Posts Tagged ‘US Army Corps of Engineers’

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.

We’re all connected downstream

April 4, 2014
USA:  New Jersey, Mountainville, Guinea Hollow Stream, early spring

USA: New Jersey, Mountainville, Guinea Hollow Stream, early spring

WHAT YOU CAN DO to protect our water resources:
Support the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers –

It’s critical we all have clean fresh water! The EPA and USACE are proposing a clarification of their rules that protect our water quality by addressing upstream impacts on downstream communities. Ending loopholes in the 1970’s Clean Water Act will stop the free dumping of toxins into small streams and wetlands. This will affect some farmers’ use of pesticides and herbicides; but it will encourage restoration of riverine corridors and wetlands that filter such toxins. In the long-run, a tighter Clean Water Act will benefit us all.

NWNL asks everyone to jump in here!!

— Read the proposal.
— Listen to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on this ruling.
Contact the EPA during its 90-day Comment Period.

 

Disparity in Rainfall between Pacific Northwest and California

March 26, 2014

The latest Columbia Basin Bulletin reports that the US Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from the Dworshak Dam to make room for anticipated above average inflows from the spring snow melts, that have already started. The Dworshak Dam is on the north fork of the Clearwater River in west central Idaho and empties into the Snake River just above the big four Lower Snake River Dams. The storage reservoir water level behind the Dworshak Dam rose six feet between March 1st and March 15th. This is good news for migrating salmon and for the hydro power that these dams produce, but bad news for Californians who didn’t get needed water.

Californians continue to look square in the face of a continued and serious drought. On the California Data Exchange Center’s website for March 20th, there is not one reservoir that is 100% full. The range is 21% to 53% of total capacity except Pyramid and Castaic Lakes, which are 86% and 92% respectively. California is nearing the end of its rainy season and there has not been enough rainfall or snow accumulation to fill these reservoirs. From the Klamoth River in the north of the state to the Colorado Desert in the south, the percent of historic average rainfall in each of the 36 measured areas averages about 29%.

NOAA produced a map of recent precipitation in the West, above left. This shows the higher rainfall in the Pacific Northwest and west central Idaho and dry conditions southward. What is more disturbing is the NOAA map showing the precipitation average over the past 3 years, above right. The end is not in sight.

BF_DSC2805*Posted from San Francisco by Barbara Folger, NWNL Project Coordinator

 

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

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