Mississippi Flooding: We Can Rebuild It Better.

The flooding on the Mississippi River rewrote the landscape of millions of acres of land.  If there’s a silver lining to the flooding, it’s that the damage allows the opportunity to rethink the management of the Mississippi.

Now, this might seem to be a bit off-topic for this blog, but there’s a lesson here for Fukushima, as well. When things we built are destroyed—often due to faulty original planning—we humans seem to have a tendency to be in such a hurry to return to some semblance of security that we rebuild the same structure that failed.   As Chris Kirkham writes in the Huffington Post, the disasters of the past few years have already changed the geography and lifestyle of the Louisiana Delta, so this would be a good time to ask whether we want to let the Mississippi River begin rebuilding its delta.

Every day the Mississippi River delivers the raw materials required to replenish this lost territory: mud and sand that drop at the mouth of the waterway and would amass there, were nature allowed to run its course.

But nature has proven no match for the century-long federal governance of the Mississippi as a vital marine highway: Five enormous ships operated by the federal government dredge the sediment collecting at the mouth of the river daily, then carry much of it into open waters offshore and dump it there, sending it into oblivion.

That’s right:  in a world starving for good cropland, we are so cavalier we take thousands of tons of some of the richest topsoil in the world and dump it into the sea rather than letting it build back the delta that protects the Louisiana coast from the ravages of storms and environmental disasters.  This graphic shows pretty well the impact of our “management” policies.

Mouse over to see the disappearance of Louisiana’s coast

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