Should We Follow the Dutch and Give Land Back to the Flooding Mississippi River? Should We Follow the Dutch and Give Land Back to the Flooding Mississippi River?
Environment

Should We Follow the Dutch and Give Land Back to the Flooding Mississippi River?

by Ben Jervey

May 12, 2011

This Great Mississippi Flood of 2011 is a stark reminder to Americans of how the Mississippi River is not—and hasn't been for many decades—a naturally free-flowing body of water. It is, rather, a highly-engineered system of public works. (For the best piece I've ever read about how we try to wrestle these natural bodies into submission, read John McPhee's classic essay Atchafalaya.) And that highly engineered system is being tested by what Jeff Masters of Weather Underground describes as the "river's highest flood crest in history."

Masters explains what we can expect over the next couple of weeks.

Downstream from Memphis, flood waters pouring in from the Arkansas River, Yazoo River, and other tributaries are expected to swell the Mississippi high enough to beat the all-time record at Vicksburg, Mississippi by 1.3' on May 19, and smash the all-time record at Natchez, Mississippi by six feet on May 21, and by 3.2 feet at Red River Landing on May 22. Red River Landing is the site of the Old River Control Structure, the Army Corps' massive engineering structure that keeps the Mississippi River from carving a new path to the Gulf of Mexico...Its failure would be a serious blow to the U.S. economy, and the great Mississippi flood of 2011 will give the Old River Control Structure its most severe test ever.

In times like these, I can't help but think that we might have lots to learn from the Dutch, who have probably know the most about how to live with water. Four years ago, Dutch authorities came up with a water management plan called "Room for the River." Reversing generations of water control convention, the Dutch decided that rather than battle rivers with expensive dikes and levees and canals, they'd give rivers more room to flow freely. This video explains the program.

Here's the official "Room for the River" website.

Photo, public domain, by Army Corps of Engineers

+
Join the discussion
Recently on GOOD

Maga-
zines need love too!
Explore the contributions of women to the animation industry with this new online database. http://t.co/KNtMCDoKp7 http://t.co/PnvHvzoHWq
Should We Follow the Dutch and Give Land Back to the Flooding Mississippi River?