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How a City Slowly Drowned

In: Historical Events

Submitted By mmiller104
Words 1957
Pages 8
New Orleans was originally founded on high ground overlooking the Mississippi River, above sea level. Also surrounded by Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne, New Orleans was susceptible to hurricanes that would come up the coast into the Gulf. Originally New Orleans was naturally protected by “coastal swamps that helped absorb the energy of storm surges before they reached dry land.” (Stillman 228) At this point Americans were more concerned with the floods that happened annually from the Mississippi River. In the early days, settlers built a mile long levee to block overflows from the mighty Mississippi while landowners constructed their own levees.
“In 1879, Congress created the Mississippi River Commission” (Stillman 228) in which they hoped to train the river. Herein lay one of the earliest problems. Congress assigned the Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) to head this newly created commission. The Corps believed they could control Mother Nature however as the video footage from The Lost City of New Orleans: A Case Study proved, “human kind cannot take on Mother Nature”. These engineers did not have the experience however they continued to increase the levees stating this would “confine the rivers for good”. However, “the more the levees constricted the Mississippi, the higher the waters rose”. (Stillman 228)
As new plans and projects for the protecting New Orleans from Mississippi floodwaters were enacted, federal government financially backed all of them. The Mississippi River and Tributaries Project was enacted to design levees to protect against an 800 year flood. Controlling the river came with other consequences, it no longer brought natural silt and the coastal marshes that helped protect New Orleans from hurricanes. “The city was now safer from the river. But it was more exposed than ever to the sea.” (Stillman 229)
In the 1950’s...

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