Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi River’

Floods: A Photo Essay

September 11, 2017

In honor of those devastated by the recent flooding all over the world, including Texas and Florida in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and across Southeast Asia, NWNL takes a look at photos from our archives of flooding in our case study watersheds.

Columbia River Basin

Jones_070607_BCa_0058In British Columbia, Columbia River flooding from melting snow pack and storms, threatens barns and farmlands.  (2007)

Jones_070607_BC_1989Barn and truck underwater in British Columbia from Columbia River flooding due to melting snow pack and storms.  (2007)

 

Mississippi River Basin

MO-STG-411Mississippi River flood of 1993, St Genevieve, Missouri.

USA:  Missouri, West Alton, road flooded in the Mississippi River flood of 1993Road flooded in West Alton, Missouri during the Mississippi River flood of 1993.

 

Raritan River Basin

Jones_110311_NJ_7383 A submerged park bench during the spring floods in Clinton, New Jersey, part of the South Branch of the Raritan River Basin. (2011)

Jones_110311_NJ_7451 Hamden Road flooded near Melick’s bridge in Clinton, New Jersey, part of the South Branch of the Raritan River Basin. (2011)

 

Omo River Basin

Jones_070919_ET_0261_MDassenech village, located on the Omo Delta in Ethiopia, flooded by the Omo River and polluted by livestock effluent. (2007)

Jones_070919_ET_0289_MGranary hut built on stilts on a flooded plain in the Dassenech village in Ethiopia. (2007)

 

Posted by Sarah Kearns, NWNL Project Manager.

All photos © Alison M. Jones.

2016 Flooding in Vicksburg and a NWNL 2014 Interview with US Army Corps of Engineers

January 10, 2016

Jones_140922_MS_4086

THIS WEEK’s RECORD-BREAKING MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLOOD

This winter’s costly Mississippi River Flood is now predicted to crest at Vicksburg on Friday Jan 15 at approximately 52 feet – 9 feet above the USGS official flood level.  The home of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg has known great changes in its river hydrology.  In 1876, the Mississippi took a dramatic shortcut across DeSoto Point, per this map illustration No Water no Life photographed on its 2014 Lower Mississippi River expedition.  Let’s hope there is no damage this winter during this current, historic flood.  And let’s hope there are no further rains between now and the time the crest reaches New Orleans.

FLOOD HISTORY of VICKSBURG (since the Civil War)

In 1876:  The Mississippi River course changed and shifted west, leaving Vicksburg without any riverfront.  Thus the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Yazoo River to the old riverbed.  This forced the creation of what is now the Yazoo Diversion Canal, where today’s modern Vicksburg port is located.

Flood of 1927:  The Upper Mississippi and Ohio Valleys experienced well-above-average rainfall in the fall of 1926.  The rain kept coming.  By January 1927 nearly all of the Mississippi River and its tributaries were above flood stage.  In April 1927, the levees began to fail causing massive areas to flood.  In all the Mississippi River breached the levee in 145 places, flooding 27,000 square miles.  Hundreds of thousands of people were homeless and were unable to return to their property until the waters receded, nearly 8 months after the rains began.

Jones_140923_MS_4541

The 1927 flood inundated 27,000 square miles along the lower reaches of the Mississippi River, then populated by more than 900,000 people.  For months in spring and summer of 1927, water covered the lower Mississippi River floodplain and tributaries.  It turned nearly all the cotton fields into a lake of tens of thousands of square miles.

Hundreds of thousands of people were impacted by floods that sent torrents of dirty water into their towns and homes, especially in African American communities.  Many Vicksburg families left for northern cities, such as St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit.  This urban migration drastically reduced the labor class and desperate landowners created forced-work camps to keep their farms going.

Jones_140923_MS_4542

The US Government determined that such a disaster should never be repeated.  The US Army Corps of Engineers [henceforth, USACE] since has put in place plans, designs and infrastructure to mitigate such disasters.

TALKING WITH THE USACE IN VICKSBURG, SEPT. 2014

Jones_140923_MS_4548

Per a No Water No Life USACE interview with Kent Parrish, Noah Vroman and Tommy Hengst, there seems to be reason to be optimistic this month as floodwaters again race and rage through the Lower Mississippi Valley.  Certainly greater riverside development means protection is even more critical, and thankfully it comes at a time when the USACE understands the need for more coordination with water interests.

