|Mississippi River Flooding: Holding Back the Water|
|Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries|
|Written by Lillian Voss|
|Wednesday, 23 March 2011 12:27|
I am Lillian Voss, and I am 94 years old. I have lived at 4336 South Concord Street in Davenport for nearly 60 years. My house was built above the 100-year flood plain. We experienced all the major flooding along the Mississippi River these past years. My late husband, who died in 1994, fought very hard against the tactics of the Corps of Engineers regarding the water levels of the Mississippi River. With this new threat of major flooding and after reading the article in the Quad-City Times titled “River’s High Level Is a Natural One”, I feel I must come forward and again try to expose the tactics of the Corps of Engineers.
Do you realize the Corps of Engineers holds back the water on the Mississippi to artificially raise the river level to nine feet so that the barge traffic can operate efficiently? In holding back this water and not allowing it to escape, the river level is not far from the flood stage when the spring thawing begins in the upper Mississippi valley. This high level of water on the Mississippi makes the flooding in the spring considerably worse. Each spring when a flood is predicted along the Mississippi, I have a friend call the Corps of Engineers to ask them to fully open the dams to allow the water to flow freely and naturally. Each time I would ask, they would claim it would not make any difference if they did open the dams. Anyone could see that if you open the dams and allow the water to escape down the river, the water level would drastically drop. This would allow a cushion for drainage for the water coming down the river as the snow melts and the rains fall.[Just Added: The Army Corps of Engineers' Jim Steinman with WOC's Dan Kennedy - March 25, 2011. Listen to 7 minute interview at the end of Lillian Voss' commentary, below.]
In 1962, more than 1,000 petitions were submitted to Congressman Fred Schwengel asking the Corps of Engineers to open the dams. At that time, we were facing a major flood as the snow started to melt in the upper Mississippi. Congressman Schwengel had enough influence to order the dams opened. In that year we avoided a major flood. This is certain evidence that opening the dams fully does have an effect or influence on the flooding on the Mississippi. As a result of opening the dams that year, the current of the river increased dramatically as the water level fell. Many barge accidents occurred, and the dams were never opened fully again in the following years.
Opening the dams fully would allow the water level to drop drastically so the river could receive the tremendous amount of snow melting off and the spring rains. Flooding would not be nearly as severe.
A meeting was held with the Corps of Engineers on March 18. These were the major concerns of the Corps of Engineers about opening the dams fully. I expressed my opinion after each concern:
1) The barges could not operate if the dams were opened fully.
My comment: There is no excuse to leave the dams closed just to allow the barge traffic to come through when a serious flood is most likely to occur. We The People along the Mississippi have to suffer through these damaging floods. Is the barge traffic more important than preventing a catastrophic flood or at least making it less severe? I believe the barges can operate at a lower water level.
2) The law states the Corps of Engineers have to maintain a nine-foot river channel for the barges.
My comment: What kind of a person would make up a law that would take precedence over the victims of a catastrophic flood? This is totally irresponsible. Did the barge companies make this law? A law such as this would most certainly have an exception with regard to a major flood looming.
3) By keeping the water level high, we are protecting the fish and wildlife. If we lower the water level, we won’t be able to protect the fish and wildlife.
My comment: How do the fish and wildlife get along when the river is low at other times of the year? Many times in the past 10 years, the water gauges measure one or two feet, sometimes not even a reading. How do the fish and wildlife manage then? We are talking maybe one week of low water level, if that long.
4) These water dams were not constructed for flood control. They were constructed for commerce.
My comment: At the time of getting support (public opinion and financial) to build the locks and dams, flood control was a major reason as well as commerce. We are not now talking about flood-control use. At this time the dams are causing floods, not preventing them. By holding back water to raise the water level on the river, this is contributing to the flooding. Let the water go naturally by fully opening the dams. What harm could it do? We would certainly have a less severe flood.
5) Fully opening the dams might cause flooding down the Mississippi.
My comment: If opening the dams might cause further flooding down-river, then why are you saying the dams were not built for flood control? You are damming up the water. Open the last dam first and let the water run and start opening the next dams in sequence as you go north. If you open the dams at the lower locks and dams (the last dam first) and carefully move up the river – opening each dam while doing it, carefully timed, not all at once – you should prevent flooding down-river. With careful coordination and planning, there would not be any flooding when the dams are fully opened.
6) Our college experiments show that opening the dams and lowering the water levels would not make any difference on the severity of the floods.
My comment: It sounds logical to me that if the river is low at the beginning, more water can run down the river before the water goes over its banks. In 1962 it did make a difference. They opened the dams, the water went down the river, and we did not have a severe flood. A great volume of water would run down the river before it would ever go out of its banks because it would not be restricted by the dams. What harm would it do just to open the dams and let the water run naturally? After all, this was the way it was before the dams were built. We were getting the 100-year floods then. Now we are getting the 100-year floods every three or four years. We are only talking about the dams being opened for one to two weeks, at most, before the full force of the water comes down.
7) The lower water level will prevent municipalities from getting clean water out of the Mississippi.
My comment: Iowa American Water Company tells me they can get adequate clean water out of the Mississippi at one- and two-foot water levels. After all, what did they do when the water level was at the one- or two-foot readings in the past? Many times in the past years the water level has been below the two-foot water stage.
8) If you can get Congress to tell us to open the dams, we will gladly open the dams.
My comment: As we were getting ready to close the meeting, this statement was one of the last statements made by the engineers. This statement tells me the Corps of Engineers is not entirely to blame for these dams being closed to hold back the water.
It appears that the barge companies have more power over the Corps if Engineers and our federal politicians than We The People along the Mississippi River. I must ask: Why is that?
I am calling on our senators and representatives to order the Corps of Engineers to fully open all the dams up and down the Mississippi River to allow the water to flow freely for this short period of time. Allow the river level to drastically fall so the river can receive the tremendous amount of water that is now starting to melt off. River traffic must be restricted until the major snow melt is over. Without a doubt, this action would reduce the severity of the flood.
Open the gates and let the river flow naturally as it once did for this short period of time. Try it once, if it does not work, then there would be no need to try it again. What harm is there in trying it? In 1962 it worked.
Download Embed Embed this video on your site The Army Corps of Engineers' Jim Steinman with WOC's Dan Kennedy - March 25, 2011
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