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River RepublicThe Fall and Rise of America's Rivers$
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Daniel McCool

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231161312

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231161312.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Black Water Rising

Black Water Rising

The Myth of Flood Control

Chapter:
(p.166) 7 Black Water Rising
Source:
River Republic
Author(s):

Daniel McCool

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231161312.003.0007

This chapter examines how flood control diminished the value of American rivers as a natural resource and instead allocated them to narrow, extractive uses. The federal government warns that floods are “America's number one natural disaster,” but the only thing natural about them is the rise in water level; the resulting destruction can be attributed to humans. But that is small consolation to those who, perhaps unwittingly, make their homes in the path of a moving wall of water. This is why levees are built, led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The construction of a levee is relatively simple, as is the politics of levee building. There are flood management structures all over the nation, but nowhere is the titanic struggle between low-lying people and high-flying water more dramatic than in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. It is an illusion to think that the Mississippi River can be effectively controlled. The best we can hope for is river restoration and a powerful lesson about what happens when we try to force big rivers into narrow ditches.

Keywords:   flood control, American rivers, floods, levees, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, flood management, Lower Mississippi River Valley, Mississippi River, river restoration

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