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Floods: Can't Blame New Orleans, God, or Mother Nature Anymore

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Everyday for the past week there has been another tragedy to report in the heartland.

Overnight the Mississippi River washed over fertile farmlands near St. Louis and worries emerged that it would take years for the land to be reclaimed. Five additional levees are under threat of breach today, Thursday, according to the St. Louis District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The floods in six states have killed two dozen people, injured 148 and forced at least 35,000 out of their homes, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison said Wednesday.

As tragic flooding is playing out in the Mississippi River Basin, it is becoming clear that what happened in New Orleans was not an act of God, or of Mother Nature. Nor can it be blamed on the people who have lived on the Delta since the Acadian Diaspora, or other low-lying areas in the United States. What happened in New Orleans, and what is happening today in the heartland, is the result of a massive infrastructure failure, lax federal engineering, and the siphoning of tax resources into the war economy.

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"Ever since Katrina, the citizens of New Orleans have been blamed because some parts of the city are below sea level," says HJ Bosworth, Research Director for Levees.Org in New Orleans. "What happened in New Orleans could happen anywhere, but this problem had not been addressed until the recent Midwest flooding," Bosworth said.




Congressional Caucus Briefing

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With thousands of miles of levee systems stretching across the United States, a whopping 43 percent of the US population lives in counties with levees, according to a briefing provided yesterday to by the Association of Flood Plain Managers. The briefing was given to members of the Congressional Hazards Caucus late Thursday afternoon. 122 levees were declared deficient by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2006.

Responsibility for the design and construction of the most critical levees in America belongs, by law, to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

To illustrate this point, Levees.org points out there are 3,786 flood gauges in America spread fairly evenly throughout the country.

Sandbagging Begins in Louisiana

Watchful eyes are now looking downstream on the Mississippi River as sandbagging has begun along the Morganza Spillway in Central Louisiana. Louisiana. Governor Bobby Jindal called out the National Guard for the first time to assist nervous farmers in the area. If the Mississippi starts to flood, the floodway (release site) would be used to divert water from the Mississippi, into the Spillway and finally into the Atchafalaya Basin.

Bosworth said that as of yesterday, reports from the Amy Corps of Engineering did not indicate trouble for New Orleans.

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"The river was 6 feet higher two months ago and we were not that concerned since the levees here are 22.5 feet above the Gulf. Since the lower Mississippi river has been fairly dry, the overall effect of the flooding up there is not expected to be that great here. We will know in about two weeks for sure," Bosworth said. He added that the Corps had been wrong before.

However, real time flood gauge readings and extrapolations on the NOAA Weather site show the possibility that the Mississippi will reach "action stage" of 30 feet on June 24 in Baton Rouge.

When told about the latest extrapolations, Bosworth said the high water was coming sooner than expected, but that so far he was not concerned, since there were still options available to relieve the flow volumes.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)
 

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