Scientists: Move the Mississippi

From theNYT

Scientists have long said the only way to restore Louisiana’s vanishing wetlands is to undo the elaborate levee system that controls the Mississippi River, not with the small projects that have been tried here and there, but with a massive diversion that would send the muddy river flooding wholesale into the state’s sediment-starved marshes.

And most of them have long dismissed the idea as impractical, unaffordable and lethal to the region’s economy. Now, they are reconsidering. In fact, when a group of researchers convened last April to consider the fate of the Louisiana coast, their recommendation was unanimous: divert the river.

Far from rejecting the idea, state officials have embraced it, motivated not just by the lessons of Hurricane Katrina but also by growing fears that global climate change will bring rising seas, accelerating land loss and worse weather.


Designing such a diversion would be complex and time-consuming, and the experts who met in April did not even attempt it. Even this fall’s meeting is not to plan the project, but to plan how the project should be planned, Mr. Hanchey said. Though Louisiana is rich in experts on river, wetland and coastal science, he said, state officials hoped to recruit scientists and engineers from all over the world to tell them “what we would have to know before we could initiate work on something like this, and what we would have to do to gain that knowledge.”

Do read the rest for the details, possible obstacles and how it could be accomplished in 5-10 years. It fascinating and exciting in its boldness.

Makes me think of…

“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, oflanding a man on the Moon moving the Mississippi River”

5 thoughts on “Scientists: Move the Mississippi

  1. See also The Control of Nature by John McPhee. One chapter discusses the Old River Control Structure, which has been expanded with a third diversion since the book was written. Moving the Mississippi is not hard, because it wants to move in a Mississippi-sized way; avoiding bad outcomes, that’s hard, because it might not choose to go where we want it to.
    Also appearing in today’s NYT, same section, is a blurb on a scientist who studied how automobile drivers react to a (male) bicyclist (the scientist) wearing no helmet, helmet, or (female-appearing) wig. In short: if you reduce your risk by wearing a helmet, those jerks increase your risk by driving closer, but cars stay further away from unhelmeted long-haired cyclists.

  2. Damn that it interesting about the bicycle study…also in a disturbing way as I wear a helmet.

  3. I have been screaming this for 20 years.
    “Progress” brought us the TVA, the (highly inadequate) Mississippi levees, Glen Canyon Dam — and Three Mile Island.
    “Progress” drained wetlands, filled in marshes, created landfills (the *hell* does land need to be filled for, anyway?) and brought us … ghettoes. Tenements. Projects. “Consolidated” school districts with 30,000 kids in the (highly inadequate, poorly maintained, crappily designed, cheaply-constructed) district’s institutional structures. “Privatization.”

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