupt Louisiana governmental system will never impose the true costs on those that benefited from the exploitation of Louisiana resources.

    Notice the USACOE is now facing hazards never before seen in its history and has few dollars to utilize in protecting what is left of Louisiana.

    And of course the rest of the country faces the same tragedy as those who exploit the commons never pay the costs of that exploitation.

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