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.