Jones_140923_MS_4551

As the strength and frequency of storms has increased, the terminology of the Corps has been changed to decrease the level of expectations.  The USACE claim of providing “Flood protection” has now been reduced to insuring “Flood Risk Reduction.”  As well, there are new rules for new types of floods, such as this historically high and unusual winter flood.

The USACE states its approach to regional dam and levee safety has become more rigorous as aged infrastructure poses large maintenance challenges.  Both technological and visual inspections are now used to determine needed strengthening.

Jones_140923_MS_4602

Our two-hour interview yielded journal notations citing impressive rigor by the USACE to adapt to changing demands in the face of changing weather events.  Those interviewed also expressed the determination by the USACE to never become slipshod in its maintenance responsibility.

The USACE of Engineers will certainly be busy this month and for a while to come, assessing their preparations for extreme events and the impacts of such unprecedented pressure on their infrastructure from St Louis, past Cairo where the Ohio River enters the Mississippi, and down to Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Jones_140902_LA_2345

Blog by Alison M. Jones, Director of NWNL

[Source of images and information:  The Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Site, Vicksburg]

 

A Voice from the Mississippi River Delta

January 9, 2015

“No fishing. No gardening. No hunting. No land. No fresh water.” Jamie Dardar, in his 
Creole-Indian drawl, noted that below New Orleans, the Mississippi River’s delta is now
 losing one football field of land every hour. Maps are outdated with each wave.

In Jamie’s youth, gardens on Isle de Jean Charles spilled over with tomatoes, okra and
 vegetables galore. Fruit trees filled farmers’ bushel baskets. Wildlife, fish, crabs, shrimp 
and oysters provided the fare for feasts, sustenance and livelihoods.

As a young man Jamie left this paradise to drive 18-wheelers cross-country. But he
 quickly returned to the island’s bounty. Today he’s watching the sea-level rise and intense
 storms reduce his island to nothing. Land subsides as oil and gas extraction leave empty 
cavities. Abandoned drilling channels erode its shores. Oil spills and rusting rigs ruin local 
fisheries. Soil is too saline for crops or trees. From Minnesota on down,
 polluted waters pass dams and levees that retain floodplain sediment that could otherwise
 restore this delta.

The island’s residents now call their home “The Bathtub.” Jamie expects it will be under water 
in two years. He has re-applied to drive 18-wheelers along the Interstates.

“All I know is shrimping and changing gears.”

by Alison M. Jones, NWNL Director

USA:  Louisiana, Venice, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, Pointe aux Chenes, shrimp fisherman's overalls hanging to dry

Mississippi River Delta, shrimp fisherman’s overalls hanging to dry

Serpentine Curves and Manufactured Angles of the Mississippi

December 17, 2014

Aerial photos of the Atchafalaya Basin.

USA:  Louisiana, Aerial photo of Atchafalaya Basin area,

USA:  Louisiana, Aerial photo of Atchafalaya Basin area, Wax Lake Outlet area

Jones_111024_LA_9214

USA:  Louisiana, Aerial photo of Atchafalaya Basin area, Wax Lake Outlet area

USA:  Louisiana, Aerial photo of Atchafalaya Basin area,

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

The Arkansas Delta

September 28, 2014
Waves on the Mississippi

Waves on the Mississippi

Birds in trees in river

Birds in trees in river

The Mississippi, Arkansas and White Rivers irrigate the flat, fertile lands of the Arkansas Delta, as do the many tributaries, bayous and irrigation ditches. Either muddy water or sandy, dry soil is underfoot – nothing in between. But it is the mix of the two that yields the state’s renowned crops of cotton, soy, corn, wheat and rice that is barged throughout the nation – and the world, thanks to the navigation channels of the Mississippi and its tributaries.

Throughout the month of September NWNL will be visiting the Lower Mississippi River Basin and tributaries with a focus on urban and rural resiliency to climate change. Read more about this Lower Mississippi expedition and see more NWNL photos from the Louisiana segment of this expedition depicting Isle de Jean Charles and Parish of St. John the Baptist.

