fofalex (fofalex) wrote,
fofalex
fofalex

About the Mississippi Flood of 2011

When the Army Corps of Engineers decided to blow up a levee to flood a couple hundred sq miles of Missouri farmland, to, as so many put it, "save Cairo IL", my hackles got raised.  Really? A town of 3000, formerly of 15000 when the Flood Control Act of 1928 was enacted after the historic 1927 flood, that's what all of this is about?  Um, no. That is not the whole story.  The same thing is happening here, news reports of flooding others to "save New Orleans."  In my mind, this is inflammatory.

The river is a system, and systems are complicated to describe and understand, and we write our news for a 6th grade reading level, so they were saving the town of Cairo. And now, we're flooding the Cajuns to save New Orleans.  Except it's nowhere near that simple. Louisiana may as well be a foreign country to most of you. We eat weird food, we talk funny, and we don't understand why you put up with snow and ice storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, mudslides, drought, fire, etc. You don't understand why we put up with the risk of flood, and the heat.

Since surviving Hurricane Katrina, and not even flooding (much) during the string of ACOE levee failures (at below design strength, I shall add), I got a bad case of survivors guilt, which is plaguing me again.  But why should I be the one feeling guilty? It's not like the rest of America doesn't have a stake in this whole flooding of south central Louisiana also. Isn't this the drainage of 31 states? All of the showers, toilets, farmland, etc., of a huge chunk of the country passes by us on a daily basis and we're the ones that have to deal with it. The implication is that we take on that responsibility by choosing to live where we do. A popular theme around here is that it's the cost of living in paradise. Rich, fertile soils, to answer the IMHO stupid question of why would you farm near the river. Plentiful water, sometimes too plentiful, and in some respects not really water anymore, thanks to industrial runoff. Plentiful industry, thanks to easy access to the Gulf and all of its petroleum that everyone likes to have.

Let's talk about industry, since the MSM only hints at it. Here is a list of refineries on the river below Morganza, with their US Rank and bbl/day production included.


2 EXXON MOBIL CORP EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO Louisiana BATON ROUGE 504500
4 MARATHON OIL CORP MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC Louisiana GARYVILLE 436000
19 CONOCOPHILLIPS CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY Louisiana BELLE CHASSE 247000
25 MOTIVA ENTERPRISES LLC Motiva Enterprises LLC Louisiana CONVENT 235000
26 MOTIVA ENTERPRISES LLC Motiva Enterprises LLC Louisiana NORCO 234700
34 CHALMETTE REFINING LLC Chalmette Refining LLC Louisiana CHALMETTE 192500
35 VALERO ENERGY CORP VALERO REFINING NEW ORLEANS LLC Louisiana NORCO 185003
57 MURPHY OIL CORP MURPHY OIL USA INC Louisiana MERAUX 120000
96 PLACID OIL CO PLACID REFINING CO Louisiana PORT ALLEN 57000
98 ROYAL DUTCH/SHELL GROUP SHELL CHEMICAL LP Louisiana SAINT ROSE 55000

That's 2.2 Million barrels of oil getting refined, every day, down here.  Do you use gasoline?  Then you have a stake in this.  Remember how the price of gas shot up after Katrina?  That price shock would be mild in comparison to what it would be if the river flooded out a few of the refineries on this list.  Do you use cleaning products, shampoo, bleach, bug spray?  All of that gets manufactured down here.  Why?  Industry likes to be near a navigable river.  It's the best way to make and transport these things, especially on the scale that modern America demands. 

We have ports too.  The Port of South Louisiana is the busiest port in the country, in tonnage. Add Port of New Orleans (6th), Baton Rouge (13), and Plaquemines (14) and you've got as much cargo as the entire west coast of this country. Grain from the Midwest, oil from the Gulf, rubber and coffee from Central and South America. We move it.

South Louisiana hits above the belt in terms of Gross Domestic Production.  If you add Baton Rouge and New Orleans and everything in between, we would be the 26th metro area in terms of GDP, producing $110 billion every year, in an area with 2 million people.  The news media's portrayal of us as a bunch of slackers is frankly flat wrong. But it suits them better than having a frank discussion about what their advertisers need. 

I'm still not a fan of flooding Morgan City, Pierre Part, and those people who most of which settled and were raised in that area well before the ACOE designated a floodway some decades ago.  I'm also not a fan of the Mississippi deciding to change course to the Atchafalaya, turning the river below Simmesport LA into a fetid tidal basin.  But the decision has been made, it is in law actually, a task from Congress to the ACOE written in shall statements decades old.  It can be argued that they had a hand in creating these sorts of high flows when they built the levee system in the first place, hemming in the river for thousands of miles. 

So I must trust the Corps that failed me before, and I have to swallow the fact that the highway I went down not 2 weeks ago on the way back from Lafayette will be underwater. I hope for the best for those people, both those who decided to live in a designated floodway and whose whose land was designated a floodway.  I was glad when I heard that they were opening the Morganza to only a fraction of its capacity. I have to trust the ACOE 's engineering here, since I don't have much of a choice.

But if anyone is going to try and make me feel guilty about this choice, I'll point out we all have to live with this choice. Letting any part of Baton Rouge to New Orleans flood simply isn't an option, not just for us that live here, but for the whole country. 
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