May 19th, 2011
06:24 PM ET

As flooding spreads, debate rages over price of manipulating Mother Nature

The river gives and the river takes away.

Which is perhaps why those who see the impact firsthand continue to look for solutions, hoping that something can be saved.

But whether manipulating the system to battle Mother Nature is worth the price - environmentally and financially - is a hot topic near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Yazoo River, which drains into the Mississippi River, continues to put pressure on the levee system with backwater flooding spreading.  The South Delta often is inundated during heavy rains, and a flood like this one is overwhelming.

In this area, where the Mississippi is cresting, residents see a means of controlling the river, and they believe their state is getting a raw deal.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed Mississippi's plan to build the world's largest hydraulic pumping station where the Delta drains into the Yazoo, which in turn drains into the Mississippi. It was authorized as part of the Flood Control Act of 1941, but Congress didn't fully fund it. Several attempts to get it done have failed and the EPA veto appears to be the final hammer blow, with the EPA contending the project didn't meet all the requirements to proceed under the Clean Water Act.

Locals blame bureaucracy and lobbyists, and say a poor state is getting the shaft. They see Louisiana with all its pumping stations and feel slighted. But critics of Mississippi's plan say it would cost too much for too few people and that it would destroy wetlands.

Politically, this is one of the few instances where the left and the right seemed to be satisfied. Environmentalists certainly don't want a massive pump that sucks the life out of wetlands. Fiscal conservatives don't want to spend the $220 million federal tax dollars called for.

But many of the folks in Mississippi's South Delta feel caught in the middle. I truly feel for the people of Mississippi. I was here during Hurricane Katrina, during the BP oil spill, and now this epic flood. Unfortunately, the best long-term solution is to allow the Delta to flood naturally and let the wetlands rebuild back to the flood/storm buffer they once were. That requires relocating people and farmland. Not gonna happen.

Now the floodwaters are rising in Louisiana and flowing through the Atchafalaya Swamp. People in the floodway are fleeing their homes. Opening the Morganza Spillway is dumping valuable river nutrients into Louisiana's wetlands while flushing out some stuff that shouldn't be there, which scientists say is a good thing. Good for the ecology, but bad for the neighborhoods.

The river gives and the river takes away. I suppose that's the way it's always been, but our manipulation of the rivers over the last century has led to a dilemma that won't change anytime soon.

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Filed under: Mississippi • Weather
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Glenn

    The long-term solution is to deny Federal flood insurance to flood plain dwellers who refuse to rebuild their homes elevated above the highest historical flood level. Money talks.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner. Its amazing how fast people will move or not rebuild in the same area knowing that if the water does come its their own a$$

      May 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      That solution is just plain, old common sense Glenn and our government just seems not to possess that. Down on the Trinity River in SE Texas some of those people have been flooded out more times than they can count yet they keep getting money every time their house floats down the river. OUR money, not theirs.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • adam

      Absolutely right. It is also time to stop repairing and defending massive cities like New Orleans that have been built in moronic areas. Every federal dollar spent on rebuilding New Orleans should have been spent on dismantling the city and relocating the poor suckers who live there.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spockette

      Glen, and do you know how much it can cost to "rebuild above flood levels"? Do you know how much it costs to raise an existing structure? Lots!

      May 20, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cricket

    I so agree, Glenn. That's a great idea!

    May 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. grandma kitty

    this is not only a GOOD idea, its become necessary to save the river, and the fields it floods. its simple foolishness for landowners to continue to build below the flood plain. this is the money of the American people being washed away, and for what? we can't build outside tornado alley, that can come anywhere. but we can see a river, and we don't need to dare it to rise in our yards!

    May 19, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    Most of the people that live in the flood plain of the mississippi are inbred hillbillys. If you were to analyze the DNA of all of them you would find that they are all related....Closely related.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Deliverance

    Que the banjos. YEE HAW!

    May 19, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cricket

    Now, come on, inbred flood plains? Really? Lol.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar

    Im one of them. .i keep asking my uncledaddy the same question. .is s e x always gonna hurt mah b u t t?

    May 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. meee!!!

    Wow cesar has an uncledaddy

    May 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cesar

    Well it is a true I donno howe ta spill hillabilly.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cesar

    Or is it a spelt, hell I donna kno

    May 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cesar

    Oopsy ah ment hillabilliys ya all.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Scottish Mama

    Then I guess the people that build the million dollar homes better get their cornpipes and stop sliding down the hills into the ocean. the people on the faults stop building there, and the people on the gulf not build there because of oil?

    May 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      People can build whatever they want on wood beams spanning active volcanoes for all I care!
      As long as the Federal Government isnt subsidizing their stupid decisions by bailing them out after every disaster!

      May 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Bubba-are they subsudizing because the gov. gives it o theim to grow what they want or because they are in a flood zone?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CTYank

    Much bigger issue: why do we subsidize keeping a plug in the channel from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya? The ACE has spent billions on the Old River Control Structure (ORCS) to throttle this flow. Historically, the Mississippi changes to another delta every 1000 yrs, and it's now time for the next switch. But for the ORCS, this switch would already have been made, to the Atchafalaya River. That would leave Baton Rouge & New Orleans high & dry.

    Meanwhile, we're frantically scurrying to protect that area using gigabucks' worth of dams & spillways. Bet on this: Old Man River will have his way, and the more we stiffen up, the more it will hurt.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      I was wondering why they did not open the spillways weeks ago and on up the river, they knew we had a lot of snow melt and rain drainage,and not wait till the pressure was so built up it could no longer hold it. I think you are right about being too rigid in the flux of the river.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jim

    @scottishmoma, just wanted to say agreed on your reply to the Glass-Steagall act.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Thanks for steering me toward it Jim. Interesting read on how we got here, bank wise. Good night.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tthomas

    u complain over flood insurance when thousands suffer from this flood but not the millions spent on airforce 1 for golf or sleepovers and graduations but not to see what we walk threw first hand u all need to get a life

    May 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
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