NWNL will be posting more photos from this expedition in the coming weeks on nowater-nolife.org.

Fishing on the Arkansas River

Fishing on the Arkansas River

Cotton field

Cotton field

America’s energy leftovers makes its mark

September 19, 2014
USA:  Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, flight over coastal wetlands south of New Orleans, aerial view of barge carrying uncovered coal, spilling into the Mississippi River

USA: Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, flight over coastal wetlands south of New Orleans, aerial view of barge carrying uncovered coal, spilling into the Mississippi River

The world’s largest deposits of
“recoverable” coal are in the U.S.

Will we always be exporting coal?

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Coal exports threaten human health, aquatic life and degrade natural resources

September 17, 2014

USACE is pulling out of its study of the coal terminal in Portland, Oregon since tribal fishing rights are stopping the process. This is great news, as the Columbia Riverkeeper notes, for the health of the anadromous fish populations as well as human communities in the Lower Columbia River Basin.

But this news puts more pressure on a proposal for a new international coal terminal at the end of the Mississippi River in its Delta where air and water pollution from coal already being exported degrades the lives of those nearby. Unfortunately, Louisiana is one of the states that doesn’t require coal cars or coal piles to be covered. Thus wind blows coal ash off open train cars, conveyer belts and large storage piles in all directions. The levees around the stored piles waiting for transfer onto barges are low and simple earthen structures that are easily breached in big storms….

There are many fewer people to be affected in the Mississippi Delta than in Portland and surrounding communities on the Columbia. So, it’s not likely there can be the coordinated, strong protest that has been ongoing in the Columbia River Basin. Nor are there tribal fishing rights that stand up in court. In the Mississippi River Delta it falls to local shrimpers and oyster fishermen to prove that coal ash in the water affects the health of the fin fish and shellfish populations.

Interesting how what happens in one NWNL watershed affects and relates to another.

USA:  Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, coal being prepared for export

USA: Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, coal being prepared for export

 

Our 20th Expedition!

August 26, 2014

Please Help Fund the NWNL
Lower Mississippi River Expedition

September 2 – 30, 2014

Baton Rouge Industry on the Mississippi River

Baton Rouge Industry on the Mississippi River

Expedition Route

NWNL will visit the Lower Mississippi River Basin including: New Orleans, The Delta, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, Clarksdale, Memphis and small river towns en route.

Expedition Focus

• Urban and Rural Resiliency to Climate Change.

• Coastal Erosion and Changes in Sediment Loads.

• The Value of Mississippi River Transportation.

• Pollution from Industrial, Agricultural and Urban Runoff.

• Protection of Migratory Birds and Watershed Biodiversity.

• Loss of Cypress, Hardwood Forests and Wetlands.

• Effectiveness of Levees, Locks and Dams, and Floodways.

• Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Resource Management.

Why support a No Water No Life expedition?

NWNL expeditions help raise global awareness of freshwater availability, quality and usage. For eight years, NWNL has returned with interviews, still photos and video imagery from our six case-study watersheds in North America and Africa. This documentation informs and inspires actions that will help insure…
fresh water, for everyone, forever.

Donations to NWNL

Cotton plantation tractor

Cotton plantation tractor

Donations can be made via Pay Pal,
or checks made out to
“No Water No Life”

(to be sent to:

Alison Jones
No Water No Life
330 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10075)

Your support and contributions would be greatly appreciated!

From the Mississippi’s 1993 Flood to Today

April 15, 2014

By Alison M. Jones, Director of No Water No Life®
and Professional Photographer
As published by American Rivers in “The River Blog”-April 10, 2014

Newly planted corn in 2013 Flood

Newly planted corn in 2013 Flood

“But, what about the newly planted corn?
I’ve seen how the Big Muddy can flood a field.”

On a No Water No Life® expedition in the Mississippi Basin last year, I asked that of stewards, US Fish and Wildlife scientists and US Army Corps engineers.  Twenty years earlier I visited the middle Mississippi during the Flood of 1993.  Since then, the world, Mississippi flood management and I have changed.

Engineers used to say, “The equation for inundation is elevation,” as they raised their levees.  Now the USACE promotes “flood risk management” instead of “flood control” because every levee pushes the water onto someone else.  The USACE also promotes healthy ecosystems at its National Great Rivers Museum in St Louis.

