Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blowing up Birds Point.


Sandbagging in Cairo, 1937

UPDATE:  Excellent post on this issue by TNC Scientist Jeff Opperman.  I'm interviewing a couple of people and will follow up later today (May 2).

As promised, here are the best links I can find for news on the lower Mississippi flooding and the Birds Point levee situation. 

At home I'm about 50 miles north of Cairo, Illinois, and 15 miles east of the flooded Mississippi; the Big Muddy River has backed water to within 30 feet of my house and flooded most of the roads leading to it.

Blowing up the Birds Point levee to save Cairo would fit into the best of Steinbeck’s novels.  It has hydrology, geography, geomorphology, rich history, and the politics of race, class, cross-river conflict.

Flood control projects on these big rivers are unbelievably massive, the largest public works projects in history.  Thousands of miles of earthen levees and, in cities like Cairo and St. Louis, concrete floodwalls.  The levees are huge; near here they are thirty feet tall and over two hundred feet across at the base.   Huge pumping stations lift tributary water over the levees during floods.

These works need constant money for maintenance.  Mostly supplied by the federal government.   All of it, after the 1927 flood, was conceived, designed, and built by the federal government.  The big bottomland farmers in southeast Missouri Bootheel are very fond of these government-built-and-maintained levees. Rush Limbaugh comes from the Cape Girardeau there.  You won’t hear him criticizing this entitlement.

Cairo, like New Orleans, was a great spot in the age of river commerce, but always geomorphically incorrect at the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi, highly alluvial and still strongly in the grip of  Pleistocene fluvial geomorphology.

And now poor, seventy-percent African American.  Sitting across from the the all white farmers in the New Madrid floodway, assigned in 1927 as a place to divert floodwaters from Cairo, which was thriving then.   
Those floodway landowners, big farmers, in Missouri have been compensated, by the federal government, for their floodway status.  Since the 1930’s, that land has been set aside for this purpose.

It's hideously complex. the science alone is crazy.  Add the politics and I'm not sure what to do.

End editorial.  News links I could find:

Southeast Missourian special web page with comprehensive reporting and many links to Army Corps documents, legal documents, weather, river stage information.  Lots of YouTube video of flooding and flood fighting.

The Memphis District, US Army Corps of Engineers, has a YouTube channel
And a Birds Point New Madrid Floodway Facebook page!  Link, I hope

 St. Louis Beacon reporting:   http://www.stlbeacon.org/issues-politics/280-washington/109995-birds-point-floodway-evacuated-as-army-corps-ponders-levee-detonation

Link and image rich Wikipedia entry for Cairo, Illinois http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo,_Illinois



Wonder dog JaJa navigating floodwaters from the Big Muddy River near Carbondale as we survey the road I usually take home.









1 comment:

Nutria P. Fishbinder said...

Are you sure JaJa isn't part beaver?