Pavement Ends
James Baughn

More than you wanted to know about Bird's Point (Part 2)

Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011, at 3:43 PM


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  • So, even back in 1930 they knew the truth - that the floodway was only to benefit CAIRO !!!

    ...a place of fever, ague, and death. A place without one single quality in earth or air or water to commend it...Dickens, well said !! What kind of magic town was Cairo back in 1930??

    -- Posted by jacksonjazzman on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 6:09 PM
  • wasn't the land mass known as Mississippi County created during the Great New Madrid Earthquake ?

    -- Posted by Smoke. on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 7:58 PM
  • Very timely and interesting article James. I am looking forward to the next installment.

    -- Posted by electron312 on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 9:43 PM
  • Jim,

    Thanks for your coverage on the flooding. Here is some information from a book I read several years ago about flooding on the MS.

    Rising Tide by John M. Barry, Simon & Schuster, NY 1997

    p.197 & 198 In the great Mississippi flood of 1993, the upper Mississippi River at Keokuk, Iowa, carried 435,000 cubic feet of water a second; the old record, set in 1851, was 365,000 second feet. Downriver from there in 1993, at the mouth of the Missouri, the Mississippi at St. Louis carried 1,030,000 second feet. (The record of 1,300,000 was set in 1844.)

    The channel of the lower Mississippi, below Cairo, Illinois,can generally accommodate 1,000,000 second feet without difficulty. In 1927 the Mississippi River at Cairo was carrying at least 1,750,000 second feet, and possibly 2,000,000. The Arkansas was carrying 813,000 second feet, almost one third more than it had ever carried before, while the White approached 400,000 second feet. James Kemper personally inspected the area. So did engineers of the American Railway Engineering Association. They independently estimated that the Mississippi at the mouth of the Arkansas was carrying in excess of 3,000,000 cubic feet per second.

    p.406 Still the event (President Coolidge signed the bill "Jadwin Plan" that established the Army Corps of Engineers as the Levee authority for MS River basin.) did not pass unnoticed. Declared Illinois Congressman Frank Reid, a gritty man who resisted White House pressure for weeks and generally disliked hyperbole: "This bill changes the policy of the federal government which has existed for 150 years. It is perhaps the greatest engineering feet the world has ever known. . . . It is the greatest piece of legislation ever enacted by Congress.

    p. 423 Appendix: The River Today. On the main river, the plans northernmost flood control feature is a "floodway," essentially a parallel river 5 miles wide and 65 miles long, running from Birds Point, Missouri, south to New Madrid, Missouri. The river enters it through a "fuse-plug" levee, a levee lower that those surrounding it that is designed to blow out in a great flood. (If it holds, the Corps will dynamite it.) This floodway diverts the maximum flow of 550,000 cubic feet of water per second. It has been used only once, in 1937. At New Madrid the water returns to the Mississippi. (Paraphrased -- A similar "floodway" was proposed at the mouth of the Arkansas River, to duplicate the flood of 1927 , 1.3 million acres. Opposition in Louisiana and Arkansas prevented implementation.

    Eads had a solution "Cutoffs" in effect straightening the river by cutting across horseshoe bends. General Lytle Brown was chosen by Coolidge. He built the hydraulics lab to test river management theory. "In the 1930's and 1940's the Mississippi River Commission made cutoffs that shortened the river by more that 150 miles, largely by eliminating a series of sharp curves called "the Greeneville bends." The cutoffs worked dramatically, and lowered flood heights 15 feet, obviating the need for the floodway that Jadwin had proposed.

    Direct flow down the Athcfalaya River. To direct this flow, the Corps built the Old River Control Structure and, 20 miles to the south, the Morganza floodway, immense masses of concrete and steel designed to divert approximately 600,000 cfs each into the Atchafalaya. In 1963 a massive dam sealed off the flow between the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya; since then the Old River structure has controlled the flow between the two rivers. The Morganza structure was opened only once, during the 1973 flood.

    In total, Project Flood sends 1.5 million cfs- the water diverted from the MS plus all the flow of the Red River- down the Atchafalaya River, and two floodways that parallel it, to the sea. The plan allows 1.5 million cfs to continue down the MS toward NO. This exactly reverses the old policy calle for by the levees only theory; prior to the1927 flood, the Corps of Engineers had planned to separate the Atchafalaya entirely from the MS, and send all flood water past NO.

    -- Posted by Paul Nenninger on Sat, May 7, 2011, at 11:46 AM