Communities Work to Hold Back Storm-Swollen Waterways
A tiny, flood-prone community breathed easier after shoring up a makeshift levee holding back the rain-swollen Mississippi River. Other Midwest communities scrambled to fend off waterways that threatened to overflow as more storms marched through the region.
Volunteers hustled earlier this week to shore up weak spots in a levee hastily built last week to stop the Mississippi from overrunning the flood-weary hamlet of Clarksville. At times toiling in heavy rain, crews built a second wall of dirt and sandbags behind the original barrier and now calm has been restored. The Mississippi appeared to be receding, ever so slowly, from the community 70 miles north of St. Louis.
He subtly makes the case to adapt rivers and ports to climate change.
President Obama said Tuesday that federal investments in waterway maintenance will be vital as drought fueled by climate change creates problems for barges bringing goods out of the Midwest.
Obama, during a meeting of the President’s Export Council, noted recent problems moving goods when last year’s major drought lowered water levels in the Mississippi River.
“Recently we had the challenge of … getting goods from the Midwest down the Mississippi when the water started going down,” Obama said.
He said the upcoming White House budget proposal would seek to address maintenance needs.
“And if in fact temperatures are warming — I know this is not our climate change meeting — but I think we can anticipate that we may end up having some challenges in terms of managing our waterways well, whether or not we can continue to use barges to move a lot of product out of the American heartland to ports around the world, that is going to depend on our infrastructure,” Obama said.
“So we are going to, in our budget, continue to push Congress to see if we can essentially deal with deferred maintenance,” he added in emphasizing the importance of waterway and port infrastructure.
The president touched on climate change very briefly during wide-ranging remarks about U.S. export and trade policy.
Anderson Cooper to cover the Drought and Heat Wave of 2012 tonight on Anderson360. If he mentions climate change, I wonder if he’ll grow a pair and stop giving airtime to crack-pot denialists for “balance,” whatever that is. The science is settled, Coop!
“Old River sits outside the Morganza Levee system, so when the mighty Mississippi floods, rising water overwhelms it. In the past decade, Old River has flooded at least once every year.
In response, residents and those with seasonal fishing camps have mobilized to devise an innovative solution: turning their homes into floating rafts. Also known as “amphibious,” the houses stay grounded under ordinary circumstances, but when water inundates the land, they float.
There are numerous variations on the idea, but the underlying principle is usually the same: a steel frame fastened to the underside of the building foundation contains a buoyant material — large blocks of styrofoam, for example. Vertical guidance poles attached to the frame keep the house from moving any direction but up or down.”
“The Iowa Environmental Council and a raft of other nonprofit groups have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, contending the agency and the state of Iowa haven’t done enough to keep nitrogen and phosphorus out of the Mississippi River.
The pollution not only fouls Iowa’s waterways, but also contributes to a largely lifeless “dead zone” roughly the size of Massachusetts each summer in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the nation’s prized shrimping areas.
The groups contend in a lawsuit announced Wednesday that the EPA is required to set numerical limits on the pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act. Both elements occur naturally and are key ingredients in fertilizer for crops, yards and golf courses. They also come from sewage-treatment plants.
The pollutants carried by the Mississippi River causes algae blooms that deplete oxygen levels in the water as the algae die.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New Orleans, is in response to a decision by the EPA last year to reject the environmental group’s 2008 petition seeking to force it to set the standards. In its response, the EPA acknowledges the pollution is a serious environmental issue but says it has relied largely on states to take action. Iowa and other states, in turn, have said they were waiting for the EPA to set firm guidelines before acting.”
“In category after category, the Mississippi finishes in the top three for dangerous contaminants discharged into it and coming out of it. The Mississippi is number two nationwide for total toxic discharges,
with 12,339,749 pounds of dangerous material in 2010, the last year with data available;
it finishes top two again for total number of cancer-causing discharges (180,339 pounds);
it slips to the three slot for total number of toxicants discharged that are linked to developmental issues (74,021 pounds);
and the Mississippi jumps back into second position for total number of toxicants discharged that are linked with reproductive issues (70,656 pounds).”
Read the rest, including a link to the report, at RFT.
Chicago and the Gulf Dead Zone: NRDC Lawsuits Address Downstream Damage
The popular legend is that Chicago’s jazz tradition arose from a migration of musicians from New Orleans up the Mississippi River in the 19th century. It seems Chicago is now returning scat to New Orleans back down the Mississippi, but I don’t mean the vocal kind.
The Chicago area’s sewage has been found to be the biggest single contributor to the “Dead Zone” that has emerged in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River – an area larger than the State of Connecticut where the oxygen levels in the water are so law that it can’t support life. The sewage contains phosphorus, a pollutant that acts like turbo-charged fertilizer fueling the growth of oxygen-depleting algae in the Dead Zone and elsewhere. - Read more in Ann Alexander’s Switchboard blog.
Did Google Maps quietly rollout a major imaging update? This is Louisiana, the Mississippi River and the delta, New Orleans, and some of the Gulf of Mexico. Clearest image I’ve seen of the area thus far.
Crazy city planning story of the day: A documentary about construction companies who steal bricks from vacant buildings in brick-heavy city of St. Louis, Missouri.
Apparently, bricks are in high demand due to hurricanes and tornadoes. So, contractors have found a clever supply in empty buildings in St. Louis. They drive up from southern states, like Louisiana and Mississippi, drive up to Missouri with demolition crews, and trucks, and cranes. They park behind vacant brick buildings and then start demolishing the backs of them, leaving the front intact. They are literally stealing 1/2 of a building. They take the bricks back home, clean them up, and use them again in re-builds. Since the fronts are left alone, the police drive by and don’t even notice because the buildings look fine.
The lawyer in me says this is insurance fraud and federal larceny, since the federal government released emergency funds. And it crosses borders - violation of commerce clause? Oh man, I need to read one of these cases.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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