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.
- Louisiana’s Cajun country braces for historic flooding – Christian Science Monitor (news.google.com)
- Keeping floods, despair at bay – Albany Times Union (news.google.com)
- Towns in floodway mired in a painful waiting game – STLtoday.com (news.google.com)