Friend and colleague Doug Walker sent me this item he posted at xAnalytica. There is a wealth of information in such a short post with a number of informative links relating to the Mississippi flood and the opening of the Morganza Floodway. Walker suggests, and so do I, that you read John McPhee's 1987 article for background; those of you who read his wonderful book, The Control of Nature, will recognize it.
Welcome to the personal website of Doug Walker, a geoscientist and consultant engaged in the analysis and interpretation of various types of data. This site presents samples of my projects, gives me a place to experiment with web-based software, and the xAnalytica weblog for ideas and discussion.
There is a lot of good stuff on the site and the blog. Give both a read.
Now, for Walker's take on the opening of the Morganza Floodway and some aspects of MIssissippi River management.
On Saturday, May 14, at 3:00 pm Central Daylight time, a hydro-historic event occurred: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) opened the Morganza Floodway to control flooding on the Lower Mississippi River for the first time since 1973 (See a picture of the first rush of water). The Morganza is part of a complex of floodgates, weirs, levees, and diversions built and operated by USACE to control the flow of the Mississippi River. Flow on the Mississippi this year is reaching rates comparable to those that caused the Great Mississippi Floods of 1927, which inundated 27,000 square miles, fueling a wave of migration, and spurring Congress to order USACE to construct the world’s largest system of levees. Opening the Morganza will divert flow from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya River, adding to flow already being diverted from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya through through the Old River Control Structure. If all goes according to plan, this will keep flow southward through Baton Rouge and New Orleans at a manageable level.
There has been much debate over the control of the Mississippi. On the one hand, the USACE’s efforts to control the natural migration of the river have been called arrogant and ultimately futile. On the other, this engineering achievement has been hailed as a marvel that protects billions of dollars of industry along the American Ruhr Valley. Regardless of your position, I highly recommend the essay by John McPhee as background reading.
Interestingly enough, last night, after our every-evening after-dinner tea, Mary Frances and I discussed the futures of New Orleans and Baton Rouge as ports and speculated upon the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Some wondered whether that was a good idea. Walker makes a great point about the 'American Ruhr Valley' and the industry it contains. I remember years ago reading that 25% of the USA's petrochemical industry was located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. And don't forget how significant the New Orleans and Baton Rouge ports are.
"Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than the exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise." -- J. W. Tukey, from xAnalytica