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· Walnut Valley Water District
Now, through the picture windows at the front of the lounge, our destination is in view: Morgan City, the Cajun Carcassonne—a very small town behind a very high wall. A railroad bridge and two highway bridges leap the Atchafalaya and seem to touch gingerly on the two sides, as if they were landing on lily pads. Flood stage in Morgan City is four feet above sea level. A dirt levee protected the town until 1937. It was succeeded by concrete walls six and then eight feet high. As floods grew—and the Atchafalaya became the only distributary of the Mississippi—sandbags and wooden baffles were piled up in haste on top of the eight-foot walls. Since it is the Corps’ intention that fifty per cent of a Design Flood go down the Atchafalaya, and since Morgan City is on a small island of no relief situated directly in the path of the planned deluge, the Corps has built the present wall twenty-two feet high. It is of such regal and formidable demeanor that it attracts tourists. It is a wall that imagines water—a sheet of water at least twenty feet thick between Morgan City and the horizon. The sea wall, as it is known, rises to the skirts of palms that stand in rows behind it. From the approaching towboat we can see a steeple, a flagpole, a water tower, but not the town’s low avenues or deeply shaded streets. Damocles would not have been so lonely had he lived in Morgan City. In a proportion inverse to the seawall’s great size, the seawall betokens a vulnerability the like of which is hard to find so far from a volcano.
Frederic Chatry happens to be in the pilothouse, too, as does Fred Bayley. Both are civilians: Chatry, chief engineer of the New Orleans District; Bayley, chief engineer of the Lower Mississippi Valley Division. Chatry is short and slender, a courtly and formal man, his uniform a bow tie. He is saying that before the control structures were built water used to flow in either direction through Old River. It would flow into the Mississippi if the Red happened to be higher. This was known as a reversal, and the last reversal occurred in 1945. The enlarging Atchafalaya was by then so powerful in its draw that it took all of the Red and kept it. “The more water the Atchafalaya takes, the bigger it gets; the bigger it gets, the more water it takes. The only thing that interrupts it is Old River Control. If we had not interrupted it, the main river would now be the Atchafalaya, below this point. If you left it to its own devices, the end result had to be that it would become the master stream. If that were to happen, below Old River the Mississippi reach would be unstable. Salt would fill it in. The Corps could not cope with it. Old River to Baton Rouge would fill in. River traffic from the north would stop. Everything would go to pot in the delta. We couldn’t cope. It would be plugged.”
walnut valley water district essay contest; ..
Walnut Creek is native habitat for the Northern California black walnut, or . It gained this name due to having been identified and recorded by the British surgeon and naturalist Richard B. Hinds, who accompanied (1799–1877) on a global ocean voyage that included an exploration of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River in 1837. Belcher wrote of these explorations in his two-volume book, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, which was published in 1843 and included Hinds’ observations. It is believed that California pioneer William Robert Garner acquired a copy of Belcher’s book, which aided him in identifying the local flora, and he mentions these native trees in a letter he wrote on November 26, 1846. An editorial footnote adds further detail: “The species is quite restricted in habitat, only three stands being known at that time: on the Sacramento at Walnut Grove, at Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County, and at Wooden Valley, east of Napa.”
My great-grandparents Leyes raised a family of ten children. At the time of the birth of their eldest son, my great-grandmother, Margaret Seager Leyes, purchased a second-hand . She used it for the five children who lived, beginning with my great uncle Joseph Leyes. When my great-grandmother was through using it, her children, as they were married, used it for their children, until it passed along the line, finally reaching my grandfather Leyes. My grandparents used it for their seven children. It then went to my mother who used it for her eight [surviving] children . We are to this day preserving it for future use, although its rockers are worn thin and a new bottom has to replace the older warped one. It is made entirely of walnut, with a dark walnut stain and finish. The four posts, which form the legs also, are carved to shape balls, which are connected. The side pieces are fashioned the same way in a smaller pattern. As far as we know, it is of the Queen Anne style of furniture. Its value in the family is untold, because of its rare beauty and age which is estimated to be about 100 years.
Walnut Creek had no lighting system, no water ..
