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Tuesday, May 17

Was there a way other than opening Morganza Spillway to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans from flooding?

"While levees and floodwalls will continue to make sense in some heavily populated areas, their overuse actually causes flood levels to rise as the river channel is narrowed and water has nowhere to go but up -– making flooding worse for communities downstream."

Mississippi River Flooding in Rena Lara, Mississippi, May 12, 2011

Flooding in Jaffarabad, Balochistan, Pakistan, August 23, 2010

BEIJING, May 18 (Xinhuanet) 11:30 PM ET -- As the Mississippi River continues to rise in the US, land and homes along one of its main tributaries have been completely submerged.

The water level has reached 17.28 meters in the town of Vicksburg, obliterating a record set in 1927.

About 2.1 million acres were inundated in the state of Mississippi's central region, as of Monday evening.

Due to a rainy spring and heavy snow melts, the river has been rampaging across property in the states of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The waterway is still surging, as it moves south through Mississippi and Louisiana.
A few weeks ago Donald Trump hung himself with his tongue at a speech he gave in Las Vegas. He already had several strikes against him; those he might have weathered but his expletive-laden rant ruled him out as a presidential candidate. Maybe he didn't care by then, maybe he didn't want to be president badly enough, but I was sorry to see him dynamite his chances without making a try. That's partly because a Trump campaign would have hammered on a theme he voiced often during the months he showed interest in making a run for the White House: Much of America's infrastructure was in such bad shape that it ranked with that of a third world nation's.

I thought of Trump's observation when I learned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had decided the only way to save two Louisiana cities from Mississippi River flooding was to divert the floodwaters to thousands of rural acres and many small towns. Then I recalled this report, as Pakistan faced historic floods in 2010:
ISLAMABAD (August 21, 2010) Deputy Chairman Senate Mir Jan Mohammad Khan Jamali on Friday made a stunning statement that an airbase was being saved from floodwaters at the cost of Balochistan and as a result more than 85 percent part of Jaffarabad has been inundated by flood. ...
It turned out that wasn't the only time the floodwaters were diverted; many levees and berms were deliberately broken, either at government order or by individual landowners, to save cities and large swaths of farmland from the worst of the flooding. Yet as I pointed out in a post around that time the British Raj had left Pakistan with a very extensive and reliable floodwater management system; it was just that it wasn't maintained after Independence.

Is the United States of America is on par with Pakistan when it comes to flood management? You decide, after reading today's New York Times report on the spiraling economic disaster emerging from the Mississippi Delta flooding and the following report from the nonprofit organization, American Rivers (see the website for links and more information on the flooding):
Army Corps to open Morganza Spillway
By Shana Udvardy
Director, Flood Management Policy
May 14, 2011

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Saturday that for the first time in 38 years it will open the Morganza Spillway.

The goal is to ease pressure on Mississippi River levees and save New Orleans and Baton Rouge from disastrous flooding.

The decision could impact 25,000 people and 11,000 structures in the spillway, but the consequences would be far worse for the region if Morganza remained closed.

With rivers and flooding in the national spotlight, American Rivers renewed its call to the Obama Administration and Congress to improve flood management and policies that ensure public safety and river health.

"The Corps is making the agonizing but correct decision to open Morganza," said Andrew Fahlund, senior vice president of conservation for American Rivers. "Our hearts go out to all of the victims impacted by the floodwaters."

"These record floods prove that we need better flood protection strategies. Levees provide a false sense of security and should be our last, not our only, line of defense. If we don't restore our natural defenses like healthy floodplains and wetlands, future generations will suffer increasingly disastrous floods."

While levees and floodwalls will continue to make sense in some heavily populated areas, their overuse actually causes flood levels to rise as the river channel is narrowed and water has nowhere to go but up -– making flooding worse for communities downstream. We need to give the river more room to move, and restore the wetlands and floodplains that naturally absorb and store floodwaters.

"American Rivers is dedicated to finding solutions that protect communities and restore river health. This record flood is a wake-up call about the need to protect and restore our rivers," said Fahlund.

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