Ste. Genevieve's Le Grand Champ levee

Ste. Genevieve’s Le Grand Champ levee

Even so, American Rivers lists the middle Mississippi as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers ® of 2014 because of a new old-school USACE “flood control” project..  As we all focus on upstream-downstream issues in the face of climate disruption, American Rivers is advocating for floodplain connection, not levees.  Perhaps the question isn’t what will happen to young corn in a flood year, but what will happen if we keep building levees?

Why do I, as a New Yorker, care about Missouri’s habitats and communities?  As I describe in the following story, my connection to the Mississippi began twenty years ago.

Driving through flooded backwaters in '93

Driving through flooded backwaters in ’93

“The Flood of 1993:  A Month in Missouri”

I didn’t care about the Midwest Flood of 1993. I knew all about floods.  For three December days, my Connecticut home had been under five feet of icy water.  Hollywood called it “The Perfect Storm.”  I flew to Missouri that steamy July to photograph iconic Midwestern scenes.

Pig farm near Ste. Genevieve

Pig farm near Ste. Genevieve

I visited Daniel Boone’s homestead, pig farms and craftsmen.  But after torrential thunderstorms at a dairy farm and seeing new-mown hay swept off low-lying fields, my adrenaline rose with the river.  Singing “I drove my Chevy to the levee,” I arrived in the Creole river town of Ste. Genevieve.  But the levee wasn’t dry.  Brown water threatened this week’s sandbagged walls, inches from the top; and it seeped out underneath.

This flood was different.  Many levees had been constructed since a 1973 flood, upsetting previous prediction models.  These added restraints just intensified the Mississippi’s fury.  Forecasts were for another week of rain.  As herons flew into the storm clouds, my mood of creative elation disappeared.

Great Blue Heron flying into storm clouds

Great Blue Heron flying into storm clouds

I saw the grit of people resisting nature, the invincibility of humor,
and the camaraderie of strangers fighting together.  Using sandbags and bulldozers, sweating residents and uniformed troops stayed ahead of the river: block by block, inch by inch.  Putting my cameras down, I joined in.
“I can’t be here and not sandbag,“ I wrote.

Sandbagged historic Ste. Genevieve MO

Sandbagged historic Ste. Genevieve MO

Flying home weeks later, I stared at the “inland sea” below.  While photographing levees and Levi’s, cheerleaders and retirees, and the grateful folks of Ste Genevieve, I’d become part of that community.  Using Bryce Courtenay’s words, we worked with “one heart, one plan, one determination.”  Whether it would happen again or not, that was the Spirit of 1993.

Ste. Genevieve intersection in '93 Flood

Ste. Genevieve intersection in ’93 Flood

My thoughts, April 2014:  The Mississippi rolls on, but we still need to better adapt to its swells and floods.  History should have taught us that.  American Rivers is trying to do that.  As Mark Twain predicted,  “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.”

"The Mississippi will have its own way."

“The Mississippi will have its own way.”

View more photos of the Great Flood of 1993

Read Related Story:  Parallels: Mississippi Flood of 1993 and Gulf Oil Spill of 2010

Take Action: Tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abandon the levee project and the Environmental Protection Agency to veto it if the Corps proceeds with this ill-conceived plan.

Meander Scars of the Great Mississippi

October 11, 2013

As we’ve learned on expedition, paths will change, unexpected twists and turns are inevitable. Over time, the Mississippi River too, has changed its course, so beautifully depicted in Harold Fisk’s hand-colored maps from 1944 in a report for the US Army Corps of Engineers. This twisted timeline of rainbow ribbons go as far back as some 2000 years, tracing the various stages of the Mississippi. These maps remind us that it is crucial to look backwards to understand hydrological history and examine engineered systems, as we look forward in a sustainable direction.

Here’s a great article on NPR which includes the full set of maps connecting Illinois to Louisiana…
http://www.npr.org/blogs/inside/2010/07/14/128511984/twisted-history-the-wily-mississippi-cuts-new-paths

Read about LSU’s new physical model being developed (of key coastal areas) expected to open in Summer 2014: http://www.lsu.edu/departments/gold/2013/03/river_studies.shtml

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

%d bloggers like this: