Designing the Bayous
The Control of Water in the Atchafalaya Basin, 1800-1995
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Series: Gulf Coast Books Series
Preface to Texas A&M Edition
THE FIRST EDITION of this book took the story to 1995. Since that time, the tensions first outlined in Designing the Bayous have continued to influence Louisianaâs Atchafalaya Basin, one of the most hydraulically dynamic and critical...
AS A HISTORIAN for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I have had an unusual opportunity to learn something of the Corpsâ culture, the frustrations and rewards of the engineering profession, and the peculiar challenges facing bureaucrats in the public sector. At the same time, I have often sympathized with many of the environmental concerns raised in the last twenty years...
ABOUT 20 MILES our OF BATON ROUGE on 1-10, past Grosse Tete and Ramah, and just past the sign "Atchafalaya Swamp Floodway," the road unexpectedly rises and the highway perches on stilts. For 17.5 miles this "Swamp Expressway" straddles swampland...
Chapter 1. Early Flood Control Efforts, Louisiana Style
THEATCHAFALAYABASINHASALWAYS BEEN a source of controversy. Nothing about it-not even its name-has led to easy agreement. Thomas Hutchins, the "Geographer to the United States" after the Revolutionary War, called the river the "Chafalaya" and thought the land through which it flowed "one of the most fertile countries in the world."1...
Chapter 2. Interregnum: Growing Federal Involvement
THE PERIOD FROM JUST BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR to the early 1880s may be considered an interregnum in the story of the Atchafalaya Basin. Devastated by the Civil War and reconstruction, Louisiana attempted to reconstruct levees and remove navigation...
Chapter 3. The Outlet Question
OFTEN THE SIMPLEST QUESTION provokes the most complicated answer: should engineers disperse flood waters or confine them? As cities rose along the Mississippi River, as farms were developed and forests cleared, the question increasingly took on emotional overtones. In Louisiana, riparian landowners and merchants who depended on river transportation sought...
Chapter 4. Apres Le Deluge: The Jadwin Plan
THE FLOODING THAT ENDED the MRC's dependence on levees occurred in 1927. One of the nation's worst peacetime disasters killed between 250 and 500 people, flooded over 16 million acres, and destroyed 41,000 buildings. The Red Cross at one time cared for over 600,000 people, half of whom lived in temporary...
Chapter 5 .The Politics of Engineering
THE TIMES CALLED FOR POLITICAL ADJUSTMENT, and no part of government went untouched. One might have predicted that the Corps' fortunes would rise in the administration of a President who was a former engineer. Engineers, Hoover had said, "comprise a force in the community absolutely unique...
Chapter 6. Louisiana and Mississippi: The Battle over Floodways
THROUGHOur ROOSEVELT'S NEW DEAL administration, John Overton and Will Whittington dominated federal legislation affecting the lower Mississippi River. They were instrumental in formulating their states' positions on flood control...
Chapter 7. The Old River Problem
By THE END OF 1941, contours of the modern Atchafalaya Basin floodway system had emerged. Although the Morganza Floodway intake structure was not yet in place and some gaps remained in the levee system, most of the guide levees had been built, as had the levees along the banks of the Atchafalaya River...
Chapter 8. Let the Public Be Heard: Reconciling Multiple Objectives
JUST AS THE CORPS COMPLETED the Old River Control Structure project in 1963, it advanced plans for further engineering of the Atchafalaya Basin. These plans responded to problems that had already become apparent in the mid-1950s. The levees continuously subsided because of swampy land underneath them...
Chapter 9. Environmental Activist and the Corps of Engineers
WHENPRESIDENfNIXON SIGNED the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on the first day of the new year, 1970, he changed dramatically the way in which federal agencies plan public works projects. The act declared that it was the "continuing policy of the Federal Government...to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive...
Chapter 10. Defending the Turf
MOST CANOEISTS PADDLING in the Atchafalaya Basin's bayous probably paid little attention to the acrimonious debates dividing the Atchafalaya Basin Agency Management Group. Their vision was simpler. For them, the basin was a commingling of flora and fauna, water and land, unlike anywhere else...
Chapter 11. Denouement
DESPITE ITS BEST EFFORTS, the Corps floundered when it attempted to forge a consensus on the future of the Atchafalaya Basin. Many people continued to doubt the agency's environmental sensitivity, while others saw the Corps sacrificing its commitment to a critical flood control project. At times developing agreements on even the most routine matters seemed beyond reach...
Afterword: A Sense of Place, A Sense of Balance
THE ATCHAFALAYA BASIN has essentially become a "designer wedand," a monument to human contrivance and ingenuity. Like so many other places in the world-European woodlands, California's Central Valley, refurbished beaches along the Atlantic Coast, or the manicured English landscape...
Page Count: 496
Illustrations: 73 b&w photos. 23 maps.
Publication Year: 2004
Series Title: Gulf Coast Books Series
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