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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland 477

Posted by timothy
from the best-laid-dams dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Joe Herring writes that sixty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the process of taming the Missouri by constructing massive dams at the top to moderate flow to the smaller dams below, generating electricity while providing desperately needed control of the river's devastating floods. But after about thirty years of operation, as the environmentalist movement gained strength throughout the seventies and eighties, the Corps received a great deal of pressure to include specific environmental concerns into their Master Water Control Manual, the 'bible' for the operation of the dam system, as preservation of habitat for at-risk bird and fish populations soon became a hot issue among the burgeoning environmental lobby. The Corps began to utilize the dam system to mimic the previous flow cycles of the original river, holding back large amounts of water upstream during the winter and early spring in order to release them rapidly as a spring pulse. 'Whether warned or not, the fact remains that had the Corps been true to its original mission of flood control, the dams would not have been full in preparation for a spring pulse,' writes Herring. 'The dams could further have easily handled the additional runoff without the need to inundate a sizable chunk of nine states.' The horrifying consequence is water rushing from the dams on the Missouri twice as fast as the highest previous releases on record while the levees that protect the cities and towns downstream were constructed to handle the flow rates promised at the time of the dam's construction."
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

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