The water is from the state of New York, the state of Idaho, the province of Alberta, and everywhere below that frame. Far above Old River are places where the floodplain is more than a hundred miles wide. Spaniards in the sixteenth century came upon it at the wrong time, saw an ocean moving south, and may have been discouraged. Where the delta began, at Old River, the water spread out even more—through a palimpsest of bayous and distributary streams in forested paludal basins—but this did not dissuade the French. For military and commercial purposes, they wanted a city in such country. They laid it out in 1718, only months before a great flood. Even as New Orleans was rising, its foundations filled with water. The message in the landscape could not have been more clear: like the aboriginal people, you could fish and forage and move on, but you could not build there—you could not create a city, or even a cluster of modest steadings—without declaring war on nature. You did not have to be Dutch to understand this, or French to ignore it. The people of southern Louisiana have often been compared unfavorably with farmers of the pre-Aswan Nile, who lived on high ground, farmed low ground, and permitted floods to come and go according to the rhythms of nature. There were differences in Louisiana, though. There was no high ground worth mentioning, and planters had to live on their plantations. The waters of the Nile were warm; the Mississippi brought cold northern floods that sometimes stood for months, defeating agriculture for the year. If people were to farm successfully in the rich loams of the natural levees—or anywhere nearby—they could not allow the Mississippi to continue in its natural state. Herbert Kassner, the division’s public-relations director, once remarked to me, “This river used to meander all over its floodplain. People would move their tepees, and that was that. You can’t move Vicksburg.”
When rivers go over their banks, the spreading water immediately slows up, dropping the heavier sediments. The finer the silt, the farther it is scattered, but so much falls close to the river that natural levees rise through time. The first houses of New Orleans were built on the natural levees, overlooking the river. In the face of disaster, there was no better place to go. If there was to be a New Orleans, the levees themselves would have to be raised, and the owners of the houses were ordered to do the raising. This law (1724) was about as effective as the ordinances that compel homeowners and shopkeepers in the North to shovel snow off their sidewalks. Odd as it seems now, those early levees were only three feet high, and they were rife with imperfections. To the extent that they were effective at all, they owed a great deal to the country across the river, where there were no artificial levees, and waters that went over the bank flowed to the horizon. In 1727, the French colonial governor declared the New Orleans levee complete, adding that within a year it would be extended a number of miles up and down the river, making the community floodproof. The governor’s name was Perrier. If words could stop water, Perrier had found them—initiating a durable genre.
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Under nature’s scenario, with many distributaries spreading the floodwaters left and right across the big deltaic plain, visually the whole region would be covered—with fresh sediments as well as water. In an average year, some two hundred million tons of sediment are in transport in the river. This is where the foreland Rockies go, the western Appalachians. Southern Louisiana is a very large lump of mountain butter, eight miles thick where it rests upon the continental shelf, half that under New Orleans, a mile and a third at Old River. It is the nature of unconsolidated sediments to compact, condense, and crustally sink. So the whole deltaic plain, a superhimalaya upside down, is to varying extents subsiding, as it has been for thousands of years. Until about 1900, the river and its distributaries were able to compensate for the subsidence with the amounts of fresh sediment they spread in flood. Across the centuries, distribution was uneven, as channels shifted and land would sink in one place and fill in somewhere else, but over all the land building process was net positive. It was abetted by decaying vegetation, which went into the flooded silts and made soil. Vegetation cannot decay unless it grows first, and it grew in large part on nutrients supplied by floodwaters.
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I once asked Fred Smith, a geologist who works for the Corps at New Orleans District Headquarters, if he thought Old River Control would eventually be overwhelmed. He said, “Capture doesn’t have to happen at the control structures. It could happen somewhere else. The river is close to it a little to the north. That whole area is suspect. The Mississippi wants to go west. Nineteen-seventy-three was a forty-year flood. The big one lies out there somewhere—when the structures can’t release all the floodwaters and the levee is going to have to give way. That is when the river’s going to jump its banks and try to break through.”
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If the General had known what was below him, he might have sounded retreat. The Old River Control Structure—this two-hundred-thousand-ton keystone of the comprehensive flood-protection project for the lower Mississippi Valley—was teetering on steel pilings above extensive cavities full of water. The gates of the Morganza Floodway, thirty miles downstream, had never been opened. The soybean farmers of Morganza were begging the Corps not to open them now. The Corps thought it over for a few days while the Old River Control Structure, absorbing shock of the sort that could bring down a skyscraper, continued to shake. Relieving some of the pressure, the Corps opened Morganza.
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